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bold women
5 Questions with Step Up CEO Delores Morton

We had the great privilege of speaking with Delores Morton—CEO of our nonprofit partner Step Up and a 2012 Champion of Change honored by former President Barack Obama—to find out more about her bold work that’s lifting up girls and young women and showing them that we are all meant to shine. Here, the Louisiana native and L.A. resident shares her personal journey, what being bold means to her, and of course, how Birdies help her feel bold, bright, and confident.  

What is your definition of bold and how do you incorporate this into your day-to-day?

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately contemplating Marianne Williamson’s poem “Our Deepest Fear,” for therein lies my definition of bold. Living up to the promise and challenge set forth in the poem—that of not playing small, not shrinking oneself—is living life boldly. Every day, I live boldly by putting forth the effort to strip myself of the rules and restrictions regarding how I should show up in rooms where I may not have been previously invited or welcome. In these moments, when self-deprecation or feigned humility may be my default, I am intentional about not shrinking—even when shrinking is easier. While I may not show up as loud, I am less concerned about being “too much” or worried about whether or not I am enough. In the poem, Williamson says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” I put forth the extra effort before taking my seat in the room, but my life and experiences have also prepared me for this moment, thus enabling me to take bold steps.

What’s a bold move you’ve made in your life?

Moving to Los Angeles from Atlanta four years ago was one of the greatest leaps of my life. I left behind the certainty of a 15-year career, the comfort of friends and family, and the security of a community of like-minded individuals. Except for the distance from my friends and family on the East Coast and in the South, the bold move has paid off and landed me in a dream job as the CEO of Step Up.

Delores Morton on stage at a Step Up event

What’s one thing you’ve learned from making a bold decision?

Not all bold decisions lead to success or to winning and that is perfectly fine. I’ve been admired for standing out and making bold moves, but I admit that there have also been occasions where I stepped forward boldly and left feeling exceedingly foolish. But each of these bold, decisive moments—whether they were wins or losses—were ultimately lessons. I’ve learned as much from my mistakes and missteps as I have from my successes.

What advice would you give future generations of young women to live boldly and with purpose?

I’ll refer to a different phrase from Williamson’s poem: “We are all meant to shine.”  For future generations of young women—know this and live this. At Step Up, we strive to create opportunities and spaces where young women from all backgrounds have the experiences and relationships that will help them find their purpose and live boldly on their own terms.

How do Birdies make you feel bright, bold, and confident?

Every pair of Birdies shoes make a statement—whether it is a bold print or color. It is this versatility and variety that helps make me feel bright, bold, and confident. (In these photos, Delores is showcasing The Phoebe slide in cheetah.) 

Bonus Round

Who is a bold woman you admire and why?

I am especially moved by bold women who turn their trauma and tragedy into moments of triumph, not only for themselves but for the world around them. Women like Congresswoman Lucy McBath who, after her teenage son was killed at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station, quit her job and shifted her focus to advocating for gun control. She is a modern example of mothers like Mamie Till Mobley, whose 14-year-old son Emmett Till was kidnapped, beaten, shot, and then weighted with a 75-pound fan before being tossed into the Tallahatchie River in 1955. She pushed through her own pain and boldly demanded that his casket be kept open, exposing the mutilation of his body and forcing America to confront the atrocities that Black people endured, helping to fuel the Civil Rights movement. The boldness of women like Lucy McBath and Mamie Till Mobley in the face of adversity is a reminder and challenge to me to strive to improve conditions for my community and the world.

Can you describe a challenge you’ve faced in life and share what bold moves you made to overcome it?

At 22-years-old, I was a single mom without a college degree and a daughter I knew would look to me (as I did with my own mother) as a role model and an example. I returned to school to complete my undergraduate degree, and even after marriage and a second pregnancy, I kept at it.  

Delores is part of our Bold Women series, featuring and celebrating women who embody what it means to be bold inside and out. In this series, they share their stories of success and how Birdies help them soar.