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At “Lilith Fair For Gen Z,” Inclusion And Diversity Take Center Stage

Willow Smith, Tyra Banks, and Jaime King are just some of the celebs headlining a festival for social justice-oriented Generation Z girls.

At “Lilith Fair For Gen Z,” Inclusion And Diversity Take Center Stage
[Photo: Joel Arbaje for Fast Company]

What would a festival created just for girls look like?

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 “Think Coachella for women,” says Prince Chenoa, founder of content studio and digital teen magazine Galore, “or Lilith Fair for Generation Z.”

Chenoa is describing Girl Cult, billed as a “music festival for kickass women.” The event, which he is organizing, is marketed toward progressive teens who want to “come together and create a new vision, with an undying support for equality” in “these confusing times” reads the website.

It’s being produced by mega concert promoter Goldenvoice in conjunction with Galore, which Chenoa cofounded with his business and romantic partner Jacob Dekat.

The all-day festival will be held in Los Angeles on August 20, with tickets at $29.50, less than half the price of Coachella tickets. It will feature multiple musical performances by young singers like Willow Smith and Beyoncé proteges Chloe x Halle, as well as talks by more seasoned celebrities like Kimora Lee Simmons and Tyra Banks.

There will be a discussion with transgender YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous and actress Jaime King, a sex abuse survivor and female empowerment advocate. Disney star Skai Jackson will share how to handle cyberbullying, which she experienced (the petite 4″8 actress has often been the target of social media taunts).

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“It’s an eclectic mix,” explains Chenoa of the lineup, which will lean heavily on musical performances, ranging from alternative to R&B. “There’s something for everyone.”

Indeed, there is a splattering of almost everything–rappers, CEOs, models, social media influencers, and a Swedish pop star, which makes it hard to, at first glance, summarize its intent. What exactly does it mean to have a Gen Z festival—or even a coming together —”for a new vision”?

“[Girl Cult] is centered around female empowerment,” says Chenoa. and each act and speaker was picked for their social awareness or commitment to pushing women’s issues. “They stand for something.”

Coachella, in comparison, has often been nicknamed “bro-chella” for its predominantly male-skewing lineup. Only 20 percent of this past year’s festival was female-fronted. And although Lady Gaga headlined, she was only the second woman to ever hold that position, following Bjork nearly a decade earlier.

“No guy will be speaking at the festival to these girls,” stresses Chenoa.

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A Girl Power Fest Organized By Men

Girl Cult might only be showcasing women, but, I point out in my talk with Chenoa, the female empowerment festival is being executive produced by two men. Could that at all be considered an issue, or an insensitivity to the audience?

Chenoa pauses before answering with a long, drawn-out, “Yeaaah.” He acknowledges the irony. “I could see certain groups having something to say about that.”

The cofounder admits it might inspire some unease, but doubled down on the fact that he doesn’t think his gender should have anything to do “with one’s love and respect for women.”

He explains that as the son of a single working mother, he has nothing but admiration for women, as exemplified by his dedication to a female teen magazine. “We have no other agenda.”

Girl Cult also leans heavily on a diverse lineup of female entertainers. The talent includes African-American singer-songwriter Sevyn Streeter, Latino actress Jenna Ortega, and Canadian songstress Emmalyn, who is of Filipino descent, among a dozen others. Headliner Willow Smith, the daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has been vocal on a number on social issues, including the importance of diversity within the entertainment and media industry.

“The women of Gen Z need a festival to call their own—to see women like them on the stage… and girls who embody what generation Z aspires to,” says Chenoa. “Diversity is something we can’t strive enough for.”

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Gen Z Rising

Gen Z is classified as those born after 1995. The “digital native” generation makes up roughly 25% of the U.S. population and is set to eclipse millennials in numbers in the coming decade. They are a unique group: Having been brought up on the internet, 85% relies almost exclusively on mobile for news and shopping, with an average attention span of 8 seconds, 4 seconds less than that of millennials, according to Anna Fieler, executive vice president of marketing at Popsugar. Gen Z is also probably geared to be the most tolerant and diverse of any generation, with 50% identifying as mixed race or as part of an ethnic group.

