Tilly’s Life Center – Interview with Tilly Levine

On May 1, 2017 Tillys hosted their 10th annual Charity Golf Tournament.  All proceeds benefited Tilly’s Life Center.  I was fortunate enough to attend and blog on the event and this is my follow up post on the interview I had with Tilly Levine.

Tilly 3rd from left with Jerry Burch, Larry Levine, & Jason De Soto at the Tillys Golf Tournament

Tilly co-founded Tillys in 1982 and in 2012 she founded Tilly’s Life Center.  As a fashionista, I’ve been familiar with Tillys for awhile

as of April 10, 2017 Tillys operates 222 stores and its website, www.tillys.com.

Thanks to the blog I found out about Tilly’s Life Center in January of this year when I did a post on their collaboration with Rastaclat.

TLC is a youth-focused 501(c)(3) nonprofit aimed to empower teens by teaching life skills that build confidence, inspire compassion, and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Leveraging public schools and after school programs, TLC is a program based on experiential learning, with a curriculum based on self-discovery.

As a teen, I understand the importance of TLC and consider myself grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Tilly and ask her these questions.

SF:  I read that you credit your success to going in with a positive mind set and finding your own power in everything, how & when did you realize that?

Tilly:  As a child I was successful in getting what I wanted, but I didn’t feel good about it.  My lies, manipulation, and sneaking around led to my fighting with my mom.  After not speaking to her for a year, a light bulb clicked.  I went to my mom and told her I wasn’t happy.  There had to be a better way – I was going to change.

I started thinking positively and wanting what was best for everyone.  I was more successful than before plus I was happy.  Since then I’ve always chosen to think and be positive in everything.  You create positive energy when you think positively, which attracts others to you.  People want to feel good and they do when they’re positive and surround themselves with other positive people.

You truly get what you give back.  So, I choose to build personal relationships.  This event is possible because of the personal relationships I’ve built with people in business and life.  Even when getting a divorce, I focused on the positive.  We didn’t use lawyers.  We kept a family structure and were able to stay partners and best friends.

Choosing to be positive really is a better way.  You will achieve what you want and help others achieve too.  Everyone feels better when they choose positivity.

SF:  Is your belief in the power of a positive mind set what inspired you to start TLC? 

Tilly:  Tillys has always been committed to giving back to teens.  Prior to TLC, I raised about $1m dollars in seven years to help teens get food and shelter.  I followed their progress and was saddened to see that not much changed.

I realized what they needed were tools to change and improve their lives.  I wanted to share tools that I had learned over the years with people who could use them to build better lives and a better world.

By giving teens tools we give them the ability to make better choices, build confidence and create their future.

With the internet it’s really the hero generation.  There’s nothing you can’t learn how to do on the web and with social media you can reach everyone.  Everyone is like the president with the power to reach the world.  Imagine how great that world would be if people reached you with self-esteem, motivation and wanting to share their gifts.

We give all teens the tools they need to fulfill their destiny.  The program isn’t just for those with social challenges or low income families.  Everyone has challenges whether it’s sickness like cancer, thoughts of suicide, needing emotional balance with school or whatever – TLC gives you the tools to learn a positive mind and face your challenges.

SF:  Why does TLC focus on teens?

Tilly:  Prime emotional development begins at the age of 15.  The tools can be taught at an earlier age but the emotional depth to implement them begins at 15.

Fifteen is the start of a lot of changes including hormone changes, peer pressure and performance pressure from all sources including parents.  It’s why TLC teaches five types of meditations to let go of the stress.  When you reduce stress, you perform better on tests and interviews plus feel better.

TLC really teaches ownership of self so you can create your future with your mind.

SF:  In the five years TLC has been helping what impact have you seen?

Tilly:  A study of Ocean View High School of three groups with TLC and 3 groups without saw amazing results for the groups with TLC.  Differences were seen as soon as six weeks.  A truly positive difference was seen in those who completed the year long program of 36 classes.  Having tools really does help you face challenges and respond positively.

