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Scream when you need to

A Profile of LGM Cover Girl: Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw
Interviewed By Amanda Tordal

The LGM cover girl for the Winter 2016 issue is 18-year old Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, better known as "Khayla" to her friends. A journalism major and music student at the University of Iowa, Mikhayla is discovering a balance between her studies, her passion for music and making time for friends and family.

Mikhayla hopes to bring awareness to self-esteem issues, planning to encourage and empower young women through music and public speaking. She made it through her own depression with the support of friends and family, learning to improve her own self-esteem through positive self-talk and practicing self-love.

"I want young girls to know that they are beautifully and wonderfully made," says Mikhayla of her role as the Senior Assistant Editor for Love GIRLS Magazine. "I hope that… helps me to inspire other girls to follow their dreams. Young women should be encouraged, and they need to know that they can do anything that they put their mind to. Through knowing this, I believe that young girls will be able to find self-confidence."

Mikhayla has discovered her self-confidence through her talents. She has a passion for journalism and a love for music, with her dream job consisting of a mix between public speaker, writer and professional violinist. "It's a lot, I know, but I want to spread love and positivity through the gifts that were given to me," she says. "I realized I was in love with journalism when I began writing for the magazine. I learned to love it even more once I decided to take a journalism class my senior year of high school." Now at the University of Iowa, Mikhayla is learning to better her skills and reach a broader audience with her work. "If I can get people to pay attention through my art, then they will be able to hear my message," she says of her career aspirations. "I also feel that I could make a difference in both of these fields, because I will be meeting new people almost everyday."

"The world comes together for good music."

Mikhayla playing a violin

Mikhayla has a love for people as strong as her love for music, and has seen how music can bring people together, regardless of demographics. "This is important," she says. "The world comes together for good music." As a proficient violinist (she has played for about seven years), Mikhayla plans on majoring in music the upcoming academic year. "I fell in love with the instrument when I was younger, and once I was able to try it out I stuck with it. I play when I am bored, when I hear a song on the radio that I like and try to cover it, or sometimes when I am feeling down," she says about her love for music and the violin. "I am extremely passionate about music. I have seen how it can help people through struggles, and it has also helped me through struggles… I am able to escape in my craft, and having that outlet is important to me. The performing arts have not only helped me to meet some amazing people, but they have helped me to become a more confident person. I find it easy to stand on a stage in front of hundreds of people, which is something I would not have been comfortable with unless it was for the performing arts."

Mikhayla's performing arts activities consist of more than the violin. She is also a member of "The Crew," which consists of Curtis Bell, Juan Valtierra, Victoria Viren, and herself. She first played with them at the 2014 Quad Cities Love Awards. "They are all dancers, and I play the violin. Jasmine and Teresa Babers came up with the idea to combine violin, hip-hop and ballet. It started as a one-time performance, and then became a recurring idea. We now have had the opportunity to perform throughout the Quad Cities and Memphis."

With so many activities and a busy school schedule, Mikhayla still manages to stay in contact with most of her family through text messages and calls. She talks to her grandparents about once a week, and has a very good relationship with her mother. "I can come to her with anything that I am going through. I wasn't always the easiest daughter, but as I have grown older our relationship has grown stronger. She's my rock, always has been and always will be!" As an older sister, Mikhayla appreciates her relationship with her brother David, even though they can "get on each other's nerves every once in a while." But she is pleased he can still come to her with the things that are bothering him.

" I am very proud of being multiracial."

Mikhayla and her mother

Mikhayla's life has been shaped by her family and experiences, but also by being multiracial. She struggled with this when she was younger, in social situations where she was encouraged to "pick a side", or even being told she was "too black" or "too white". "I thought that I could only embrace my white or black cultures," she says. But as she grew older, she began to realize that she could embrace both. "I am very proud of being multiracial… I have been able to connect to many different cultures. I feel as if I am able to see the world in a different way than those who are simply one race, because I am exposed to many different types of people. I also find it cool that I can say my ancestors are from multiple parts of the globe!"

When asked about the racial hostility on the Mizzou campus (another issue addressed in LGM, spring 2016) and the Concerned Student 1950 group, Mikhayla seems disappointed with our society. "The fact that Mizzou students had to stand up against racism on their campus makes me think that our society is digressing as opposed to progressing with racial issues," she says.

As she heads into the ever-chaotic field of journalism, Mikhayla acknowledges that the field is always changing. "In this day and age, we are constantly absorbing information and media due to the amount of journalism that is within our society. This will lead to an all-knowing generation, which can be good and bad. Good because we are aware of the current social issues that affect our daily lives… and bad because we are constantly hearing about the negative situations within our world, which can cause people to see the world in a negative light."

Whether the abundance of information in our society is good or bad, Mikhayla knows that "the point of journalism is to simply inform. What individuals do with this information is what makes the world go round."

"You have to be careful with your words."

Her passion for informative journalism, as well as her passion for people and their equal rights makes Mikhayla a wonderful champion for young women. She hopes to bring awareness to low self-esteem issues in young adults. "It is so easy to believe others when they tell you that you are not good enough, or cannot do something. I want to provide encouragement to those who have experienced this kind of bullying, and I want to raise awareness to prevent others from continuing damaging behavior. You have to be careful with your words."

As a future journalist, or public speaker, or violinist (or all of the above), Mikhayla hopes to start a foundation for Suicide Awareness and shine light on the issue of low self-esteem. "So many people lose their lives each year due to depression and low self-esteem, which can lead to them taking their own life," she says. "It is absolutely heartbreaking."

"You have to let yourself feel."

Black and white photo of Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw

She has known her own heartbreak, having dealt with depression and low self-esteem in the past. She was lucky to have support during her tough times, and learned to reach out when she needed help the most. When asked what she could say to anyone else experiencing a depression or suicidal thoughts, her advice is to "take it one day at a time. Life gets better. I know it may not seem like it in the midst of a negative situation, but your life has value. Above all else, get help. You are not weak for seeking help. Also, know that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. You have to let yourself feel. Do not suppress your emotions, because that will only make it worse. Cry when you need to. Scream when you need to. Sometimes that can really help you make it through the day."

To young adults that may not have the support she had, Mikhayla reminds them to "reach out to the National Suicide Hotline. You are never truly alone. If you do not have someone close to you that you can go to about your situation, reach out to support groups and therapists. There are people who are always willing to help… I found my greatest strength through Christ, and with His love I was able to make it out of my depression. Through prayer, I was able to gain the strength that I never thought would come."

"Once we learn to love ourselves, we are able to encourage others to do the same."

Mikhayla is stronger than ever now. After her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, she has learned to practice self-love to boost her confidence. Her family, friends, and prayers are her support group, and her studies are her passion. She encourages others to promote self-love by "learning to first love every part of themselves." She says "it is so important to value and love yourself, and know that there is no one like you in this world. It is also so important to practice positive self-talk, because sometimes we are our worst enemies. Once we learn to love ourselves, we are able to encourage others to do the same."