Read Michaela's Biography

Why are you a strategist for good?

“I grew up in an artistic community during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. At 10 and 11 years old, I remember visiting family friends in hospice care, overhearing the adults rail against a political and health care system that would rather let Americans die than address its homophobia. And then there were the protests, the marches, the body paint. Later as a teenager I had opportunities to visit with communities impacted by HIV/AIDS in Mexico, South Africa. I was overcome with guilt and rage that a disease that was on its way to becoming a chronic condition in the United States, was still an untreated epidemic in most of the world. It made me angry that these two stories were told in isolation from one another. I realized that political and social justice narratives are crafted, and most miss opportunities to include or prioritize the most marginalized voices among us. I felt that stories were at the center of action and reaction — political and otherwise — and that I would become a storyteller.”

What good have you done that you’re proudest of?

“I like to focus on recent accomplishments, so I think I would have to say my work in Rwanda with Grassroots Girls Initiative. The project was conceived as a video training that would prepare young girls — mainly heads of household — to create and share personal stories about how their lives had changed as a result of an economic development program they’d participate in. Despite not having a common language, I trained girls on the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to write, shoot, edit short films and conduct interviews. The girls absorbed the training, creating personal short films about their own lives and then very quickly began documenting the lives of other girls and women around them. In the years since the training the first cohort of girls I trained have trained others in their communities, and have become young ambassadors to funders, local and national politicians who wish to better understand the experiences of young people in Rwanda.”

What’s your superpower?

“I love film, television and plays. The very best films are fueled by well-developed characters. I’ve always been able to talk to anyone, and I have an affinity for engaging in difficult conversations with difficult people. I love learning how people see themselves in the world, and studying how they engage with others. Never been able to get a specific stakeholder or community member to tell you what they think?  Call me. I’ll get them to talk. And then I’ll make you a movie about it.”



Global Fund for Women
Independent Television Services’ Women & Girls Lead Global
Memphis is Music Initiative
Community Foundation for Monterey County
Nike Foundation’s Grassroots Girls Initiative