Tanya Meessmann was ambitious from the get go. Born in a small town in Queensland, Australia, she sought out leadership roles for herself as early as primary school. She went to college for business communications and quickly took on a significant role at an advertising agency.
At work, Tanya was everyone’s cheerleader. She encouraged her colleagues to follow their passions, but it wasn’t long before she realized that she wasn’t following hers. She quit her advertising job and moved to Ireland, where she fell into filmmaking. For the next twelve years, Tanya worked as a film producer (If you’re curious about her work, check out her IMDb page).
After she had her son, she moved back to Queensland, where she worked as Head of Brand and Communications for a set of three International Baccalaureate (IB) high schools. Her work led her to meet several frustrated parents of girls who refused to take risks. Her conversations with these parents led Tanya to realize that girls have a major confidence problem.
Tanya served as a mentor to young women for most of her adult life. At the time, she worked with a couple of college-age girls struggling to break into the film industry. Tanya realized that these girls had a confidence problem, too. As a mentor, Tanya helped the girls feel less alone on their journey, which allowed them to reckon with their insecurities. She decided she wanted to scale up that impact and help girls all over Australia boost their confidence.
Tanya founded Girl Shaped Flames four years ago to serve that purpose. Since then, Tanya’s worked with over 3,000 teenage girls, their parents, and educators. Girl Shaped Flames offers powerful mentorship, inspiring events, and transformative courses that help high school girls develop their confidence. Her work inspires unique career pathways and courageous parenting.
Many of the girls that Tanya works with are going through a developmental stage that psychologist Erik Erikson calls “identity vs. role confusion.” Unless imterrupted by traums, naearly all young people aged 12-18 go through this stage. During this time, teens look to influences like their friends and pop culture to establish a sense of self, like friends and pop culture. This can be incredibly frustrating for the parent, but Tanya says that it’s a crucial part of development. According to psychology, if teens don’t cycle through this phase completely, their sense of self will crumble in adulthood. Anyone who’s been a teen knows that the so-called identity stage can be rough, and Tanya loves shepherding teens through this phase.
Girl Shaped Flames hosts programs that are entirely out of Tanya’s comfort zone. Her favorite program is the one that’s the scariest, Camp Courage, is a three-day overnight camp in the bushlands of Australia. They put the program on hold in 2020; Still, it’s back on for 2021 (Australia is leaps and bounds ahead of America in terms of mitigating the spread of COVID). Running a camp means that Tanya’s responsible for her campers’ wellbeing, which is sometimes daunting.
But the impact Camp Courage has on its campers is undeniable. Nearly all the girls who attend have overwhelmingly positive things to say about the program, and so do their families. That’s because the camp allows girls to connect to their peers and reflect on their sense of self. One of Tanya’s favorite parts of camp is a tradition at the end, when each girl hands another girl at the camp a paracord bracelet and says, “You got this.” For Tanya, this act is a celebration of the girls’ power and a way for them to feel less alone as they navigate adolescence.
Connect with Tanya!
Tanya Meesmann is an entrepreneur, film producer, and mentor based in Queensland, Australia. Her ambition, which began in primary school when she joined the debate team, has only grown with age. In 2016, Tanya founded Girl Shaped Flames, an organization committed to cultivating the most confident, courageous, and self-assured generation of girls the world has ever seen. This past February, Tanya founded a not-for-profit called UNIQ YOU, which strives to increase the number of teenage girls in Australia who pursue roles and industries currently under-represented by women.