There aren’t too many people who could live the roadie life without even being in a band, but Nicole Stephens is a special case.
Stephens is a 23-year-old freelance photographer who has spent her summer traveling in a tour bus (hers being a fairly large and hard-to-miss orange one) along the route of the hugely successful Vans Warped Tour.
Stephens has a few highlights of her time on the road and at concerts.
“There were a lot of really awesome acts. Two of my favorites were Silent Planet and Hail The Sun,” Stephens said. “I like that they use their platform on tour to speak about issues that aren’t being spoken about.”
Other favorites? “Good Charlotte was incredible. 3OH!3 was very fun, like a huge dance party.”
Though she loves the music on tour, there is a more pressing reason that Stephens is traveling across the country.
As previously mentioned, Stephens is not in a band but is instead a truth rider, using her trip to as an opportunity to develop personally, connect with new people, and to dedicatedly accomplish an impressive mission.
“It’s a completely attainable goal to end smoking,” Stephens said.
She is confident in saying this, and luckily she has a large ally behind her to help, one aptly-named truth.
truth is the nation’s longest-running youth tobacco prevention campaign. Not only is Nicole Stephens helping to spread truth‘s mission by riding around on tour and seeing some of her favorite bands, she is also able to make a major difference by connecting with Warped Tour attendees, something she says is “so rewarding and makes me so happy.”
Stephens will make over 40 stops on the tour and interact with tons of kids, hoping to gain them as fellow allies in the fight to end smoking, giving them the tools to save their lives and the lives of others. She’s an activist in truth‘s initiatives, keeping people informed and interested in making truth‘s mission come to life.
How did Stephens herself gain enough ambition to become a part of such a major movement? It started by watching TV.
Stephens was inspired to join truth by seeing a thought-provoking commercial, one that depicted body bags in order to relay the message of smoking’s side effects.
“I thought it was such a cool commercial… I identified with it because it’s so aggressive,” Stephens said of the commercial’s unique and shocking method of relaying the important message, a truth specialty.
The commercial’s impact was not temporary for Stephens. In fact, the commercial stuck with her as smoking hit close to home.
“As I got older, I had friends that started smoking. It seemed silly,” Stephens said. “Did you not see the truth commercials?”
Stephens didn’t only recognize truth‘s significance in her friendships. She also felt the necessity of its message in the family relationships that could have been.
“My grandfather on my mother’s side passed away from smoking-related illness. The fact that I have never met him… it bothers me.” Stephens said. “If he were never a smoker, he would be in my life today.”
She decided to use her emotions to make a difference and to get involved.
The changes that she has seen have left her astonished and have validated her experiences and efforts on the road so much so that she is now finishing up her second summer as a truth rider.
“Seeing the teen smoking rate drop from 8% to 7% in a year was really cool… It’s a huge thing to drop the teen smoking rate by talking to kids,” Stephens said, emphasizing the power of the current generation and those like her.
truth riders are given the chance to connect with young people on Vans Warped Tour and to get feedback from kids about their thoughts about smoking and its possible effects on their futures. Stephens gets to encourage people to use their voice in order to create change and to meet artists that advocate for change themselves.
The overall goal is to end smoking, and truth believes one of the greatest ways to accomplish that is to start working with young people, which is one of Stephens’ favorite parts.
“For me, the best part is just consistently being able to reach out to kids and talk to them,” Stephens said.
According to truth, 90% of adult smokers start smoking by age 18. 99% of adult smokers are addicted by 26. truth‘s mission is to nip tobacco addiction in the bud by providing young people with tools and information. In this case, knowledge is power.
Not only does Stephens get to make major changes in statistics and get to meet new people, she also is able to create, something about which she’s extremely excited.
Stephens says she’s been able to learn more about some of her favorite hobbies, like blogging and video editing, as well as her greatest passion: photography.
As a photographer, it can only be assumed that Stephens has an amazing eye on Instagram.
“One of my favorite people to follow on Instagram is Jonathan Kemp. He’s out on tour right now with Waka Flocka Flame, which is wild,” Stephens said. “I check him out almost daily for some real inspiration.”
Luckily, she says truth‘s Instagram is “fun, colorful and cool.”
Though Warped Tour is winding down, there are still plenty of truth events to come and as well as some new focuses for upcoming truth campaigns.
One thing that won’t change? Stephens’ confidence in the power of youth and being outspoken.
“We can be the generation to end smoking,” Stephens said.
And if she has it her way, this won’t be her last tour in the big, orange bus. Her dedication to the cause is obvious, and it doesn’t have as much to do with the music or the touring as it does with her admirable passion for using her platform to create groundbreaking change.
“I’d love to do this for years to come and for as many offers as I get, I’d love to do the tour again and again.”