Nadya Okamoto, who grew up in Portland, OR, is a 20-year-old Harvard student on a leave of absence. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD (period.org), an organization she founded at the age of 16. PERIOD is now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health, and one of the fastest growing ones here in the United States. Since 2014 they have addressed over 400,000 periods and registered over 230 campus chapters. In 2017, Nadya ran for office in Cambridge, MA and while she did not win, her campaign team made historic waves in mobilizing young people on the ground and at the polls. Nadya recently published her debut book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement with publisher Simon & Schuster, which made the Kirkus Reviews list for Best Young Adult Nonfiction of 2018. Nadya is also the Chief Brand Officer of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in NYC. Most recently, Nadya was named to InStyle Magazine’s “The Badass 50: Meet the Women Who Are Changing the World” list, along with Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to start PERIOD.?
I founded PERIOD when I was 16-years-old, as a junior in high school, after my family experienced living without a home of our own for several months. During this time, on my commute to school on the public bus, I had many conversations with homeless women in much worse living situations than I was in. I was inspired to learn more about menstrual inequity and period poverty after collecting an anthology of stories of their using toilet paper, socks, brown paper grocery bags, cardboard, and more, to take care of something so natural. Hearing the stories of these women inspired me to learn more about period poverty and how it impacts menstruators both around the world and in the US. Learning about how 40 states had a sales tax on period products at the time, considering them a non-essential good, was the final push I needed to make me take action.
What does your typical day look like?
Sending emails, signing and sending books, and planning out our next national media campaign for PERIOD. I have also been traveling a lot for speaking engagements, so usually a few hours of travel factors into most of my days. Also, no matter what and no matter where I am, I always try to make an hour for working out!
What was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Any advice that tries to change who I am or tries to take me away from my values is a bad piece of advice.
What does success mean to you?
To me, success means using the platform and privileges that I have to make a difference on an issue I truly believe in. In this case, it’s around PERIODS!!!
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
In moments of self-doubt, it helps me to just reconnect with my family -- my two younger sisters and my mom -- and feel grounded and supported by the people I care about most.
Do you have any morning routines or evening rituals to help you stay balanced?
No morning routines, I am NOT a morning person, so I am lucky if I wake up to my many alarms every morning.