Why she's a badass: In 2015, after growing tired of reading about “white boys and their dogs” in her New Jersey classroom, Dias started the #1000BlackGirl Books campaign. The social-media initiative aimed to collect books featuring females of color to donate to schools and social-action organizations.
Appearances on CBS This Morning and The Ellen DeGeneres Show followed, along with accolades from the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama and director Ava DuVernay. (DuVernay even wrote the foreword to Dias’s forthcoming book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!, a guide for anyone age 10 and up to enact change.) In 2018 Dias became the youngest person named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.
All in the family: Her father, Scott, a geological analyst, and mother, Janice, a community organizer, instilled political awareness in her at a young age. “My parents taught me the importance of telling the truth no matter what,” says Dias. “If there’s one person who feels motivated by what I share, then I’ve succeeded.”
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Overcoming obstacles: Even with a cohort of adult supporters, Dias still faces ageism. “I’ve been in situations where people are so enamored of what I do that they’re surprised I can even do it,” she says. “I’ve learned to use big words. Because I’m an avid reader, I can prove myself as a smart and diligent person.”
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Greatest accomplishment: Dias’s big win came when One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia’s novel about three black sisters growing up in the 1960s, was added to her school syllabus. “That was the first evidence of systemic change in my community,” she says. “I was watching my classmates tell their parents about what they were reading.”
InStyle February - Marley Dias
Women she admires: Activist Angela Davis, former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and Beyoncé. “Each of them put their best foot forward every time and created so much pride for girls in the process.”
What's next: Dias hopes to one day lead an incubator for burgeoning activists. “I want to create a space where people can come up with ideas and share them,” she says. Could political office be too far off? “Never say never!”
For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Jan. 5.