The BE REAL Team
Founder & Executive Director
Denise’s experience with her own body dissatisfaction inspired her to help the next generation grow up with a healthier relationship to food and their body. Going back to school in her second act, she found a robust field of academic research on body image problems with tools that had not yet found their way to the teachers and children who needed them. She trained on three body image curricula and began to guest lecture to middle-school and high-school students in their health classes.
Once in the public schools, teachers were asking for resources to help with the widespread body image issues they were seeing every day. With the help of the Illinois State Board of Education, Denise created a workshop for teachers’ professional development called Body Confident Schools. In 2019 and 2020 Denise presented this workshop to over 400 health teachers, social workers, and school administrators in Illinois.
In her first career as an environmental lawyer, Denise wrote Pollution in the United Kingdom, published in London in 1993. For the last 25 years, she has been actively involved in school-based nonprofits, working to create quality educational opportunities for all children.
Creative Head, Graphic Design, Website Design
Julie Meute has always been one of those creative, type-A, perfectionist, up-at-all hours self-proclaimed nerds who sees life as something between a term paper and an exciting musical adventure. After living her dream job at The Oprah Winfrey Show for over a decade, and a fun 2-year gig with ABC 7’s Windy City Live, she left her television career to be a stay-at-home mom to her son, Gabriel. Sometime after those sleepless infant nights and drowsy baby days, Julie started her own design business, Jultap Productions.
Since then, Julie has helped numerous clients with their online presence from branding and email campaigns to graphics and website builds. She especially enjoys supporting brilliant business women who are making their beautiful marks on the world. In her free time, she is usually sewing clothes, dancing or creating an adventurous life with her husband and son. Julie feels so blessed to have met Denise Hamburger and to have this opportunity to help promote BE REAL’s cause.
Ambassador Program Coordinator
For the past 13 years Stephanie has acted as Project Coordinator for Amy’s Gift, a Quad Cities Eating Disorders Consortium, whose mission is “to promote the hope, help and healing for those with eating disorders in the Quad Cities community”. In this work she connects her community with local and national resources for eating disorders treatment as well as coordinates trainings for eating disorders assessment, treatment and prevention.
In addition, she is a Community Relations Specialist at the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, where she acts as an advocate and organizer for various programs and trainings events relating to mental health. She is also a teacher with the Trauma Supports Yoga Team with Challenge to Change.
Stephanie is passionate about sharing the BE REAL materials with others, especially adolescents, so that we can all begin creating a narrative around mental health, self-care and body image that is supportive and sustaining for ALL. With additional work experience as a children’s theatre teacher, Stephanie’s diverse personal and professional knowledge have brought her here today to be a part of the BE REAL Ambassador team!
Be Real Interns
Raya Acha (2021)
Rayna Acha is a first year at the University of Chicago hoping to study Gender and Sexuality Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. She has worked as a peer sex educator through Planned Parenthood and is excited to continue advocating for body acceptance with BE REAL! Rayna is excited to work with BE REAL to advocate for all bodies to be accepted regardless of size, race, ability, etc.
Samuel Garcia Villar (2022)
Samuel is a rising second-year at The University of Chicago double majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. He is passionate about social work and public policy and will serve a 2-year church mission starting in August. As an immigrant from Colombia, he is excited to get involved in the democratic process of advocating in favor of the Out of Kid’s Hands Bill and contributing to Be Real USA’s mission of developing children’s healthy relationship with their own body and others’.
Joan Githinji (2021)
Joan is currently a student at the University of Chicago. She has struggled with her own body image and is passionate about helping others in their journey to self-love. Joan believes that her work with BE REAL will not only educate but empower others.
Verenice Gomez-Trejo (2020-2022)
Verenice is studying chemistry at the University of Chicago. She is excited to navigate her way through school districts and create BE REAL communities across the entire country. Verenice hopes that her role will lead to more children and women feeling confident and beautiful in their bodies.
Christina Hartman (2020-2021)
Christina is studying psychology and public policy at the University of Chicago. She is passionate about sharing voices and information for BE REAL and excited to join the social media journey. Christina appreciates the fight that BE REAL has undertaken and is excited to watch it grow.
Ally Latvala (2022)
Ally is a rising senior studying nutrition and psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She hopes to one day work as a Registered Dietitian for people with eating disorders. She has learned through school and personal experience the importance of self-love for overall health. She is thrilled to have the opportunity at BE REAL to share this message with students of all backgrounds.
Leticia Mercado (2022)
Leticia plans on double majoring in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality studies at The University of Chicago. She is passionate about the work of nonprofits and hopes to dedicate her career towards improving the lives of others. Because of these goals, BE REAL’s mission resonates with Leticia and she is excited to see how BE REAL has, and will continue to, improve the lives of others.
Miriam Nelson (2020-2021)
Miriam is studying Economics and Government at Harvard College. She became passionate about reforming body-image policy after seeing the harm done to students who were lined up and weighed in her middle-school gym class. She was encouraged to find that BE REAL was already doing the work that she had grown to care so much about. Miriam is excited for the opportunity to change policy for the better.
Promise Ngirwe (2021)
Promise is a student at the University of Chicago. Promise enjoys working with children and has spent years volunteering for her local Big Brothers Big Sisters program and as a Sunday School teacher. As a first generation Kenyan immigrant who grew up in rural Wisconsin, Promise struggled to have body confidence while surrounded by people who do not look like her. Promise is excited to work with BE REAL USA to amplify marginalized voices and inspire more students across the nation to be confident in themselves.
Juliana Obia (2020-2021)
The BE REAL Board of Directors
President & CEO of The Network of Executive Women (NEW)
As CEO of NEW, Sarah leads a nonprofit learning, leadership and advocacy organization that represents more than 13,000 members, with over 1,000 corporate partners and 22 regions in the United States and Canada. Sarah works toward advancing gender equality and diversity in the retail, consumer goods, technology, and financial services industries. Sarah believes it’s time for more women leaders and more collaborative, flexible, and diverse workplaces for everyone.
Education Director at BE REAL. & Founder/Creator of REbel Curriculum
Executive Director of National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders (ANAD)