For example in TLC teens learn they are their social media footprint. Social media is powerful and can be destructive so they learn how not to abuse it.

SF:  Did you have tools like journaling and making vision boards when you were a teen?

Tilly:  No, I didn’t find these tools until much later in life.  I believed in living positively and was drawn to the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.  I learned tools that would have saved me so much pain if I had known about them when I was younger.  That book is the inspiration for the TLC program.

You can learn so many tools at self-empowerment events, but usually you don’t go until a mid-life crisis when you’ve already been through pain.  TLC gives you the tools as a teen so you can save yourself pain and live your entire life with tools.

Anaheim High School student Vanessa Chavez is now in her third year with TLC and says “This class is a little escape from the real world and a safe place to have some fun.”

SF:  What’s your favorite tool?

Tilly:  To me the most powerful tool is positive affirmations.  Creating a slogan and training your mind to stay positive.

Negative thoughts are like ants on your brain.  The ants cover your brain and it’s so hard to think.

Thoughts create feelings so if your thoughts are positive you’ll feel better.  Thinking positively gives you the ability to react and behave differently.

Even if you don’t believe the affirmation at first, if you keep repeating it you will believe.  You really hear what you tell yourself.  For example if you tell yourself “I’m too fat” then you draw negative energy to yourself.  Change the message to “I’m beautiful” and you start to attract positive energy.

The positive affirmation you tell yourself will cause a positive reaction both in yourself and who you attract.  Your positive affirmations create a better life cycle.  You think better, you feel better, you act better, better things happen to you, and you are happier.

Wellness Wednesday reminder from TLC Instagram

SF:  What’s the future for TLC?

Tilly:  TLC is in six high schools as electives.  We’d like to see it in high schools as a mandatory class.  You can learn so many things from the internet, but TLC teaches you something unique.  It teaches you Emotional Intelligence.

Social skills are key to interacting with others and finding your best self.  Through the TLC activities you find your passions, what makes you happy and how to achieve happiness.

TLC was recently taught at UCI.  All 22 students found it valuable and wished they had attended during high school.  Of the 22 graduates, eight want to teach future classes.

Having trained facilitators is key to TLC success.  Each class has a facilitator and co-facilitator.  In Huntington Beach we just had a teacher attend the classes and train as a facilitator.  When high schools can allocate teachers for training it helps TLC get the program to more students plus it reduces TLC expenses because the teacher is already an employee.

Once TLC is an approved curriculum through state universities it will be easier to train even more facilitators and have interns as co-facilitators.

TLC pilot program at the University of California, Irvine this year.  TLC will be back at UCI in the fall & is excited to have more UCI students as program interns.

SF:  Are on-line classes a possibility?

Tilly:  The power of the group is key to TLC program success.  Within the classes the students form social bonds.  The class becomes a second family.  It’s a safe space to build true relationships.  Within the class there is total trust so you can speak without fear of being judged.

An on-line class could be possible if it was a group.  It would be an on-line group just like the classes are today.  Everyone would have a set time to log in and work through the program together.

Estancia High School students participating in “I Am Continuing to Grow” – learning about strengthening of self by building a positive self-image, positive thinking, and effective decision-making

SF:  What else would you like to share about TLC?

Tilly:  I’m so proud of the class projects.  Each class votes on a subject that’s important to them and then creates a YouTube video.  So far there are over 50 videos on important topics like Date Rape, Drunk Driving, Bullying, Gangs.  These are videos made by kids on relevant topics to share with other kids on how to stay positive and respond positively.  I really hope people check them out and new ones are posted as classes complete them.


Thank you so much Tilly for taking the time to meet with me, for having the vision to create TLC, and then the determination to make it happen.

To stay connected with TLC follow:

Facebook:  facebook.com/tillyslifecenter

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/tillyslifecenter 

Instagram & Twitter: @tillyslifecenter 


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