Not often do you meet a 21 year old who has already founded a non-profit organization and has her own podcast—but Sara Li does it, all while she's still finishing up college! Since she was 14, Sara's been carving out her own space in the internet world. From then on, she's been a part of various projects (including being a youth writer at MTV) where she's been able to showcase her talent as well as follow her passion for helping others.
What made you want to leave corporate America (and a job at MTV, lots of people's dream!) to do your own thing?
Growing up, I always knew I wanted to work in the arts. Storytelling, content creation and visual direction have always come very naturally to me, and I started my career (blogging) at an early age because I found that creative calling so young. But as I grew older, I became more aware of the world around me, and I wanted to use my passions to bring awareness and change to the issues I cared about. MTV started hiring remote contributors around the same time I was looking for ways to use my voice for good. And it was such a perfect fit because, like you said, MTV is a lot of people’s dreams and they were breaking ground in representing all walks of life.
I worked on MTV’s Founder team, led by Taylor Trudon and Julie Zeilinger, with 30 other young adults. It was such an eye-opening experience. I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I got the opportunity to share my thoughts and stories with MTV’s audience. I connected with a lot of incredible people (including my now producer, Bizzy Emerson). I left MTV just before they pivoted to video because I felt just so creatively drained that the content I was making just didn’t feel like me anymore. I took a year long hiatus and eventually came to the realization that I had this creative vision that I wanted to bring to life through my own brand.
So, long story short, I wanted to pursue my own artistic direction, and I wanted the freedom to follow that, no matter where it led me. I now have my own podcast, a newsletter, and I’m still exploring what else is out there.
Can you tell us about your non-profit, Project Consent? I think the message is SUPER important.
Thank you! Back in 2014, when I was a junior in high school, I wanted to start a conversation about sexual assault. I used photography as the medium to get that dialogue rolling, and it was controversial enough that it caught on. When I realized that people were actually listening, I started building Project Consent as an actual organization whose purpose is to end sexual assault while supporting those who have been already assaulted. The staff grew from 1 to 70+ and four years later, here we are. You can find more about what we do on our website, but I’m just so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished over the years. I’m even more honored by all the voices that have joined in because I could have never done this alone.
You also have a podcast, OMFG Sara! how does one go about starting a podcast? What sets your podcast apart from all the others? Why should our readers tune in?
I had no idea how to host a podcast when I launched OMFG Sara (the name of my old blog). I just knew that I wanted to have these conversations, and I wanted to share them. The first season of my show just launched on iTunes, and I feel like it’s been a real learning curve. I’m discovering my voice and how to have these public chats and how to find my way through a whole new landscape. And I’m having a lot of fun learning. I get to talk about serious things like gun control and Hugh Hefner and silly, bizarre things like sex toys and how to pick up boys at Target.
I think my main selling point with the show is that it’s not an “advice” show and it’s not a lecture. It’s an exploration of life, one where I openly admit that I don’t know it all because I am young and idealistic and yada yada yada. And how that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It’s like having a conversation with your best friend or your slightly eccentric aunt. We’re just here to have a good time and maybe learn a few things along the way.
Do you have any big dreams for your podcast? any dream guests?
Oh, boy. Taylor Swift. I’d kill to have Taylor Swift on my show.
And in general, what's next for Sara Li? It seems like you wear so many hats!
I feel like every time I answer this question I have something new to add! I’m attending the UN Youth Assembly in February to learn about sustainability because humanitarian work— how to better the world—is still at the core of what I do, and I have so much respect for all the UN initiatives. I’m still writing poetry/songs/books in my spare time and hopefully getting those published soon. I’m super excited about this new initiative I’m launching that involves providing local change-makers the financial resources to pursue their passion projects that’ll better the community. So, I’m kind of running in all these different directions, but I’m making the most out of my life and making memories along the way. What better way to start 2018?