Mandana Dayani wants you to reflect on this surprising fact for a moment: Only 61% of Americans turned out to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election. "As an immigrant, [voting] is the coolest thing you could ever do when you turn 18," says the Los Angeles-based lawyer, activist, and former fashion executive, who came to the United States from Iran as a religious refugee at age six. That's why Dayani has spent the past two years working tirelessly on I am a Voter, the visionary non-partisan organization that speaks to a new generation of ballot casters.
"When I started this [journey,] I was like 'who's not voting, what are you talking about?'" says Dayani, who, as a mother and an immigrant, went looking for answers following the US Border Crisis in 2018 and stumbled upon some startling facts. The reasons for abstaining ranged from a simple lack of clarity about the registration process to negative associations surrounding the finger wagging dialogue of decades past. "Instead of telling people what not to do, I felt there was an opportunity to excite people about voting," she reflects. "In the consumer space, we do this for ten Marvel movies a year, so how can we not communicate how important voting is?"'
The idea, says Dayani, is to elevate the profile of a voter, creating a cultural shift that makes civic engagement every bit as compelling as Netflix binging or prioritizing the Superbowl half-time show. And it's working: Scroll through I am a Voter's Instagram feed and you'll see Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kerry Washington, and Robert Downey, Jr. showing up to support in one of the organization's graphic typeface tees. But it is I am a Voter's simple way of cutting through the ballot-casting confusion that's the real stroke of genius. By texting the word 'VOTER" to 26797 or visiting iamavoter.com, you can instantly register to vote, check to see if you're already registered, sign up for helpful reminders, find out if you can vote by mail, and even whether you can vote early in your state.
In the lead up to November 8, says Dayani, she has been regularly pulling 20 hour days. Her staples—beyond coffee, adrenaline, and the community of 25 ground-breaking women who volunteer their time and talent to the organization—include a luminous foundation that's safe on even her hyper sensitive skin, a power black mascara, and a glassy highlighter she swipes over cheekbones "all day every day" to wake up her face. To hear about her inspiring story, her mission of activism, and the makeup that helps her get it all done, watch the full video now.
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