A girl's love of painting fingernails sparked a global movement against child abuse.

Elliot Costello met Thea in 2013 after she'd been rescued from two years of physical and sexual abuse in a Cambodian orphanage.

Thea ended up there after her father, the family's sole breadwinner, died. Losing her father wasn't just an emotional loss for the family — it was a financial one, too. His death meant that Thea's mother could no longer provide for Thea in the way she deserved.

When Elliot met Thea at Hagar International, a safe space for women and children who've survived abuse and exploitation, the language barrier meant they didn't say much to each other, but her story changed his life no less.


"What really should have been a safe passage was anything but,” Costello said of Thea's experiences in the orphanage. “It struck me."

Elliot Costello, CEO of YGAP. GIF via Polished Man project.

Unable to communicate with each other, the two ended up playing games instead.

At one point, Thea used a marker to color all over Costello's hands and fingernails. The lighthearted fun ended up sparking the idea for a global movement.

That's why actor Chris Hemsworth decided to paint one fingernail on Oct. 9, 2016 — to help give a voice to kids like Thea around the world.

Hemsworth is a proud supporter of the Polished Man project — an initiative launched by Costello, the CEO of YGAP, to end violence against children after the social entrepreneur's eye-opening experience with Thea in Cambodia.

"Being a [Polished Man] isn't just about remembering to buy flowers, how many rounds you shout, or how much you lift," Hemsworth wrote in the caption. "It's about saying no to violence against children."

Hemsworth, the most notable face to champion the cause, has elevated the campaign on a global scale.

The premise of Polished Man is pretty simple.

Guys are encouraged to sign up to get a profile on Polished Man's website, paint a fingernail that acts as a conversation starter, then direct supporters to their page to learn more and donate to the cause.

Funds raised for the campaign go toward programs run by various groups, like World Vision Australia and Hagar International, that help kids with trauma relief and prevent abuse for other young ones living at risk.

The campaign, which runs through October, is resonating with men everywhere: As of Oct. 10, the campaign had raised over $435,000.

According to the World Health Organization, an alarming 25% of all adults report being physically abused as a child. What's more, 1 in 13 men and 1 in 5 women say they were sexually abused as a kid. These are issues that silently affect far too many of us.

The campaign is targeting men because men are overwhelmingly responsible for sexual and physical violence against minors.

As the campaign notes, about 90% of all abusers of children around the world are men. So while women are certainly encouraged to speak up and donate to the Polished Man project, the initiative's pretty clear: Men, it's largely on us to prevent this atrocity from happening.

Hemsworth wants all of us — including some of his fellow A-listers — to step up to the plate for kids at home and around the globe.

In his Instagram post, Hemsworth asks his brother, actor Liam Hemsworth, along with Zac Efron, to join the campaign by also painting their fingernails. (The ball's in your court, guys).

But even if you don't have millions of Instagram followers, remember that your voice can make a difference ... one man-i-cure at a time.

Learn more about becoming a Polished Man and the realities of worldwide child abuse on the project's website.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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