By: Jaymes Powell Jr., Staff Writer, News Observer
About a year ago, Shelby Nichole grew annoyed with typical teen magazines. The 13-year-old Cary resident thought there was a need for a magazine that would give girls an outlet for all of their interests, beyond hair products. So she started Girlz on the Move! 360, a glossy, color quarterly she edits and designs herself. With contributions from other teens, Shelby’s magazine features interviews with notables like three-time Olympic medalist Katrina McClain, includes black history trivia and, on a lighter note, lets teens write in and discuss wardrobe issues.
“I felt girls should focus on their insides, not their outsides. So I wanted to let girls speak out. If they liked sports or politics, travel or anything, they can write to us instead of just focusing on one thing,” says Shelby, whose magazine has a current circulation of about 30. “We focus on their insides. On trying to make girls better people.” If Shelby sounds awfully deep for an eighth-grader, it’s no accident. From an early age, her parents, James and Sharon Rittman, exposed her to deep thinkers and deep ideas. In a corner of their home office, Shelby keeps books by Nikki Giovanni and Barack Obama, and a photograph featuring the middle-schooler standing with the presidential hopeful.
“Even when she was a little girl, she’d express her opinions about things in the news she didn’t like,” James Rittman says. “It’s a natural flow of activity for her.” “I’m very proud of her,” says Sharon Rittman, who helps Shelby with some of the magazine’s business decisions. “She’s a hard worker and she’s a visionary as far as what she wants to put out to this world.”
Once she decided to launch her magazine, Shelby contacted and hired an attorney to lock up her magazine’s name. She runs the publication with ad revenue, donations and her own savings account. She sells each issue for $3. Now on the fourth issue, Shelby says she is breaking even. She’s expanded her reach beyond the Triangle, distributing the magazine along the East Coast, in Central America and in Africa. Shelby has plans to launch a Web site for the magazine, giving her work a bigger potential audience. The need for Girlz on the Move! 360 became even more apparent in April, she says, after radio shock jock Don Imus used a slur to refer to a mostly African-American women’s basketball team. The remark hurt and offended her, and she wanted to let girls know they could do whatever they wanted.
“They don’t have to hide themselves. They don’t have to do any of the things Don Imus said — they can be themselves, they can put it in the magazine,” she says. She says she’s producing a world magazine — not just one for black girls — and it aims to change that world. In one issue, for instance, she interviewed an author whose book details how little girls in Kenya can’t afford to go to school. Shelby was so moved by the story she placed an order form for the book in the magazine. Now, for every three books sold via Girlz on the Move!, the author will put one Kenyan girl through school.