Astronaut StarBright is the inspiration behind a new Lottie Doll

21 Jun 2018534 Views

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Taylor Denise Richardson on stage at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

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Taylor Denise Richardson (AKA Astronaut StarBright) lit up the Inspirefest 2018 stage as she was revealed to be collaborating with Lottie Dolls on a new project.

“Fantastic! This is why we do what we do.” – Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon.

“She’s amazing!” – Ian Harkin.

“Mind-blowing!” – Ann O’Dea.

Taylor Denise Richardson’s reputation precedes her, in the best way possible.

As day one of Inspirefest 2018 kicked off, she even earned a special shout-out from new pal Minister Simon Harris, TD, in the opening address.

Cementing her role as girl of the hour, Harkin, Lottie Dolls CEO and co-founder, confirmed during the ‘Next Generation’ panel that the company would be collaborating with Richardson on a new project.

“Last year, we made a decision that every single product that we’re doing now going forward is gonna be inspired by ideas sent to us by kids.”

He continued: “This year we’re gonna be launching a new product with Taylor.”

While still relatively secretive in nature at the moment, Harkin said the product is planned for the pre-Christmas period.

So, who is Taylor Denise Richardson?

After much anticipation, the 14-year old activist – also known as Astronaut StarBright – took to the stage.

Announcing her determination (not just aspirations) to become a scientist, astronaut and engineer, Richardson knows that this attitude will take her places. “Straight to Mars and beyond!”

The advocate, activist and philanthropist already has an impressive CV. She set up book clubs and drives in her community – called ‘Taylor’s Take Flight With a Book’ – reaching more than 500 kids as well as lending and donating more than 8,000 STEM-related books. Her GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than $150,000 for STEM initiatives, including sending thousands of girls to see Hidden Figures and A Wrinkle in Time. She has even been backed by such movie luminaries as JJ Abrams and Oprah Winfrey. Her latest endeavour, ‘Bring A Wrinkle in Time to Ghana’, is currently open for donations.

Richardson has accomplished all this and more in the face of some pretty challenging obstacles. Bullied for her skin colour, she said on stage that she truly realised the need for representation when she was the only African American at Space Camp.

“Girls, especially black girls, deserve to believe they can do calculations and send astronauts to the moon.”

Even getting there was a hurdle as, coming from a single-parent family, money was hard to come by. No problem for Richardson – she crowdfunded her way there. When she struggled with reading at school, she enlisted the help of her mother, who read to her daily, and she soon become one of the top readers in her class. On top of all that, Richardson has ADHD, but she has a different meaning for it: Abundantly Different and Happily Divine.

And she’s not stopping there. “I want girls to know that they can not only touch the stars, but they are already their own special and unique star.”

A drawing of Taylor Denise Richardson speaking at Inspirefest 2018

Image: Liza Donnelly

Inspired by her heroes Dr Mae Jemison and Sally Ride, as well as her Inspirefest cohorts O’Dea and Imafidon, Richardson is buoyed with an admirable tenacity. “I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it here again: you’d better get used to us girls and women because we are not going anywhere.”

So, what’s next? Aside from her upcoming Lottie Dolls project, she plans to continue her education and keep advocating for the issues that matter to her. Her own foundation? The presidency? Mars? Anything is possible.

And, as for anyone planning on standing in her way, she has a crystal-clear message: “Don’t dare.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. To find out more about the best event for bright minds in Europe, please visit inspirefest.com.

Shelly Madden is sub-editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com