SPOTLIGHT: Leilani Johns
Miss Leilani Johns is not your typical 10 year old. She has a love of helping her community, guts to run for local office, a passion for fashion... and the local makers scene.
Miss Leilani Johns is a local 4th grader who enjoys movies, music, reading, traveling, adventuring and playing outdoors while immersing herself in the wonders of nature. One of Leilani’s favorite passions is “making” things and especially creating fashion dresses. Through her creations, interactions, and interests over the past years, many people locally and globally have heard of Leilani and her adventures!
What first caught our eye at Hushh, was when she ran for a local government position in the Town of Farragut as Alderman at just 9 years old and “became the youngest qualified applicant/candidate to seek public office in United States history”. Despite her age, she met ALL the qualifications for this office, so she submitted her credentials with her parents and the community’s support. Leilani had worked on several campaigns with her parents during the summer of 2018 which gave her the opportunity to find out about this position. Leilani “easily” differentiated herself by wanting to bring “live dinosaurs” to the various Town of Farragut parks while also bringing a “youthful perspective” to an older community. Although she was not selected to become Alderman, it was great “hands on” experience. Leilani believes in helping others and her community and plans on seeking higher office again someday in her future.
Leilani’s love of fashion came early watching princess movies and making various paper dresses and cutouts for her own creative play. This was expanded on by her family’s influences of vintage fashion through her mother’s mixture of eras for creating unique and stylish outfits, her father’s funny fashion model stories of him in college (but now predominantly wears Hawaiian shirts), her grandmother Annie, who was a fashion model in the glamorous 50s/60s, and her grandfather Bob, who makes her camouflage skirts while creating and sewing very manly hunting items for the field.
Leilani really came into her own this past fall by being a first time exhibitor to the 2018 Tennessee Valley Fair where she won “Best of Show” and several first place ribbons for Culinary Arts in Canning – Junior Division and several ribbons for fashion/jewelry/art including a “First Place Sweepstakes Ribbon” for Fashion Doll Paper Dresses in the Arts and Crafts – Junior Division. This happened exactly during the same week which Leilani applied for the Town of Farragut Alderman position.
Through her efforts for political office and fashion, Leilani’s local media stories where picked up the Associated Press, USA Today, and US News & World Report in addition to all the television affiliates in every major market of the USA which briefly brought her regional, national, and global recognition. Through these efforts, she also was invited to become a local WBIR Junior Anchor for the day where she was interviewed, showcased her fashion creations, promoted her community causes, and even did the weather forecast with Todd Howell.
Leilani is very active in her local community and supports causes elsewhere too. Her community involvement is an inspiration to those around her. She has something called “Leilani’s Community Portfolio™” which she dedicates volunteer time, portions of her allowance, and seeks donations for causes that are close to her heart.
This portfolio of community projects includes:
•Accepting food donations in lieu of birthday gifts for Second Harvest of East Tennessee in October of each year (2018 was her 5th year in doing so and Leilani broke her previous records by adding corporate sponsors).
•Playing “Secret Santa” with $2 Bills across the region and state during the Christmas Holiday to provide cheer to those in need and children.
•Supporting others with her “Leilani’s Island™ adopt a mile” quarterly road trash pick-up.
•Volunteering at STAR – Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding.
•Supporting and honoring military veterans.
•Teaching others about gardening.
•Educating others about Leilani Estates, a historic subdivision on the Big Island of Hawaii which was damage by the Kilauea eruption.
•Helping her neighbors with their chores.
Inspiration comes from a lot of places and there is a lot of opportunity outside of the typical classroom. In many cases, the inspiration comes to her directly at her own home through interactions with others, seeking advice from her parents or them hosting several networking events, even her participation at Knox Makers, Green Drinks, and her fathers’ Bluewater Pirate™ events, which help her meet many creative-maker types. In essence, her home is one of the most successful ideas – new venture incubators in the region and having parents who support this, makes it easier for her to pursue her passions. Leilani has taken steps in furthering her fashion & jewelry endeavors by acquiring mannequins, retail clothing racks, mirrors, white boards, and crafting tables to transform her basement play area into a “fashion – maker” studio of sorts for her and her friends. For right now, in Leilani’s world, it is about learning, helping others, and of course having tons of fun! All of these factors are found in her love of fashion and her own pursuits of interacting with it.