Bellen Woodard, the World's First Crayon Activist

Isabel Franco  //  Mar 19, 2024

Bellen Woodard, the World's First Crayon Activist

“Does anyone have the skin-color crayon?” referring to the peach color crayon, is the question that started Bellen Woodard wondering how she could change how her classmates and teacher view color. Responding “Which one? Skin can be any number of beautiful colors” is how she was able to shift the language in her classroom, school, and communities. Bellen’s story is captured in her picture book, “More Than Peach.”  In continuation of our celebration of Women’s History Month, we interviewed Bellen about her book and the work the More Than Peach Project is doing to create an inclusive world through impactful, everyday change incorporating More Than Peach crayons and strategies. The project, which started when Bellen was just eight years old, makes her the world’s first Crayon Activist.


What inspired you to convert your story into a picture book?
First, I wanted younger kids to connect with both my story and crayons so they could make big contributions in their environments. I think seeing the moments like the ones in the book really makes young people think about leadership in general.  I really wanted kids and teachers to walk away taking ownership of their words and how they’re interacting with each other.  I also loved picture books (and they’re still a huge part of my library) and knew this would be a great way to call on kids to do amazing things.  And I wanted to carry the message forward so it continues reaching kids, hopefully for generations to come.


More Than Peach shows us how words have power in how we think and feel. It is also your journey in how you were able to change the perspective of color around you, one crayon at a time. How did you work with illustrator Fanny Liem to help you visualize your story?
Fanny has been amazing.  Once I submitted my manuscript, I was able to choose my illustrator.  Fanny’s drawings were bright and colorful which is pretty much my personality, I think.  I was so impressed with how she took my words and actually recreated the moments. The way she captured everything from our expressions to the actual settings just blew me away.


For those who are unfamiliar, what is the More Than Peach Project and can you share some of the project’s successes?
It began when my friends were asking for the “skin-color” crayon and by default that had always meant peach. One day, when I was in third grade, I decided to change that language for once and for all.  And I did.  Though I was given a suggestion, I decided to create my own solution and really wanted everyone to be a part of that solution. And it worked so well that here we are today! :)

One big success is literally people changing the words that they say and seeing the many beautiful colors of skin-tone, flesh, and nude, instead of thinking it automatically means one shade.  I’m very proud that something I made is being used by kids around the world and continue to influence industries (in art and ballet). I’m happy to have also donated to so many classrooms and that I’ve been able to also build a company and brand that connects so successfully with young people, educators and families. It’s been more than I ever imagined.  And I love that my story has been memorialized in books and museums so that my hard work and what I’ve created becomes part of my legacy.


What have you heard from teachers, students, and others since you published your picture book and started the More Than Peach Project?
Teachers and students really love the book and love sharing it and my More than Peach crayons with their students because they resonate in a way that’s very different since I’m a student and still a kid just like them. I get the best drawings and letters from teachers, parents, and their kids all the time and it’s so inspiring and encouraging. In fact, I just opened a package today! Teachers say they’ve noticed their students being even more conscientious in the most positive ways and that they’re celebrating youth leadership and wanting to create their own projects and businesses.  I also get a lot of kids saying they had heard the language before and now no one thinks of one shade as the default “skin-tone.” I love that!


At the end of your book, you provide a guide on how kids can make a change in their communities. What advice would you give to those who want to make a big impact in their school and community but don’t know where to focus their efforts?
I talk about this a bunch in the back matter of my book.  I think the best thing to get started is to trust yourself first and then find your people.  If your gut tells you it’s the right thing and you know in your heart it is, you have to listen to that. Not everyone is going to believe in your vision or support you but the difference you and what you do makes and having good people in your corner who do believe in you make it all worth it.


What advice would you give to adults on how they should support children in their community who have ideas on how to create positive change?
First, if you are inspired by something they’ve said, help raise their platform by talking to them and seeing how you can help (never use their ideas without permission or credit!). Also, trust the kids’ experience and perspective because we have so much we can learn from each other.


What do you hope readers will take away and remember most about your journey?
More than Peach is all about living your best life.  In my outreach and desire to see the world, I’ve been to some really amazing places including Kenya, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, and England and have met so many cool people!  So I want kids to read my books, use More than Peach school supplies and think about how big the world is and how much we can learn from it and each other. It’s really about curiosity and being comfortable enough in your own skin that your best life happens now.  I’m the World’s 1st Crayon Activist, true.  But I’m living this life every day and I promise myself that it’s going to be a life full of joy, kindness, compassion, optimism, and freedom. My journey may be a bit bizarre but I trust the universe.  And I bet life’s gonna continue to be amazing. That’s what it’s all about.