EXCLUSIVE! Amelie Zilber talks activism, politics and her new show Don't @ Me
When she's not walking in runway shows or attending high-profile events, Amelie Zilber is using her platform to educate young people on the issues that affect their everyday lives. At just 19 years old, Amelie has amassed an impressive resume. A champion for engaging youth in the political process, Amelie has worked with the Biden-Harris campaign, volunteered with voting nonprofits and served as a youth ambassador for UNICEF. The teen has also garnered an impressive online following with over 10 million followers across all social media platforms.
The content creator, model and activist recently launched a new roundtable talk show with digital studio Brat TV called Don't @ Me, which follows Amelie as she sits down with a panel of Gen Z activists to discuss pressing issues affecting today's youth. Created in collaboration with Facebook, Don't @ Me is airing across the platform's family of apps.
When we caught up with Amelie, we chatted about her political activism, biggest inspirations and why it is cool to care.
GL: Tell us a bit about Don’t @ Me.
Amelie: Don’t @ Me is a show that is produced by Facebook. It features roundtable discussions held by me and three other young people. We dive into social issues—whether that be universal health care, colorism or mental health—and we focus on issues that are directly affecting young people today. The show is entirely directed toward Gen Z and aims to inspire young people to educate themselves and get more involved in politics and political issues.
GL: Do you have a favorite episode?
Amelie: Oh goodness, I don’t know if I can choose! They’re all really powerful in their own ways. I think some have more intensity than others. There’s one episode on combating inequality that is going to be amazing. There is also one on consent and empowerment that is also going to be incredibly moving. There are so many conversations that I don’t think I can name just one, which is kind of ironic, because each episode took like three hours of conversation to film. Every episode is so powerful in it’s own way.
GL: What prompted your interest in politics?
Amelie: My interest in politics started from a really young age. When I was 12 years old, I started a political newsletter called The Two Minute Times. I founded the Two Minute Times because, as a little sister, I was super competitive with my brother who is a year and a half older than me. We would always have conversations about political issues at the dinner table and as a sixth-grader, I wasn’t really able to contribute like my brother was. I got really feisty about it, so I took it upon myself to dive into politics so I could outshine my brother at the dinner table. From that, I realized that when I would try to talk to my friends about these issues, they would have no idea what I was talking about. Given the fact that we were all 12-year-olds, it’s understandable, but it made me realize that that was an undissected space in the world of politics. In response, I created a newsletter that aimed to educate young people in a way that inspired them. That newsletter lasted six and a half years and working on it grew my interest in politics even more.
I also had a great professor in high school who inspired me to learn more about a certain area of politics that really inspired me. He was from the Middle East and when he noticed that I had a passion for the Middle East, he drove me to keep studying that. That really opened up a whole new world of political interest that otherwise I might not have paid much attention to. So I owe my interest in politics to my competitiveness and a history teacher that I had in tenth grade.
petition in my bio. Let’s pay attention & hold officials accountable♬ original sound - Amelie Zilber
GL: You’ve amassed a large social media following with 10 million followers across all platforms. Why do you think it is so important to use your platform to speak up about issues that are important to you?
Amelie: I started my platform as a space to raise awareness. I never had the intention of getting famous by doing anything other than just saying what I had to say. My platform grew in tandem with the voice that I had started to create for myself. Speaking about politics on social media was exactly what I needed to do to reach Gen Z. You have to meet people where they are to be able to catch their attention...and it’s more likely that someone is going to be scrolling Instagram than they’re going to be signing up for a weekly email newsletter. Having a lot of followers comes with a lot of responsibility. I would be doing a great disservice if I was not educating my audience about the issues that affect them most.
GL: What advice would you give young people who might be apathetic about the political process?
Amelie: Unfortunately, it’s easy to not care. I think that if you just pay attention to one part of the news that affects your heart, you will become encapsulated by the news for the rest of your life. If you have a friend who has been injured or suffered a horrific casualty in an episode of gun violence, you’re going to be paying attention to gun violence prevention laws for the rest of your life. I’m not saying that you have to have a catastrophe hit you to pay attention, but I think having empathy for others around you and being aware of the tragedy that others suffer because of certain laws or natural disasters is a good way to get interested in politics.
GL: What is something young people can do right now if they want to get involved?
Amelie: It's really easy to come to my page and watch a one-minute video on a political topic. It can be literally one minute a day of learning about something new. Over time, you'll start to have an appreciation for the news and an appreciation for learning. Whether it be by watching a 10-minute episode of my show or a one-minute video on my social media, all it takes is one minute of your day to pique your interest.
