#GirlBOSS: Alanna Walls of Polished Girlz
At 15 year old, Alanna Walls, founder and CEO of Polished Girlz, is the epitome of a #GirlBOSS. Alanna started Polished Girlz when she was just 10 years old as a way of helping children with social, emotional or physical special needs, including those that are hospitalized, by brightening their day with mini-manicures and teaching them the importance of hand washing.
Today, her nonprofit has served over 14,000 clients across the United States, Canada and Mexico ... and she's just getting started. Last month, she joined forced with AZATURE Black Diamond Nail Lacquers for an exclusive deep blue shade packed with glitter and a real black diamond. Each bottle is $16 and a portion of the proceeds benefits Polished Girlz.
“Alanna has been such an inspiration to me for some time now and I just can’t wait to launch this color with her," said designer AZATURE Pogosian. "Seeing the amazing work the Polished Girlz organization did last year at the first Polished Girlz Ball made such an impact on me that I was moved to help.”
Find out what the young entrepreneur has in store next here:
I first learned about you when I worked for JET and you were one of the 40 Under 40. When did your love of drawing and nail art begin?
It started at a really young age. Every time we'd go to my Nana’s house in Las Vegas, me, my mom and Nana would always get glitter toes done ... I loved it so much every time we’d go. Nana always had so many bottles of nail polish. One day, I was sitting on the bed with all this nail polish and Polished Girlz came to mind.
I love that story! My grandmother had a ton of nail polish as well. So how did the nonprofit part come about?
Well, I loved to polish my nails and draw and I just thought well the kids in the hospital would like that as well. My mom and I contacted the Dayton’s Children Hospital and, because I was only 10 at the time, they said I was too young. My mom told me about kids with special needs at the Down Syndrome Association in Dayton. I told my friends about Polished Girlz and my mom told her friends and coworkers. We got a volleyball team to volunteer with us, got into the hospital and started volunteering at hospital.
That's wonderful! I admire your perseverance. Why do you think it’s so important to give back?
You never know what somebody is going through. Some of these kids are in the hospital all day and some of them actually live there. Polished Girlz gives them visitors and someone to talk to their own age. It helps the girls take their minds off being in the hospital or whatever their situation is.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned from starting Polished Girlz?
I think the biggest lesson was no doesn’t mean no. It just means not now. It was really hard for me to learn that when I was 10 and I couldn’t volunteer at the hospital, but I was eventually able to.
What are you hopes and goals for Polished Girlz?
Well I have these Polished Girlz Balls we're trying to do every year. The first one was last year in New York and this year, it's in November in Los Angeles. The ball is like a giant Polished Girlz party. We dress the girls up in donated prom dresses and polish their nails. I want Polished Girlz to be as big as an organization like Girl Scouts. We're in 32 states, but I want it to be all over the world.
You've been featured everywhere from Ellen to Disney to Nickelodeon and you were at New York Fashion Week painting the models' nails. What's it like to be recognized for your hard work?
I didn’t start Polished Girlz to be recognized. I had an idea and I wanted girls to feel a little bit better. And not just girls, guys, too. When we first started, I had a client I'd paint every time I went to the hospital. This little boy would get clear because he thought it would make him invisible to cancer. I want to make them feel better and take their minds off what they’re doing. If other kids want to do the same thing, that’s awesome.
Wow, I'm tearing up over here. That's so touching. What advice do you have for other young girls who want to start their own business?
I always say you’re never too young to change the world. You can’t put an age limit on wanting to help somebody, you know. You can’t say you’re only 8 and you can’t do anything huge. Originally, I wanted to start a nonprofit making scarves for kids with cancer. You can’t give up, no matter how old you are. You always can make a difference.
That's great advice for adults, too! I know there are girls who look up to you, but who are your role models?
My mom and my dad. They always taught me to help somebody or think of something that could change the world. I look up to them!
Excellent choices! If you could paint anyone’s nails, who would it be?
Hmm ... maybe [first lady] Michelle Obama. I wonder what it’s like to be in the White House. And Malia and Sasha, that would be so much fun. It'd be a Polished Girlz party in the White House!
If you do that, let me know. I want to go, too! Last question, there's been a lot of talk about #BlackGirlMagic lately and you definitely embody that spirit. What does #BlackGirlMagic mean to you? I think it’s great for people to embrace their culture and accept it and love themselves for who they are. I think it’s great that what I’m doing can inspire people to do big things and start businesses and not just sit around. The celebrities on TV aren't really role models, so to have girls look up to me and people who are really doing great things ... it makes me proud to see how we’re helping people love themselves. Want to get involved with Polished Girlz? Visit polishedgirlz.org to volunteer or donate.