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Dr. Carla Stokes

Watch Dr. Carla In Action

Brief Biography


Dr. Carla Stokes, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a professional speaker and certified success coach for life, school and business. A multi-passionate social entrepreneur, Dr. Carla is the founder of Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)®, an award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underserved young women and girls to develop leadership skills, create positive social change in their communities and realize their full potential. She also provides health education, self-empowerment, and personal development programs for women, youth and girls through her speaking, coaching and consulting practice.  Known for translating academic research into innovative and youth-friendly programs, she is respected as an authority and trailblazer in the fields of adolescent health and behavior, girl culture, and positive youth development.

Through her pioneering research and transformational work as an educator and coach, Dr. Carla passionately helps youth and girls build resilience, make healthy choices and reach their full potential; empowers parents to communicate effectively with their daughters and help them thrive during the teen and tween years; and prepares educators and concerned adults to deliver effective girls’ programming. As a business coach and mentor to women who work with girls, she teaches her clients how to monetize their passions and build enjoyable and profitable businesses so they can have a bigger impact without burning out.

A sought-after, engaging, down-to-earth, and memorable speaker, Dr. Carla has lectured widely around the United States to diverse audiences of women, youth, girls, parents, educators and concerned adults at scientific meetings, national conferences, schools, and community-based organizations.  Her work has been featured in respected national media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Heart & Soul Magazine, and Daughters.  She has also been interviewed as an expert on morning shows and television networks around the United States such as NBC, CBS and Fox.

Dr. Carla graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and departmental honors in Psychology.  She earned Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Public Health degrees (with distinction) from the University of Michigan and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Dr. Carla taught courses on women’s health and representations of women in hip hop and popular culture as an instructor in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.  Her pioneering scholarly research on the influence of hip hop, popular culture, and social media on adolescent girls’ health, sexuality, identity and body image has been published in academic journals and books, including the international peer-reviewed journal, Culture, Health & Sexuality and Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity, edited by Sharon Mazzarella.

Find out more about Dr. Carla and download free tips and resources for parents, educators, caring adults, and women who work with girls at

Dr. Carla coaching a group of girls

Dr. Carla leading a workshop


Above: Dr. Carla speaking on a panel sponsored by the
Women’s Initiative Task Force for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Dr. Carla has devoted two decades to health education and youth development programming.  As a young woman coming of age in the hip hop generation, she struggled to develop a positive self-image and overcame low self-esteem, unhealthy body image, peer pressure, toxic friendships and unhealthy relationships.  These experiences serve as the motivation for her life’s work and enable her to relate first hand to many of the challenges faced by today’s young women and girls.

During her freshman year at Spelman College in the 90’s, Dr. Carla tapped into her passion for health education and youth empowerment while volunteering as a peer health educator and mentor to underserved youth at numerous schools and community organizations in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C.  After realizing that the existing sexuality education and violence prevention curricula needed to be adapted in order to effectively reach her peers in the hip hop generation, she developed her own creative lesson plans and materials that utilized popular TV shows, movies, and hip hop/R&B songs and videos to educate urban teens about sexuality, HIV/AIDS, dating violence, and other health and social justice issues.  Through these efforts, she recognized the need for youth-friendly, age appropriate, and culturally relevant health education programs and decided to pursue graduate studies in public health and social work at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Carla and pre-teens after a keynote at a girl empowerment event

After completing her Master of Public Health degree and spending a year working as a health consultant in the Washington, DC area, Dr. Carla answered an urgent call to continue her education and dedicate her life to improving the health and lives of young women and girls. Shortly after returning to the University of Michigan to pursue her Ph.D., she founded Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)® in November 2001 with only $20 and a passionate vision for educating youth and empowering disadvantaged young women and girls to realize their full potential.

Since its humble beginnings as an HIV/AIDS education initiative for black young women and teen girls delivered in a social networking site, HOTGIRLS has transformed under Dr. Carla’s leadership into an award-winning youth-driven 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has positively impacted thousands of youth from diverse backgrounds and concerned adults across the United States.  Now celebrating more than a decade of service, HOTGIRLS is dedicated to improving the health and lives of underserved young women and girls through leadership development, media education, peer health education and youth activism.

Dr. Carla is recognized as a pioneer in the use of hip hop, popular culture and social media to reach, educate and uplift youth and girls and promote positive images of women and girls in the media and society.  She is deeply connected to today’s young women and girls and serves as a bridge between youth and those who care about, educate, mentor, and advocate for them.  Over the years, she has listened to the concerns of thousands of women, youth, parents, educators, and professionals and is recognized for her ability to effectively engage and connect with people of all ages from diverse racial/ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Current Projects

Dr. Carla is currently creating educational and coaching products and programs devoted to healing, inspiring, uniting and uplifting women and girls. Find out more and receive tips and updates for teen girls, parents, and girl-serving adults and organizations by visiting her website.