Parris Goebel inspires as keynote speaker for PM Youth Programme
A global hip hop sensation took time out of her busy schedule to remind a group of Auckland youths that she was once just like them.
Parris Goebel gave an inspiring speech as the keynote speaker at the celebration dinner of the Prime Minister's Youth Programme 2016 on Thursday night.
The Youth Programme is aimed at celebrating young people who have overcome adversity.
Goebel now works as a choreographer with some of the biggest names in music, including Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lopez.
But the 24-year-old is no stranger to overcoming adversity, as she told the group of 100 young teenagers aged from 14 to 17.
Originally from Manurewa, Goebel dropped out of school at 15 because she was failing most of her subjects.
"All I wanted to do was dance, and I guess my parents didn't really see that there was a better option. It was probably best for me to drop out of school and chase my dreams."
Without a resume or background, she was discouraged and embarrassed because she didn't know what to do. There were no hip hop classes she could take, and she had no experience.
"I'm this 15-year-old girl with a dream and nothing behind me. So I started my dance crew, ReQuest dance crew, at 15 year old," she said.
The team came second in a competition, and the following year they were the first all-girl group from New Zealand to win a medal at the world hip hop championships.
To date, ReQuest has eight world championships to its name.
Goebel is now a renowned choreographer with her own dance company.
She choreographed Michael Jackson's Cirque du Soleil world tour, and has produced world tours for Lopez, Nicki Minaj and Janet Jackson. She also choreographed and featured in the movie Step Up 2 and New Zealand's first dance movie, Born to Dance.
Most recently, she choreographed 13 video clips on Bieber's new album, including the world famous "Sorry" video clip.
Produced in Auckland and featuring all Kiwi dancers, Goebel said it's a testament to what anyone in New Zealand can do.
"All the odds were against me being from Auckland, New Zealand, not looking like your average dancer, who would have thought I would be here today? I've worked with the best in the world, but on top of that I've done everything that I wanted to do when I was younger, and more."
But nothing came to her without hard work, she said, and others should be prepared to work hard, too.
"I used to get my dad to order the DVDs in, and me and the girls would meet up at my house and have a sleepover. And me and the girls, we would study these DVDs and be like, 'how can we win this'?"
"You really can do anything if you put your mind to it," she said.
She credits her success to her family who have supported her, lived her passion and followed her dreams alongside her.
"I know that these days it's a rare feeling to have as a teenager that whatever you want to do, you can do it. So I'm really, really grateful that my family helped me believe in myself and got me to a point where I believed that I can do it myself."
A lot of Kiwi youngsters didn't have that same support, she said, and many in the crowd raised their hands in agreement.
Goebel said without that support - whether financial, verbal or physical, young people needed to find a hero able to help pave the way for their journey.
"I feel like we are not told enough that we are unique and we're special and we are made this way for a reason. I feel like we're in a world these days where everyone kind of looks like the same, do the same things, follow the crowd and I personally feel like it's worse than ever."
She said one of the biggest challenges she faced as a teenager was battling with severe physical insecurities.
"I had really bad acne, I was really overweight so for me to be a dancer seemed impossible."
At 16, she went to America to audition for a hip hop show, where only 14 people were finally selected.
"I remember walking into the room and all these girls had sports bras on six packs ... I ended up getting chosen for that show. And I really showed myself it doesn't matter what I look like, my talent's going to shine through."
She said she learnt it didn't matter what the world thought, she learnt to appreciate herself, love herself and be proud of who she was. She encouraged everyone in the room to do the same
"To sum it all up, if I can do it, you guys can do it too. I really just want to encourage you guys to find what you're passionate about, like not what anyone else wants to do, what your family wants to do. What do you want to do?
"What lights you up, what sets you on fire, what gets you excited? Find that, because I promise you when you're passionate about something, nothing can stop you."
John Key said he set up the Prime Minister's Youth Programme to celebrate youth who had made a difference in their own lives.
"The challenge is only whether you can sort of rise above that, I think, and believe in yourself. And if you can, then you're going to go and do well," he said.
"It's going to matter about whether you believe in yourself, whether you're prepared to work hard to do it, and whether you're going to give it a go. And if you are, you're going to go a long way."
He said the kids who were chosen for the programme demonstrated that they deserved to be there, and had proven they turned their lives around.
Terence Slade, the regional youth ambassador, said most of the kids were from south and west Auckland and Kaipara.
They participated in a week-long programme to celebrate overcoming adversity and different challenges.
The programme was run by Blue Light, the Village Trust and Turn Your Life Around Trust.