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.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

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Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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