While navigating the ocean of all-things-for-girls-should-be-frilly-and-pink, on a one way passage to the manufactured land of all-little-girls-want-to-be-princesses, Woman You Should Know Michele Yulo had a sudden revelation to change course. It was her first mate, her then three year old daughter Gabriela, who made her see that there are many ways to be a girl, so the paths to girlhood could and should be different, despite what society and advertisers lead us to believe. That’s when Michele set out to create a whole new world for girls… a Princess Free Zone.
As Michele was confronted with the over 40,000 princess items on the market, she wondered, “What’s a girl to do, if she doesn’t like pink or pastels and prefers super heroes and race cars to Barbie dolls?” That described her daughter to a tee. From age three on, the now feisty seven year old Gabi, has always had an unwavering desire to be just like her dad – from wanting to wear a tool belt and work boots, to adamantly refusing to wear dresses.
Michele tells us, “When you have a three year old little girl who refuses to wear puffy sleeves, dresses, or lace, you start to wonder where she fits in, but more than that, how she views herself when she has to identify with being a boy to find the things she likes.”
Shopping in boys departments shouldn’t be the answer, but it seemed to be the only one. So in 2009, Michele came up with a better alternative… to offer little girls a Princess Free Zone (PFZ) – a place where being a girl doesn’t mean donning a tiara (she can wear a tiara if she wants, but she should feel free to take it off as well).
The socially-conscious, multi-faceted brand, blog, and website, was inspired by Gabi’s spirit and has continued to evolve based on Michele’s philosophy that girls need to SEE options… if they don’t see it – they can’t choose it. So PFZ’s aim is to not only offer girls (ages 3 – 8) more options in terms of products and what they are exposed to, it’s also to change the societal mindset related to gender. We like to think of it is as the antidote to the pink/princess culture that dominates girlhood and WE LOVE IT!
Michele, whose professional background includes education, hospitality, and advertising, explains, “Girls need to know that they can do anything they want – that might include hammering a nail into a wall or fixing a broken faucet. But just saying the words doesn’t make it so.”
She drives home the message that each little girl is an individual with her own personal style through posts on her blog and through the super cool tees and gear she offers on the PFZ site, all of which are designed to counter the stereotypes that are typical in children’s merchandise.
PFZ’s Super Tool Lula
Princess Free Zone also gave life to Lula, the WYSKy, heroic lead character in a story book series Michele is penning called Super Tool Lula.
She loves science, playing the drums, riding her skateboard, and hanging out with her friends in the Good Builders Club.
Lula also just happens to be a super hero. As Super Tool Lula, she uses her super hero gifts and magical tools to protect and help kids who are mistreated or bullied. Along with her friends, she’s out to change the world, one kid at a time. She wants all kids to know that being kind is cool.
The idea for the book and Lula came to Michele after learning that gender stereotyping is at the root cause of bullying and bullying-related incidents, especially in younger children. With her first Super Tool Lula book now available in print, Michele plans to roll out the next installments of the series soon.
When she launched PFZ, Michele started out as just one mother hoping to change the conversation about girls and expand the options available to her own daughter. Four short years later, she is part of a collective movement that is swiftly gaining traction and helping to amplify her own important mission and message. We applaud this WYSK’s tireless efforts to foster a new world that celebrates the fact that all girls are not the same!
Lead image: Michele with her awesome daughter Gabi