Mckenzie Small's Empowering Voice

Mckenzie Small is a 17 year old student and emerging artist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In the last 2 years, Small has achieved success in both the music and television industry. Small is currently on the Family and Disney Channel series "Backstage" playing the role of Scarlett Dunn. In April of 2016, Small released her first single "Caught Feelings" (iTunes, Google Play) which has over 700,000 views on YouTube and received radio play on all Bell Media Radio Stations across Canada. Throughout achieving success in the world of the arts, Small continues to take her education very seriously. Small is working to graduate high school and pursue a degree in a Bachelor of Science from University so she can satisfy her love for the sciences as well. Small hopes to inspire and encourage young women to reach for their dreams no matter how difficult the obstacles become.

Tell us about your job. What are some of your responsibilities?
What is the environment like in your workplace?

As a 17 year old young woman, I would say I have two jobs, professionally. I have school and I have my music and television career. Both of equal importance to me. My responsibilities range from writing lab reports and studying for tests to going into the studio and making music with other artists. I have just embarked on a new project in a research lab at a university working on Crohn's Disease pathogenesis. Throughout my week, I go to school just like everyone else, I have chemistry class and calculus just like a lot of my friends at my school. Then, after school I go either to the lab to culture bacteria or go to the studio to write lyrics and melodies and sometimes learn a script for auditions for movies/series. All very different jobs but like I said, both of equal importance to my life. The jobs all have their different responsibilities but similar environments. The one word that I would describe them as is competitive. Most of the time, it's a good competitive. It's a challenge for yourself to be better and do better. Sometimes though, it's a discouraging competitive channeled from other women in your field. That's where I always try to be the odd one out. Instead of giving dirty looks when a woman walks in during an audition, I smile. Instead of discouraging another girl before our chemistry test, I say good luck. It's important to make sure that the environment for women is an encouraging one, even when you both are competing for the same thing.

How do you maintain positivity and motivation despite obstacles or barriers?
Maintaining positivity is a lot easier, in my opinion if you're doing things that you love. Sometimes it gets tiring and you feel like you're wearing yourself out but that's just a sign that you need to take time for yourself. Hard work will always pay off as cliché as it sounds, and nothing worthwhile will come easy. When you feel like nothing's working for you or it's not going the way you like, that's the point where you need to keep pushing through. My favourite analogy is this: The heaviest weights create the biggest results, but it's also important to know your limits to prevent injury.

What message do you have for girls who aspire to be like you but don't believe that it's possible?
It is possible. I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents and teachers around me which put me in an easier situation. However, sometimes there are people who don't want you to succeed and don't think you can do it. Especially that whole misconception that you can't do the arts and science at once because they're polar opposites. That myth that women cannot do as well in science as men. I have an older sister who has a PhD in Immunology and I see her papers being published and her name being established in the world of science. Some of the biggest artists in the world are women (i.e. Beyoncé, Rihanna). Surround yourself with people who inspire, encourage and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Never settle for less and always work hard no matter how small or extraneous the task seems.

Why is it important to close the gender gap in STEM fields? Why are education and inclusion for girls pursuing STEM necessary?
I feel very strongly about closing the gender gap between men and women in STEM. I feel like girls are discouraged to pursue a career in STEM whether you're in the western or eastern world. 62 million girls are not in school solely because they're girls. I'm one of 5 girls in my grade 12 calculus class. There's a difference between not liking STEM and being scared away from it and I feel like many girls are. It's very easy to be intimidated by STEM because these programs are not easy. However, if you know you love it, pursue it. If you smile when you learn about chemical reactions, or trigonometric identities, continue to learn about it. Being a girl is not a discouraging factor at all. Embrace being a girl in STEM, flaunt it because it's a great thing.

Do you have a passion for the Arts or anything involving creativity? What are your thoughts on the integration of art and STEM and if applicable, how do you integrate the Arts with STEM?
I'm in both science and the arts so I know what it's like having two polar interests. In school I focus on chemistry, biology and mathematics. Outside of school, I'm on the Family and Disney Channel series "Backstage" and I have a music career going concurrently as well. Ever since I was 13, I knew I had a love for chemistry and I intend to pursue it. Since I was small, I loved to sing and just in the last two years I found a passion for acting. When I started doing both, I noticed my grades got better in school. I am a strong believer that the arts help one become a well-rounded human being who has an appreciation for the difficulty of STEM and the Arts because none of the programs are easy. The arts are a crucial part of my life, just like sciences are and it's a myth to believe that you can't do both. Some people just don't like both, and that's perfectly fine too; but if you do, why not pursue both.

What are your future goals?
This is the year that I graduate high school so I'm currently in the process of applying to universities. I strive to receive a degree in life sciences (either in neuroscience or pharmacology/toxicology). I also strive to achieve more success in the television and/or film industry.

What motto or core values do you live by?
I live by a quote that I found on the wall that said "You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé." It's true. We all have the same amount of hours in the day; it's how you use those hours and what you do with them that will take you to where you want to be. Time management, productivity and hard work are the keys to opening doors to becoming surgeons, scientists, engineers, actors, artists- basically anything you want to be. Marie Curie didn't discover the idea of radioactivity by listening to the people who told her she would never be good enough. Being a person with genuine intentions and integrity goes hand in hand with working hard. Care for yourself and people around you and you will be surrounded by people who care about you too. The value you place in yourself is what people see and become inspired by. Lastly, be the person you look up to so that you can inspire young girls to look up to you too.

Have Anything in Common?