Sitting next to Ainura K., it's hard to imagine that on a weekly basis, she commands the attention of upwards of ten million teens across the world. Relatable, composed, and curious, the UNIS (class of '17) student is perhaps more interested in learning about her neighbors' story than she is in sharing her own. And hers has some considerable highlights. Like winning the prestigious 2015 Peacemaker Corps Teen Art of Making Peace Award, a global filmmaking competition asking youth to share what "peace in the streets" means to them.
The budding filmmaker already has a substantial following on YouTube, where her videos on topics of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle reach nearly one hundred thousand subscribers, as well as millions of viewers from over 100 countries.
Since getting a camera as a present for her 14th birthday in early 2013, Ainura has been posting weekly videos to her channel, and has since partnered with a wide variety of organizations to further push her message, which is one of self-confidence, determination, and hard work. To date, she has worked with Seventeen Magazine, Little Miss Match, ReelStyle, UNICEF (for which she filmed a motivational video to raise awareness of the vital work the organization is doing), among others. With impressive entrepreneurial skills, Ainura is constantly looking to expand her reach. "I want my channel to reflect me," she says. And thus, she's looking for ways to collaborate with companies that share her personal vision and goals.
"My advice to others trying to get their voices heard is to be authentic," says Ainura, who is originally from Kazakhstan, and prior to her move to New York City last year, lived in Vienna, Austria. "When I first started, I didn't even know what YouTube really was or the power behind it. There are so many opportunities and mediums through which to reach people today. Do what you love, and keep going no matter the challenges you face."
For a generation that's media savvy, socially driven, and aware of the power they can harness with that combination, Ainura shines as a role model and person to emulate. "All those who have met Ainura, along with the millions more around the world who listen to her motivational messages, are not simply impressed by her entrepreneurial skills, her maturity or her determination: they are also deeply moved by her contagious optimism and by her positive spirit," says Antoine Delaitre, principal of the Tutorial House (high school) at UNIS. "In more ways than one, Ainura embodies the spirit of UNIS, always striving for a better world."
For her winning submission for the Peacemaker Corps competition, Ainura, along with her friend and Parsons School of Design student Kaisha Murza, stood in front of the New York Public Library one day last winter, and stopped passersby to reflect on one question: "If you had a chance to send a message to the entire world, what would it be and why?"
Responses (in several languages, no less) ranged from "Do smart things," to "Be happy!" and "Save energy," to even singing inspirational lyrics. Ainura will accept her award at a luncheon at the United Nations Delegates dining room on December 2nd, and has been invited to participate in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Plural+ Video festival and workshops on December 3rd, where she will also be recognized.
"Kaisha and I wanted the video to give people hope and inspire them to make the world a better place," says Ainura. "My goal is to always make the videos relatable to everyone, and use the fact that I have an influence in a meaningful and impactful way." Upon graduating from UNIS, Ainura hopes to study filmmaking in college and continue inspiring young people across the world.
View her award winning video, "A Message to the Entire World in One Sentence," below.