Formerly bullied, Chicago woman works to boosts self-esteem of youth

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Shettima Webb founded Esteem Model. (WLS)

Shettima Webb was bullied when she was young, but she's turned her experience into a business that helps others build self-esteem.

Webb founded Model Esteem, an anti-bullying performance-based program that helps kids and young adults build self-esteem through artistic expression.

She was born and raised on the city's West Side and wanted to do something positive in Chicago. However, the confidence she walks with now wasn't always there.

"(Model Esteem) was birthed out of me being depressed, being teased, being bullied. So it was birthed out of my pain," Webb said.

She turned her pain turned into positivity after trying out modeling.

That leap of faith took to her to runways of New York Fashion Week. She also held the title of Miss Illinois Plus America.

Even with all that she wanted more.

"I wanted to start the company to No. 1 educate young girls and young men and adults in the modeling world, but also help them build their self-esteem in the arts and performance arts as well. You know we have so many talented young people here and I just feel like that's not enough focuses on that part of it. So I just love showcases like this one, that really showcase that we have talented people here that have a future," Webb said.

Students and staff at Model Esteem said Webb has encouraged them to take that next step in reaching for their dreams.

"It really empowered me, it empowered to be the choreographer that I always knew I was," said Garley Briggs, dance director at Model Esteem.

"It's beneficial not just for you work but who you are. You better yourself Model Esteem then you figure out what you want to do with your life modeling, acting, dancing, singing. All of the things that she is and what she wants us to be," said Danai Parker, a Model Esteem student.

"You don't have to be who your environment tells you you have to be," Webb said.

Webb's No. 1 goal is to provide affordable programming so everyone can take part.

Their latest sessions just got underway over the weekend.

For more about Model Esteem, visit: http://www.modelesteem.com/

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