While growing up in Queens, NY Ufele was two years old when she was diagnosed with asthma, which causes narrowing and swelling of the airways. This condition meant that she had to take responsibility for managing her health as a young child.
“I make sure I have my inhaler with me, I make sure I don’t run too much,” says Ufele. “I have been hospitalized a few times for asthma. Once I even had to be intubated because I had stopped breathing. My lung has almost completely collapsed.
After the frightening incident, Ufele was prescribed steroids, but one of the side effects was weight gain.
“A lot of kids didn’t understand how medication made you gain weight,” she says. “They started calling me names. At first I thought the kids didn’t know any better.
Ufele tried to ignore the harsh things they had said, but after a while the rude comments started to reach him.
“It ended up getting physical when I was stabbed with a pencil,” she recalls.
After discussing the issue with her mother, Ufele founded Bully Chasers so the other kids wouldn’t have to go through what she did. With the help of their mother, Dr Reba Perry-Ufele, the duo organized an anti-bulling campaign at the school where students signed an oath not to bully.
“I go to different schools and talk about how to prevent bullying,” she says. “What to do if you see someone being bullied or if you are being bullied yourself.”
Ufele encourages people to introduce themselves to other children who may be sitting alone in the cafeteria.
“Loners tend to be harassed,” she explains. “If you see someone being bullied, report it or try to intervene to prevent it.”
Bully Chasers is not the only way for Ufele to deal with stress, fashion design is his other vocation.
“I have always found solace in sewing with my grandmother,” says Ufele. “If I had a tough day, I would end up going to her house. We sewed for hours because she is a seamstress.
The teenager is from a sartorial family, her sister is also a fashion designer, so Ufele would absorb any knowledge she had. At the age of nine, she founded her own clothing brand Chubiline.
“Chubiline is an all-inclusive line for all sizes, all shapes, all genders,” says Ufele. “I called him Chubiline because everyone always called me chubby like a bad thing. I just wanted to make it a positive part.
Ufele is inspired by his black American and Nigerian roots. In 2016, Chubiline made her New York Fashion Week debut.
“It’s traditional clothes with an urban touch,” she says. “African clothing tends to be very formal. I decided I was going to do it where you could wear it wherever you want.
The prodigy hopes to instill in Chubiline the same philosophy as Bully Chasers.
“Discrimination is part of the bullying that often occurs in the fashion industry,” she says. “People tend to push certain types of people away because they are not satisfied with their line.”
For now, Ufele trusts Gen Z and their mission.
“I hope my work has an impact on the way people deal with bullying,” she says. “I think Gen Z has the capacity to make real change. We have the voice and a lot of resources that we could use to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Everyone feels like they are included.
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