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Broadway's Cinderella Is Teaming Up With Stars From 'Shameless' and 'Empire' For A Seriously Magical Cause

Saving Our Cinderellas is about building self-esteem, ending bullying, and encouraging young women to live their best lives.

Keke Palmer made history when she became the first black Cinderella on Broadway, and now she's helping future stars of stage and screen by working with the anti-bullying and girl-empowerment org Saving Our Daughters for a new initiative, Saving Our Cinderellas.

Keke's not doing this alone. Saving Our Cinderellas has also attracted the attention of awesome actresses like Grace Gealey from Fox’s “Empire” and Shanola Hampton from Showtime’s “Shameless.” The initiative is focused on helping girls and young women of color by mentoring them in the performance arts so they also can follow their passions. It’s about building self-esteem, ending bullying, and encouraging young women to live their best lives.

A special curriculum is being written for Saving Our Cindarellas, and it includes my Minecraft novel, “Escape from the Overworld," because of the main character - an 11-year-old heroine named Maison.

To learn more about what’s going on, MTV spoke with Keke, Grace and Shanola, plus Marina, one of the young women being mentored through Saving Our Cinderellas.

Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer

MTV: You broke down barriers by being cast Cinderella on Broadway. What do you think that means for the future of diversity in the performing arts?

PALMER: Thank you so much. Well, I would hope that it would lead to more shows being developed for minorities in general. While I was on Broadway, there were African-American leads in two other shows, so I hope that continues. People just want to be entertained; the color of your skin should not matter. There is amazing talent on Broadway and I was just so blessed to be a part of it.

MTV: How do you want to inspire young women to pursue their passions in the arts?

PALMER: I just do me the best that I can. I am 21 now, and some fans do not want to see me grow up, but they have to understand that change is necessary for the growth of one's soul. I have had people attack me on Twitter for cutting my hair, for trying out new styles and coloring, things that most young woman do without scrutiny.

I just do me, so that is the best advise I can give. And that advice applies to anything that they are trying to accomplish. Come up with a plan, try your best to execute that plan, [do] every day work towards that plan, and be the best you that you can be.

MTV: How did media representations of black people impact your childhood and what you wanted to be when you grew up?

PALMER: I love Raven Symone and Brandy. Seeing these two young ladies inspired me to do what I am doing.

Grace Gealey

Ben Miller for Grace Gealey

MTV: Why did you decide to get involved with Saving Our Cinderellas?

GRACE GEALEY: When I was younger, I was bullied. It’s not a surprise, because 85% of younger teenage girls are bullied. I know the damage it can do; I’m so glad I was able to come out of that. There are so many different ways where someone can be bullied; it’s no longer limited to face-to-face and phone calls. It can be done on the biggest medium out there, the internet (especially social media), and some people have taken their lives over it. These are the women we are raising to be the women of the world. It’s important to eradicate bullying where we can, and that’s what I feel Saving Our Daughters does. Saving Our Cinderellas is a facet of that, using the tool of film, television and theater. Being an actress, I have seen the healing power of the arts and what it can do for somebody who is going through these insecurities and trying to build self-esteem.

MTV: What about Saving Our Cinderellas really excites you?

GEALEY: We are using art to heal. There is a desire inside of all of us to create. Putting limits on how you create is silly. I think the other thing is celebrating your individuality and using what makes you unique.

MTV: What will you be doing to help inspire young women?

GEALEY: Now that I’m done shooting, I have a whole lot more time to be physically present, to use my social media, to work with my managers and go to places. Right now I’m talking to a performing arts school in Chicago. I want to motivate people in whatever way I can.

MTV: How can we help support young women of color pursuing their careers and interests in the theater and drama arts?

GEALEY: I think we need to make the arts a priority. When people think about a school curriculum, I think people tend to think the arts aren’t important and regard them more as a hobby or extracurricular activity. But the arts are necessary.

MTV: What is one thing young people should do this Black History Month?

GEALEY: Educate yourself! Black History Month should be a year-round thing, but this is the time to get educated. Really delve into what MLK, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks have done and how they’ve affected the mentality and mindset of people today, and how they can inspire you to also make a difference.