GL: I know that you are currently studying at Georgetown. How do you balance your activism, your studies and your work as an influencer?
Amelie: That’s a great question! Going to school at Georgetown requires a humongous amount of time and time management. For me, it’s never really been a burden. School has been my life for as long as I can remember! It’s always worked in tandem with the politics that I’ve been speaking about since I was 12, so I’ve definitely learned how to balance my school life with my interest in politics and activism.
I was a UNICEF ambassador when I was young and I even went to Malaysia with UNICEF when I was 14. Since I’ve been working with UNICEF for a long time, I got really good at balancing school with my philanthropic efforts as well as my interest in the political world. And my newsletter, which took hours and hours, helped me learn to manage time really well. I definitely had the blessing of honing in on that skill and having years of practice. Now that influencing is in the mix, it has not necessarily been the harvest challenge. I think that having a million things to do can be really stressful, but I like to remind myself that I would rather be busy than bored.
What is one book you can’t live without?
Can I give two answers? The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
We know you’re quite the jet-setter. What is the coolest trip you’ve taken?
My trip to Vietnam and Cambodia!
Do you have an artist you’ve been blasting on repeat?
Definitely Mac Miller.
What is your go-to snack food?
Pepperidge Chocolate Chip Cookies.
GL: Who are some of the people who have inspired you most in your life?
Amelie: My mom is my greatest inspiration. She is the hardest worker and I think she is the reason that I, too, am a deeply hard worker. I’d have to give her the first credit for that one. I actually give my second credit to the history teacher that I mentioned earlier. He is the reason that I fell in love with the Middle East. I had always had a passion for the politics of the Middle East, but wouldn't have dived so deeply into the world of foreign policy had it not been for him. He saw the passion and the curiosity in me and he inspired me to focus on it and expand it. I owe him a lot. And I’d have to give the third credit to all of the other activists out there who continue to inspire me every single day to talk about the issues that matter. I see people like Yara Shahidi speaking up about the issues that matter most to her. I see people like Greta Thunberg talking about issues that she believes in so deeply and it inspires me to do the same. So you know, to all the other activists in this world who are striving to raise awareness and make this world a better place.
GL: Talking about such important and sensitive topics online can be challenging. What are some of the pressures associated with being an influential figure at such a young age?
Amelie: Having a platform at a young age definitely comes with its disadvantages. I've had to learn how to monitor my life in a way that doesn't harm my private life. Learning to not overshare on social media has definitely been a learning lesson as well. It’s come with its downfalls. I’ve had to privatize a lot of parts of my life. When you go through public separations with friends or boyfriends or whatnot, the whole Internet has an opinion. I really learned to keep a lot of my life private in that regard, because it’s a lot of pressure when people have opinions of you and all of your life decisions. It’s been a process of learning what's comfortable for me and what is best for my heart and my mental health. The pressures of having an online profile can be a lot. There is consistent upkeep of your social media and the content that you've posted. You’re constantly working. But at the end of the day, I have been given a one in a million chance, so I see it with gratitude. it’s not a burden, it's a blessing.
GL: What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
Amelie: I have an irrational but incredibly deep-rooted fear of bathtubs. No, I will not take further questions. But in all seriousness, I guess something more meaningful is that a lot of people don't know that I traveled to Malaysia with UNICEF when I was 14. I've been working with UNICEF for a really long time and I banded together with a group of other young people when I was in middle school. We raised over $100,000 for maternal and neonatal tetanus. As a reward, I was given the opportunity to fly to Malaysia and do some charitable work there. That was an incredible blessing, but I don't think many people know about it. I've been working with refugees for years. I used to host dinners for refugees where my friends and I would invite young refugees who fled from Syria and now live in Los Angeles to come and get to know other young people. So perhaps that is a better answer than my fear of bathtubs.
GL: What is next for you?
Amelie: I'm working on expanding my show into different facets! Whether that be audio or another on-screen opportunity, we're in the process of working that out. I'm also working really closely with the White House, and I have some incredible opportunities coming up in the next few weeks. I can’t share too much, but it’s going to be deeply exciting. It’s something that my 12-year-old self would simply faint at the idea of doing, so I’m feeling very lucky and excited about what’s to come.
Obsessed with Amelie? Keep up with her latest adventures by following her on social media and streaming her new Brat TV-produced Facebook show Don't @ Me.
Parts of this interview have been edited for grammar and clarity.
All images via @ameliezilber on Instagram.