Follow your inner voice. Elissa Kravetz ’99 has thrived by this yogic proverb.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Kravetz worked alongside shoe mogul Steve Madden before establishing a niche in Los Angeles as a fashion and lifestyle publicist. But three years ago, she launched the anti-bullying nonprofit organization, The Farley Project. The shift was deeply personal.
Early in her life, a conflict with a seventh-grade best friend spread. One adversary became three, then five, then 10, and eventually what seemed like her entire school in her hometown of Framingham, Mass.
Isolation and cafeteria harassment drove Kravetz to eating lunch in a restroom stall. “I was called a slut, a loser, disgusting,” she says. “I was told I should either move or kill myself.”
She masked the trauma, exceling as a marketing pro and eventually launching her own firm. “I had a glamorous life in L.A.,” she says. “But something was missing.”
Kabbalah, yoga and spiritually focused trips abroad helped her come to terms with the pain from childhood. But that wasn’t enough. She successfully approached a Los Angeles elementary school to give a “power of apology” speech to 500 students on a soccer field. “I was so nervous to speak with the students but knew that it was something I had to do,” she says.
The aftermath stunned her. “Students literally were apologizing to one another,” she says. “It was a powerful moment.”
Word spread. Other schools called. “The light came on to build this into a nonprofit,” she says. So she dove in, despite well-meaning friends’ caution about compromising her career.
Today, both Kravetz PR, operated with her sister, Jessica, and the Farley Project flourish.
Kravetz has designed a curriculum adopted by several Los Angeles schools, plus she makes appearances in schools from New York to Bali. “We just revamped our curriculum to a 10-week program including metrics to track the impact on student behavior,” Kravetz says. “The goal is for nationwide adoption.”
She circles back to her first boss for inspiration. “Steve (Madden) told me: ‘Don’t take a job for money alone. A career pursuit driven by passion will breed success. And the money’s going to come,’” she says. “‘So listen to your inner voice.’” /GM/