Turning the Blues of Grief, Pink
Anika Ortiz never imagined that she would be opening her own pop-up fashion boutique at the age of 11. Or that she would be a public speaker and vocal advocate against domestic violence at the age of 13. The surprise comes not only from the fact that she is incredibly young to have accomplished so much, but that as a child Anika often hid behind her mother’s knees because she was astonishingly shy. Her ability to command a crowd and her poise among adults and peers is surprising to those who have known her as a reserved child. But what attracts so many girls to Anika and allows them to glean from her fashion-forward thinking and be inspired by her encouraging words and advice is her infectious drive to help others.
Tragedy struck her small family when Anika was only seven years old. Her older sister Alejandra was shot dead by her estranged husband, who is now serving time in prison. Anika struggled with the reality of losing her only sister. Anika and her mother, Maria, channeled their despair into hope and decided to give back in a way that would honor Alejandra. Opening a boutique called Anika’s Pink Closet seemed like a perfect way to begin the healing process.
Maria used her connections at the Mariposa Women and Family Center to introduce Anika to President and CEO Krista Driver, who loved the boutique idea. Krista found it difficult to say no to such an enthusiastic child so passionate about helping young girls. Anika’s idea was to create a specialty store designed for girls and to donate a portion of her profits to the women’s center. Anika gathered gently-used clothing items, accessories, and other girly objects. She found items on Craig’s List, in her own closet, and received donations from others. The boutique was launched.
In the midst of the excitement, however, Anika confided to her mother that she was being bullied at school. As they both worked through the emotional struggle, Anika had another idea. She wanted to help young girls learn how to move from a negative self-image and towards a place of confidence and of a healthy image. She began offering classes on fashion, bullying, and social media at the women’s center.
“I just want to bring out the positivity,” said Anika. “On social media, many people are getting bullied.”
What was supposed to be a one-time event, has become a regular oasis for girls to be inspired “to dream big, to be self-confident, and to realize that we rise by lifting others up,” part of the mission statement for Anika’s Pink Closet. After just one year, Anika’s vision has expanded to include a talent show, American Girl tea parties, and peer to peer mentoring. The boutique runs every last Saturday of the month. In addition, classes and events are scheduled throughout the week.
“I know that girls love shopping, and I’m so glad that they can feel great and be a part of this fun project,” said Anika.
The shy girl from Orange is now a business savvy teen.
To learn more about Anika’s Pink Closet visit www.anikaspinkcloset.com.