Click here for COVID-19 updates affecting the campus community

Student creates campaign promoting self-love, social issues

After watching her friend being bullied for how she dressed, Autumn Pinkley decided to promote self-love at Central Michigan University — one photo at a time.

The Grand Rapids sophomore launched a campaign called “The Cherry Project” in June. With an interest in photography and blogging, Pinkley set up photo shoots with more than 50 students to give them a chance to share their personal stories.

“The Cherry Project is basically a positive movement,” Pinkley said. “It’s about spreading awareness about race, gender, sexuality — anything about what’s been going on in society.”

Pinkley said she credits the campaign’s success to the help of her friends: junior Ke’hira Monroe, co-founder from Grand Rapids, sophomore Sydney Robey, a photographer from Portage, and sophomore Tiffany Nguyen, a photographer from Wyandotte.

With nearly 500 followers on Twitter and 200 on Instagram, it’s followers are left wondering what’s next.

Central Michigan Life talked to Pinkley about her inspirations and what’s to expect from the campaign this semester.

CM LIFE: What is the focus of “The Cherry Project”?

PINKLEY: In the summer, a lot of (body shaming was happening) so I brought that into my campaign, along with Black Lives Matter. I also brought sexuality into it because a lot of times (people in) society point their fingers at it. I just kind of tied it all together and it worked.

What inspired you to start this campaign? Is there a story behind all of this?

The background comes from this picture of my friend. She’s wearing the cherry — that’s where I got the inspiration for the name, from her outfit. The irony behind it is that when we were in high school, she dressed different from other people. A lot of people made fun of her for it, but years later, it’s considered high fashion. She goes to New York Fashion Week and lives in New York. A lot of people look at her as an idol and think, “Wow I wish I was her.” It’s funny because they made fun of her back then.

Who is the target of the campaign?

It’s pointed toward our generation. It’s for people who feel like they can’t voice their opinions — we are the place where they (gain a voice). It’s okay to be who you are, (so we promote three main ideas): Love who you want to love, wear what you want to wear, and be you. Be who you want to be. Don’t let anyone stop you. That’s kind of our whole background. We want to spread positivity and make sure people know it’s OK to be comfortable in their own skin.

How would someone get involved with The Cherry Project?

Whenever we post something, people immediately message us asking us if they can get involved. Just keep a look out and follow us on all of our social media sites.We are working on adding video sequences to the shoots. We’re also coming out with merchandise and are still in the process of becoming a registered student organization.

What do you hope people will get out of The Cherry Project message?

I hope that they’ll be able to relate to others. (I don’t want people) to feel alone. I look at (our group) as a safe place. We don’t judge. We don’t talk about the stories negatively outside The Cherry Project. Some people made friends out of this. It’s a great thing — it’s about people coming together and realizing you’re not alone