Cynthia Erivo Tells Her Younger Self To “Be Brave” On The Day Of The Girl

John Russo

In 2012, the UN dubbed Oct. 11 "International Day of the Girl" to "highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights." To mark the occasion, Tony and Grammy-winning actor Cynthia Erivo, who'll be next onscreen on Nov. 1 as Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet, wrote a letter of support and encouragement to her younger self.

Dear Cynthia,

You can run marathons. In your life and in your work. Through the city of New York, on the stage, and onscreen. It may not feel like it right now, but your spirit and body are ready. They know no bounds. There’s nothing holding you back.

First thing’s first: Let me say “well done” for getting to where you are right now. You might think you aren’t far enough yet, or you might feel a little lost, but that aching feeling you get just means that you’re getting closer. So please don’t stop. Keep going the extra mile, don’t stop. You are so close.

Don’t be afraid, either, of those moments where the world feels like it’s falling out from under you...

Someday soon you will be where I am right now, with the sun rising to my left and my puppy sleeping at my feet to my right. (Oh yeah, you finally get a dog, and he’s perfect.) You’ll think: “How on earth is this possible? How did this all happen?” Well, it is because of the work you are doing now, the decisions you are making (both good and bad), and the people you choose to let in. Keep letting them in. Don’t be afraid of getting hurt. Even those who hurt you can come back around and surprise you with love. So keep letting people in.

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Don’t be afraid, either, of those moments where the world feels like it’s falling out from under you; because it will happen, and when it does, don’t run. Let it fall. When the wreckage comes to rest, you’ll be on new sturdy ground and that will be thrilling. You’ll watch your life change and grow every day and it will be the most incredible thing ever. Do not let that make you complacent. There is a lot to do. The bigger the dream, the bigger the steps are needed to achieve it. But everything is possible.

When you do accomplish one of your goals, embrace the moment, live in it, revel in it. The big and the small. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the “what’s next?” of it all, that we forget about the now. A lot of your “nows” are pretty spectacular, but if you don’t stop and enjoy them — just for a minute — you’ll miss them. You’ll miss the joy of others around you and you’ll miss the moments to appreciate the huge strides it has taken to get where you are. It’s not always smooth sailing, but it’s so worth it.

Guess what else: love is in your cards. It might not be with who you expect (you might be a little blind to that), but everything happens for a reason.

Because of what you have chosen to be, you will meet people from all walks of life. You are a storyteller.

When real love comes it will sweep you off of your feet. He will be persistent, he will make you laugh, he will hold the hem of your skirt when you walk a red carpet, he will open doors for you, hold your hand in the street and tell you he loves you every day. Before him, you tiptoed on egg shells to avoid a difficult conversation or a disagreement. With him you learn that a disagreement is simply that and can be settled in conversation. No one is perfect, but he is open and willing to learn and communicate. So no more tiptoeing.

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Let me remind you to love and honor the women and men who come into your life and make it their business to take care of you. Keep reaching out and thanking them. You will be surrounded by people who are consistent in their care and that is no small feat. When you ask for help, they will be there. Send them light in your waking moments and when you sleep, wish them warmth, happiness, and safety. No one can do what we do alone, and we are lucky not to have to.

Oh, and call your mother more. She misses you but she won’t say it, because she doesn’t want you to feel sad.

Because of what you have chosen to be, you will meet people from all walks of life. You are a storyteller. They will look you in the eyes and you will become a safe space where people will share their personal stories with you. Realize in these moments, that’s why you’re really here. That’s what this is all about. You are a space where people can see themselves in you, so make sure whatever is reflected back at them is bright, sparkly, and full of joy and love. What you give out will come back to you.

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Oh, and call your mother more. She misses you but she won’t say it, because she doesn’t want you to feel sad. Call her.

Cynthia, you might have noticed a pattern in this: LOVE and GRATITUDE. It will carry you to where I am now and beyond. When things get hard, remember love and gratitude; you’re surrounded by it.

Finally Cynthia, You are enough, You are going to be more than fine, be brave, be brilliant. I love you.