Why Keri Stroebel Decided to Start Princess Boot Camp in South Africa
By Desiree Hicks
“Adults get caught up in the world, in the news, in relationship struggles, parenting, money issues – and sometimes we forget to laugh, to be silly, and to eat ice cream at 3 a.m. with a face mask that is so hard you may never get it off!”
It’s so easy to get lost in our never-ending list of things to do that we forget to enjoy the beautiful moments life has to offer us. But for Keri Stroebel, founder of Princess Boot Camp South Africa, she’s reminded to let her hair down every day.
Find out what motivated Keri to start a business centered around building young girls confidence and self-esteem and learn the valuable lesson the young girls have taught her about life.
What inspired you to start Princess Boot Camp South Africa?
I entered Mrs. South Africa last year, during a very difficult point in my life when I was struggling with postpartum depression. As I participated in the pageant, something I never thought I would ever do, I found an incredible sisterhood and made the most amazing friends.
What I realized during that time was that I’d never had that kind of support and encouragement from other women. It had always been competition, jealousy, and nastiness. I didn’t think “real” girl friendships were possible. I also started speaking at schools in Cape Town about depression and teen suicide, as well as bullying – and girls would often come and speak to me after my talks and tell me about their own struggles, and I knew I had to do something to change this trend of low self-esteem in our girls.
They just don’t believe in themselves. Many of them don’t have someone to look up to – who can talk to them and encourage them to be more than just a pretty face. And that’s when I came up with this idea.
Given that so many young girls lack confidence, what is your most successful method of instilling confidence into the girls you work with?
I love telling stories about my own struggles with confidence because that makes it real, because I’ve been there. When we share stories about who we are, what makes us awesome (unapologetically), what makes us weird, what we love and don’t love about ourselves, the girls start opening up and realizing that they are allowed to love themselves. There is no cookie cutter recipe to being the “perfect girl.”
The most successful talks I’ve had with these girls have included the element of getting into the habit of acknowledging and being proud of who they are naturally. Whether they are girly girls, tomboys, wannabe models, wannabe astronauts, musicians, math geniuses – it doesn’t matter.
Although you are the one inspiring these girls, how have the girls inspired you?
Oh gosh, hanging out with teens in my 30’s has really been inspiring for one main reason: they are still so carefree!
The way they think is so different to the way I think, and it’s actually so awesome! Our pamper parties are the best, because they are literally just having a blast. They dance, they leave their face masks on for too long and laugh hysterically because the mask is so hard that they can’t talk! They have reminded me to embrace my inner child, even though I’m a wife, mom and business owner with a lot of responsibilities.
Adults get caught up in the world, in the news, in relationship struggles, parenting, money issues – and sometimes we forget to laugh, to be silly, and to eat ice cream at 3 a.m. with a face mask that is so hard you may never get it off!
So true! What would you say has been your biggest obstacle with your organization?
Definitely, the financial part. It’s tough because this is still a business, and a lot of the girls I want to help can’t always afford to come to a camp. And, unfortunately, I’m not in a position to sponsor as many girls as I’d like to sponsor.
My goal is to create a brand and business that allows me to sponsor loads of these girls every year! The last thing we want is for our next female president, to be the girl sitting in a poor community without the confidence and belief that she can actually accomplish something like that!
If you could give one piece of advice to young girls who doubt themselves in any way, what would that be?
Just embrace who you are, and don’t let anyone’s judgements get to you. It’s such a cliché but it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. You do not have to want to be a model. You do not have to dress a certain way, or look a certain way, or be anything other than what you are.
The best people in this world are complete weirdos to the majority of the population, but they are the ones that love who they are, they are the happy ones, they are the successful ones.
I’m not saying this is always easy to do, especially when you’re a teenager and you’re trying to figure yourself out. I love this quote: “Confidence is not ‘They will like me,’ it’s ‘I’ll be okay if they don’t.’”
Want more of Keri? Follow her on Instagram, @keri_stroebel.