Monday, August 6, 2012

Seeing Beauty Differently


NINETEEN year old Gold Coaster Nicole Gibson talks to Stephanie Pickett about winning this year’s Young Social Pioneer of the year award and her emotional journey as founder and CEO of the Rogue and Rouge Foundation.

What is the Rogue and Rouge Foundation?
The Rogue and Rouge Foundation is a necessitous circumstances fund that aids individuals through the recovery process of mental illness, however also strives to reach out to the wider community to help them question the way in which beauty is perceived. I started it as a fashion label and it still is one, the only thing that has changed is I now donate all proceeds to the charity and use fashion as a way to raise funds.

Why did you choose this concept for your foundation?
It touches me personally; I was hospitalized for anorexia and almost lost my life. It’s a viscous cycle and I was lucky to break it like did. When got better I realised how much of a waste it was, you look at the stats… the girls that have these problems are so talented and driven. I wanted to take the initiative to start a preventative campaign that gets people really listening.

Did you find it hard to combine fashion and health?
I started doing fashion at QUT, but was really passionate about helping people with what I went through, which was so prevalent in fashion, so it was a bit of a contradiction. I interned for a semester with a designer in Brisbane and I told her that I was really split between health and fashion; I loved both! She said that I’d never be able to combine the two; I disagreed so I quit my internship and left QUT.

How did Rogue & Rouge come together?
I won Sun Super Dreams For a Better World and got given a grant to start my business. You had to put an application together of your dream for a better world and a business model that would make it happen. My idea was to create a fashion label that would help promote healthy body image and I did everything in my power to make sure I won.

Where did you go from there?
I started the My Dreams Campaign, where I had people summarise in one sentence what their dream is for a better world, then get people on social media to like it. The top ten dreams got printed on a Rogue & Rouge tee and proceeds from that went to the charity. The charity’s main function with the finance is to pay for the recovery process of individuals that are going through eating disorders or mental illness.

What was it like to win this year’s Young Social Pioneer of the year award?
Winning the Young Social Pioneer (YSP) of the year award is an incredible opportunity for me; I can now be a voice for youth. It’s also an amazing avenue to collaborate with past YSP award winners and others working alongside them. It’s a fantastic initiative and one day will have really strong alumni. What this is doing for my foundation is invaluable; we’ve got so much more credibility!

Was this the highlight of your career so far?
Honestly, the time I felt most rewarded was when I gave a speech a few months ago about my experiences, what I have achieved since and why it’s important for people to speak up about mental illness. Two girls approached me afterwards, they both suffered from anorexia. Since I spoke to them, they’ve begun treatment and are recovering. This was the first time felt like I was really making a difference on a personal level.

What inspires and influences you?
It was a really emotional journey for me to actually become the head of my organisation. I found it difficult working with kids currently going through the same problems I went through myself; I am really empathetic. It does however, give me the incentive to keep myself healthy and strong and be a good role model, that’s definitely a major drive to keep going.

What do you hope to achieve with the foundation?
We’ve almost finished building a new electronics program for the main campaign –‘Dollar-a-Deed’, which is marketed towards sponsoring school kids. The way it’s designed, teachers can partner with students, create deed lists and delegate them; it can be integrated really well into the classroom. The whole concept shows kids they can make a difference in the community, no matter how down on themselves they are. It gives them extra incentive to go above and beyond and teaches them about self worth.

Do you feel there is enough support out there for young entrepreneurs like yourself to succeed?
[For] young entrepreneurs, especially ones running social enterprises there’s not enough support from the government; the only way to get media is to collaborate with a bigger organisation. Arts communities and social enterprises need to start collaborating to do something really revolutionary. It’s just a matter of being dedicated and thinking outside the box.

Have you collaborated a lot along the way?
We are aligned now with The Eating Disorder Association, a longstanding national organisation. It gives us so much more credibility. They are an awareness charity; girls go to them and they refer those girls us. We can then help them with their recovery; it works really well!

What are your hopes for the future?
I’d love to be on Australian story. I have a lot of goals for the organisation, but for me personally, I want to make sure I keep a balance in life and stay true to the people I care about. I want to be an influential voice and a household name because if I can get people to listen to what I have to say, that’s when changes will be made. I want to one day be working internationally for the awareness of mental illness.

Do you have any advice for young Australians?
I want kids to know that you don’t have to adhere to certain rules to achieve. If you keep pushing you’ll achieve your goals; people don’t achieve because they quit. If you keep going you’ll get there. Stereotypes make no difference, because when you’re passionate about what you do, people really respond; you just have to believe in yourself!

For more information about Nicole’s cause and how you can help, visit:

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