MTV: How did media representations of black people impact your childhood and what you wanted to be when you grew up?

GEALEY: I grew up in the Cayman Islands, though I am American and I moved back when I was 18. So my experience was different. As far as race was concerned, we are much more of a melting pot. You will see people who are light-skinned with green eyes and blond hair who aren’t Caucasian (but instead are Caribbean), and it ranges from that to the darkest of hues. It wasn’t until I came to America that I started to experience different forms of discrimination and even intra-racism being a light-skinned black person. I was forced to choose. People were like, “Well, are you black or are you white?” I’m like, “I’m both?” They’re like, “No! What do you consider yourself to be?” It wasn’t until then that I understood the depths of what that meant and the history of where that branched off from.

Shanola Hampton

Gilles Toucas for Shanola Hampton

MTV: Why did you decide to get involved with Saving Our Cinderellas?

SHANOLA HAMPTON: One of the big things happening right now with young women is bullying, but also having to deal with the stresses of growing up in this world of social media. Bullying was bad before, and it’s gotten worse with social media. Since having my daughter, I knew that one of the things I want to protect her from is this age of bullying. So being a mentor to women and girls is something I’m passionate about.

MTV: What about this initiative really excites you? What kind of changes do you think it can make?

HAMPTON: I think when you see people, and especially people in our community who are like me and dark-skinned, who have natural hair, who have success, the faces change for what success is. To be able to mentor young women who look more like me who may not have always seen women who look like me in the spotlight, I think that will help them. This is a great initiative and I hope we see lots of changes.

MTV: What will you be doing to help inspire young women?

HAMPTON: I’m going to talk about my story. I’m just a girl from South Carolina who had a dream at four-years-old. I’m from a very small town and had odds stacked against me, but I knew I wanted to go forth. I got my education, I got my Master’s degree. I’m going to talk about not only having a dream, but not sitting back and waiting for things to happen. You have to educate yourself and follow your passion and be driven.

MTV: How can we help support young women of color pursuing their careers and interests in the theater and drama arts?

HAMPTON: I think the biggest thing is providing opportunities. The great thing is when you have after school programs that allow them to come and do art. Also, having arts in the school, especially urban schools. Really encouraging them and letting them know it’s their dream and no one else’s and they can make it happen.

MTV: What is one thing young people should do this Black History Month?

HAMPTON: I don’t know how much history people know, so learn something new about our history. If you know all about Martin Luther King and think that’s a story you know, learn about Malcolm X. Learn about the rights we now have and the struggle to do that.

MTV: How did media representations of black people impact your childhood and what you wanted to be when you grew up?

HAMPTON: It’s funny, because in my childhood there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me on television. I had Angela Bassett and that’s who I looked up to when I wanted to get in the business. The impact for me was I wanted to change the face. How could I go about and do this and bring about some sort of change?

Marina (Saving Our Cinderellas Participant)

East LA BGC

MTV: What do you love about art?

MARINA: I love dance and that is the medium that I truly want to pursue.

MTV: Why do you want to take part in this program?

MARINA: I’m very excited about the new program geared for our youth interested in performing arts. Last year, two volunteers, Shaymari and Andy Cruz, brought professional dancers to do dance workshops. We even got to go to the dance studio, Millennium, in North Hollywood. Actress Gina Rodriguez underwrote the cost of the classes. Opportunities like these are what keeps me excited about dance and wanting to learn more. This program also introduced us to poetry, acting, scene writing and if we wanted to, we could take our guitar, piano, drum and/or voice classes. Saving Our Cinderellas is a perfect program to bring it all to the next level.

MTV: What do you hope to accomplish through this program?

MARINA: I’m looking forward to being able to meet working professionals in the fields of dance, acting and singing. Being able to talk to them and ask questions will let me know what it takes to make it in the dance profession and see how others got to be successful and if they still love it. Attending the theater will be amazing, too, but getting up close and personal is what I can't wait to do. I think if I can be close to those working as professional dancers, I will stay motivated to pursue my dreams.