As Fast Company writer Elizabeth Segran noted, “They grew up with a black man as the leader of the free world, with women in positions of power in the workplace, and with openly gay celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, and Neil Patrick Harris.”

So, it makes sense that female teens wouldn’t be satisfied by male-dominated acts and excessive, meaningless partying at competing festivals; they’re interested is something that feels more inclusive, important, and timely. They care. They are, as the kids say, “woke.”

????// @existentialcrisisboy // possibly dropping a song on <SoundCloud> 2nite #4thelighteaters

A post shared by ≠GWEELOS≠ (@willowsmith) on

Lexie Jiaris, production manager for Goldenvoice, sees a generation of girls who are politically engaged, with their constant phone use keeping them in the know. Why not, then, let them share their passion for social justice in real life?

“The younger girls right now on social media are very inspired by being politically correct,” says Jiaris, adding, “and coming together and hating Trump. They are very open-minded, open to people of all genders, aware of racial situations going on and openly discussing it.”

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While a conference geared toward communal hatred of a president sounds awfully political, Girl Cult’s organizers are quick to point out that they don’t consider the festival a politically charged gathering.

But when I ask Chenoa, for example, what the conference means by “for girls in these confusing times,” he admits it is indeed a reference to Trump (“he is not about female empowerment in any way,” he quickly asserts).

In the same breath, Chenoa reiterates that while the festival will have political leanings–with discussions on women’s rights, climate change, HIV awareness, and the Black Lives Matter movement–“this is not a hate Trump rally.”

Fans of Galore certainly wouldn’t be surprised by the anti-Trump sentiment; they’re quite accustomed to it. A quick scan of the teen mag’s recent social media postings includes standouts like “our raging garbage fire in chief really did it this time,” about the president’s declaration on transgender military personnel. A fashion guide to the Fourth of July was headlined, “How To Wear Red, White & Blue Without Looking Trumpy,” while a First Daughter takedown was titled “Ivanka Trump Spent Last Night Liking Photos of Herself.” (The majority of articles, however, center on average teen issues, like beauty, entertainment, and dating, along with interviews of teen stars like Kendall Jenner. It’s like an edgier, more inclusive and accessible Teen Vogue.)

One Big Anti-Trump Rally?

Chenoa believes the commander-in-chief will not dominate the festival’s message, though it seems unlikely that—considering the lineup and organizer’s leanings—it won’t get political. “This is all about love and female empowerment,” he says. “We want it to be uplifting.” The first conference is based in Los Angeles since it’s a central breeding ground for liberal, progressive, and diverse teens.

I'll be there! Excited to be speaking at @girlcultfest ! Get your tix to come out and see me.

A post shared by Skai ♛ (@skaijackson) on

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So far, the event is nearly sold out, with Galore adding new acts and speakers each week. Girl Cult is starting with a theater that fits 1,200 but plans on expanding in the coming year with more events at even bigger venues.

Chenoa sees the opportunity to grow Girl Cult into a movement that extends beyond the one-day festival. With readers so thoroughly connected on social media, he explains, they’re able to foster a community that can keep the festival’s spirit alive all throughout the year–until the next event. As part of that initiative, the event will be broadcast live on Facebook.

“It could grow into something that could potentially be the largest female empowerment festival in the world,” says Chenoa. “That’s what we’re going for.”

Now that girls will have their own festival, can we expect the same for the boys? Will the male counterparts of Gen Z one day have Boy Cult? Surely, they care too.

Chenoa laughs, responding with a definitive no. “There are a lot of things out there for guys,” he explains, noting that they are more than welcome to join in at Girl Cult.

But as for a LGBT Cult festival? That’s another story.

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“I might entertain doing something,” says Chenoa.