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When Franiya Tiffany was being bullied at school, she turned to writing.
Those words are what eventually formed her first book, "Love Your Art," which came out in 2017, when Franiya was just 7 years old.
“People bullied me because of my skin color, since I was a different race than the others,” Franiya, now 9, told TODAY Style. "I didn't even know I could write a book. What I was actually doing was just writing my thoughts down.
"It's good to get your thoughts out," she added. "I talked to God. I talked to my parents. I talked to my little brother. It's good to do those things."
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Then Franiya noticed other kids at school were also being bullied, and she realized the problem was larger than just her: "There's a lot of people getting bullied in this world, even bigger, older people," she said.
Franiya's mother helped her publish the book, which teaches other kids that they have value, despite what bullies might say. The fourth grader, who lives with her family in Fort Walton, Florida, and is one of TODAY's Groundbreakers for International Day of the Girl, wrote another book last year, called "How to Become a Star Boss," a book that teaches kids and adults how to be the best version of themselves.
"A star boss is somebody who shines at what they do and is the greatest at what they do," she said. "Everybody in this world can be a star boss; that's what I believe."
Now Franiya has made it her mission to inspire self-love among young people — and to put an end to what she calls "the hate disease."
"The hate disease is pretty much going around and not liking each other," she said. "Say a little girl and a little boy are playing, but they didn't get their way, and the little girl pushes the little boy. That's spreading the hate disease. But that's not what we need. We need the love disease. Both of them are contagious but one of them is the good one."
Last year she organized a talent show for her community, to encourage kids "who don't get to be seen every day" to embrace the spotlight and their artistic talents, part of a new movement she's dubbed "Love Your Art." She visits local schools to read her books and talk about bullying. She's also partnered with Kidbox, an organization that provides clothing boxes to kids in need. And next year, she hopes to publish another book and organize a fundraiser to raise money for organizations that promote kindness and combat bullying.
"I will be spreading love and kindness in everything I do, so people can respect others," Franiya said. "Because that's what the world needs, right?"
She looks up to celebrities including Beyoncé and Disney actress Skai Jackson, women who, in Franiya's words, have embraced who they are and thus set themselves be free, all the while spreading self-love.
It’s a key to happiness, Tiffany explained — one that she hopes other girls recognize.
“We’re not truly free until we let ourselves be free,” she said. “No one else in this world will set you free but yourself.”
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