A Class Act: This High School Heroine Became a Social Star at Only 16

Anna Zhang (1).jpg

By Lydia Gregovic

At first glance Anna Zhang might appear to be your average high school student — but don’t let her age fool you. At only 16-years-old, Zhang is a successful photographer, founding editor-in-chief of the quarterly magazine Pulse Spikes, and prominent social activist. Devoted to her self-proclaimed mission of empowering American youth, Zhang has consistently stepped out of her comfort zone in order to “try to open up the conversation” to a new group of voices. The result? A resume that rivals those of professionals twice her age and a movement that’s just getting started.

Though the titles she holds vary from editor to ambassador, Zhang’s interests all stem from her first passion, photography. “I started photography when I was in maybe sixth or seventh grade,” she says. “I found the creative side of it very interesting… I’ve always loved arts. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was four.” A self-taught artist, Zhang unwittingly captured the public’s attention after she began posting her photos on social media sites like Instagram. Soon, small companies were asking her to develop content for them, too, and by 14-years-old, Zhang had already worked with global brands like Walgreens and Dunkin’ Donuts.

In the five short years following her social media debut, Zhang has expanded her platform to reach and inspire young people across the United States. Between homework sessions, Zhang founded the magazine Pulse Spikes to give creative youth a “voice and a place to share their work, grow their work, meet new people, and collaborate.” Currently, Zhang is also an ambassador for The Project For Girls, as well as the founder of the social good project IGNITE.

We sat down with Zhang to discuss her accomplishments in her own words, and to find out more about how this young entrepreneur is proving that age is truly just a number.

Pulse Spikes is dedicated to being a platform made by young people, for young people. Is everyone you work with young like yourself, or are they a little bit older?

AZ: Some are older, some are younger, but it’s usually focused on the under 25 [age group].

Thinking back over your career so far, who would you say has been that One Connection — someone who believed in our potential during a pivotal moment in our lives —  for you?

AZ: Because I am so young, my parents, definitely, for sure. They came here from China when they were really young, so they showed me that you can do anything no matter how old or young you are. They came over here not knowing much of the language, so it’s shown [me] that you can overcome any obstacles and any path and do what you want. They came here to provide a better life for me and my sister and so that’s been really inspiring to me.

I would also say Lauri Levenfeld, who’s the Founder of The Project For Girls and The Project For Women and also a fashion photographer. She’s connected me to many creative individuals in Los Angeles and New York and all around created young women and young girls who have been trying to make a change and make a name for themselves and that’s been really inspiring to me.

Looking ahead, who is someone you most want to connect with? If you could work with anyone, who would it be?

AZ: I think it would be really cool to work with Petra Collins. Her work is absolutely incredible and I think she’d be amazing to have both work for the magazine or just collaborate with.

Since you are so young, have you noticed any age-related obstacles that have arisen when you’re speaking to companies or brands?

AZ: I think on one hand some people might lower their expectations. But I think that [other] people think it’s really cool to have a magazine that’s made by young people for young people to [market]towards a young audience directly.

What inspires you, and where are you most creative?

AZ: Being around creative peers, that’s kind of where it all drives from. What they do also inspires me. We really feed off of is each other, and it’s really a collaborative process.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. See more of our One Connection interviews below!