Just looking at a person won’t tell you everything you need to know about them. You won’t know what they’re like, what they’ve been through, or what they’re doing now. You can make assumptions, sure, but that’s not going to tell you what you want or need to know, or even what you should know.
Meet Vivian Nunez, our latest Cover Girl Next Door. Looking at Vivian, you’ll see a beautiful, funny, happy girl (which is what she is). But underneath that happy exterior, you’ll find someone who has struggled with a lot in the past, and is still struggling. You’ll find someone who has had to be brave and who acts much older than her 21 years. You’ll find someone who has pushed past her hardships and is more motivated and more intelligent than half the people you know; you’ll find someone whose heart is big and whose future is bright.
Vivian was born in New York City, the daughter of a single mom. She went to private schools during her adolescent years, most notably St. Jean Baptiste High School. Her mother died when she was ten-years-old, and she was then raised by her grandmother. Both her mother and her grandmother served as her biggest role models. In middle school she had to deal with the fact that she was known as the kid whose parent had died. When attending St. Jean Baptiste, she was sponsored and mentored so that she could continue her education, and also joined an Ambassadors program where she gave tours, which she especially valued. Being in high school and a part of the Ambassador’s Program redefined Vivian as a person: “It made me not just the kid that had lost a parent, it made me just ‘Vivian.’ I let people in on what my history was little by little, as opposed to just telling them right away that I had lost my mom, and that really made a difference for me. I was able to grow on my own.”
Photo courtesy of Vivian Nunez
After graduating as salutatorian and receiving a Women of Personal Strength and Courage award, Vivian went on to study at Baruch College, where she majored in Digital Marketing and minored in Journalism. Studying at Baruch made her realize her passion for social media. “I love social media because I love how you’re literally a click away from connecting with someone across the world. When you use that kind of power to connect people to really important causes, it makes a huge difference,” she says.
As a motivated student and a go-getter, throughout college Vivian held internship positions at The College Crush as a virtual intern, Boy Meets Girl as a social media intern, She’s the First as a development intern, J-14 as an editorial intern, and finally, Cosmopolitan Magazine. She also received the New York Women in Communications Hearst Scholarship, where she was able to finance her last year of college and received an internship at Seventeen Magazine, becoming close and developing a mentor-peer relationship with the editorial team.
Inspired by the impact social media can have, Vivian became a part of She’s the First, an organization that sponsors and mentors children in third world countries. “She’s the First is something really close to my heart because I was sponsored throughout high school and I know the difference someone paying your tuition makes, and I also know what it’s like to have a mentor through those really formative years, and that’s what they do,” says Vivian. Through She’s the First, Vivian met one of her personal mentors, Christen Brandt. About Christen, Vivian says: “Christen is so honest and motivated. She wants to change the world, and she knows she can. She’s humble and she changes people’s lives one person at a time and I think it’s so amazing.”
November of her senior year at college, Vivian’s grandmother became very ill and was going in and out of the hospital. “Christen is someone that I leaned on a lot during that time, and she gave me a few ideas to help me get through it all. One of her ideas was writing, and writing a lot, and it’s something that I still do. She also told me to start something that could buddy up teens that were grieving like me, and I was like no, I’m not going to do that, it’s so much work,” says Vivian about Christen’s suggestion. This past March, Vivian’s grandmother passed away, forcing her to face the reality of adulthood. She turned to her friends for backup: “I texted friends who had gone through what I was going through already, and because they had gone through it, it made a huge difference for me. It helped me get through it. It’s also something about how, even when I got back to college, one of my friends had lost his dad, and he knew that I didn’t need to talk, he would just sit with me in silence. That’s not something that you would know to do unless you had gone through it.”
Photo courtesy of Vivian Nunez
Inspired by Christen’s kind words and ideas, her love of social media and motivated by the death of her grandmother and support of her friends, Vivian decided to do something. She created her own website called Too Damn Young, a resource and online community for teens and young adults who have lost a loved one, are grieving, and are trying to find somewhere to belong as they go through it all.
Vivian was able to relate her own personal experiences in creating Too Damn Young, and aims for it to be a resource that people who are going through something similar can relate to as well. “It’s bad enough losing someone at a young age who you really love. It’s even worse, on top of that, to think that you’re the only one,” Vivian explains about the site. “We have articles and different personal essays on how personal grieving is and how it’s a really unique process, so everyone goes through it very differently. One of the main things that we try to do on the website is have as many voices as possible since it is such a personal experience. Everyone goes through it differently, so we want everyone to relate to something.” The easily relatable nature of the site is definitely due to the variety of voices and stories that many people have contributed to create a welcoming online community.
Vivian says that the most rewarding part of Too Damn Young are the people that e-mail her and tell her how much the site has helped them. They tell her that Too Damn Young and its articles are what they really need during their time of grieving, and has not only given them an outlet but makes them feel as if they’re not alone. “It’s one of those things that make me want to cry because I’m helping them, but in a lot of ways Too Damn Young is something that I need too right now. It’s that something that I’m creating has the potential to help others, and it’s very moving. It’s inspiring and makes me want to keep on doing this and not stop,” she says about the feedback.
Photo courtesy of Vivian Nunez
Not only is Too Damn Young a source of inspiration and a community for grieving teenagers and young adults, it’s also been majorly impactful on Vivian’s life and taught her a lot about herself. “I’ve learned how to be braver because of Too Damn Young. I’ve learned what strength is. I’ve always been strong, I think, but not the kind of strong I am now. The kind of strong that I was before was being someone who had to hold everything on my shoulders by myself. The kind of strong I am now is someone who isn’t afraid to ask for help. I think that’s something that I’ll always be thankful for, no matter where Too Damn Young ends up.” Vivian has always been strong, but now she can be responsible and strong for herself while still asking for help from others.
When asked about the future of Too Damn Young, Vivian said: “I hope that people will be able to carry on talking about grief and loss, because when it happens for people as teens and young adults, it’s such a formative time in our lives, and we’re really just trying to figure out who we are, and if you can’t figure out who you are in the context of a loss then it’s going to be even harder to figure out who you are outside of it.”
Vivian’s real-life experiences and struggles have not only made her the person she is today, but make her down-to-earth, and allow her to help people in the best way she knows how. She is a beautiful, strong person inside and out.
You can follow Vivian on Twitter @vivnunez and Too Damn Young @2DamnYoung.