At 8, she was a painting prodigy. At 14, she wants to be the next great artist.

When Autumn de Forest was 5, she picked up a paintbrush for the first time.

Part kid, part artist. All photos and images via Autumn de Forest.

It all started one day in her garage, she told me with the confidence and clarity of someone who, at only 14, has already done hundreds of interviews.


She says she borrowed a brush from her father, who was in the middle of staining some wood, and started messing around. She thought it was fun, but her father saw something bigger going on. There was something worldly in the way she moved the bristles.

So when Autumn said she wanted to keep it up, her parents were only too happy to encourage her. At 5, she quickly moved from practicing on scrap wood in the garage to experimenting on sprawling canvasses.

It wasn't long before she was ready to show the world what she could do.

The then-6-year-old asked her father if he could get her a booth at a local art-in-the-park program.

"People would come up to the booth, and they would talk to my father, and they'd say, 'This is great!'" she said. "Apparently they thought it was Take Your Daughter to Work Day."

Almost everyone thought the artwork was her father's. And when they found out that tiny Autumn was the artist, people couldn't believe their eyes.

Autumn created this piece when she was just 5 years old.

Soon, Autumn rose to national fame.

When Autumn was 8, she was featured on the Discovery Health Channel. There was a slew of media attention in the years that followed. There was Disney. There was The Today Show. There was Wendy Williams.

She was called a child genius, a prodigy, and an expert painter.

Suddenly, Autumn de Forest was everywhere.

But not everyone was so accepting of the young artist and her work. Some people in the art world had ... questions. Sure, she was good for a kid. But was her art actually good? Others wondered if the whole thing might be an elaborate hoax.

Autumn decided not to listen.

Now, Autumn is 14, and her startlingly organized daily routine goes far beyond a 9 to 5.

Somehow, as the focus on her age begins to wear off, Autumn's work ethic and art only grow stronger. She said most days, she wakes up in her parents' Las Vegas home at 7:30 a.m. After breakfast, she breaks out her supplies for a one- or two-hour painting session.

From there, she dives into her school work. Most brick-and-mortar schools can't accommodate her travel schedule, so she does the majority of her schooling online.  

Before dinner, it's back into the studio.

"That session can last much longer, that can be three or four hours when I really get into it," she said. "Then I probably have dinner and go to bed."

It's a grind. But she says that's what being a pro is all about.

The results? They speak for themselves.

Her work has been displayed in galleries and exhibitions all over the world.

Most recently, Autumn held a public demonstration before a showing at The Butler Institute of American Art.

In 2015, Autumn received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award in Painting and Art.

The award took her to the Vatican for a private showing of her artwork with the pope.

She's also working with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, headed up by Michelle Obama.

As part of the program, de Forest travels to underprivileged schools around the country and leads painting workshops.

Oh, and if you're looking for some hard numbers to attach to Autumn's talent, she's got those, too.

Her paintings have raked in over $7 million at auctions over the years, much of which has gone directly to charities and disaster relief funds.

In the end, I'm still left with lots of questions about Autumn de Forest.

I know about Autumn the artist. I know about Autumn the brand. But I don't know much about Autumn the teenager.

I asked her if she ever has time to just have fun, to just kick back with friends, and her first response was that she loves volunteering with her church to help needy kids. The rest of her time is spent working on what she calls the Autumn Foundation, which will allow her to continue the work she's currently doing of introducing kids to the art world.

That's not normal teenager stuff. But maybe Autumn de Forest isn't a normal teenager. Maybe in order to get where she wants to go, she can't be.

Autumn knows she's not going to graduate from "adorable prodigy" to truly great artist without putting in the work.

It's going to take countless hours in the studio and, yes, even some smart marketing along the way. It's a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone so young.

But when I listen to her talk, I have an easy certainty about her future.

When the world stops being enamored by Autumn de Forest the prodigy, you just get the feeling she'll still be hunkered over a canvas somewhere. That she'll still be working hard with a level of focus beyond her years.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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