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Breaking the silence

From victim of abuse to motivational speaker and beauty queen, Storm Hurlbatt has risen from the ashes stronger than ever. And she’s taking a stand to help others.

An established financial advisor from Glen Hills – who specializes in educating and empowering women and their financial futures – twenty-five-year-old Storm Hurlbatt is the face of Miss Unseen International 2020, Miss KwaZulu-Natal 2021, and a finalist for Miss Grand South Africa 2021. But equally importantly – if not more so – she’s making waves across the country with her campaign MakeNoise360, a platform she’s created in a bid to change the culture of violence and injustice in our society.

Her motivation? Healing. Because every story shared means a voice has been heard and, as a result, the powerless become empowered.

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‘I always considered myself a misfit. As a young girl, I never had many friends. I had a single mom for many years and I know how difficult it was for her to work four jobs to put me through school. She didn’t have any help with finances and she didn’t have any protection when she got sick. In 2005 she had a terrible accident and she was unable to work for months. If it wasn’t for my grandparents we would have been on the streets.’

It is this upbringing, coupled with her own traumatic past marred by sexual abuse, that has become the foundation upon which Storm has established herself as a motivational speaker, determined to change lives. ‘I embrace the fact that I have a broken past, but I don’t let it define me.

Photo: Ashleigh Wegener Studios

‘I spent a great deal of my childhood in silence; ashamed and afraid, and hiding my story from the world, which only led me down a dark path of loneliness and depression. Then one day I attended an ALPHA course. They gave me a safe space to share whatever I wanted to without feeling ashamed. This is where I told my story for the first time … and it changed my life forever. I realised I wasn’t alone, and this is how I started to heal.’

An advocate for self-love and self-worth, Storm believes these are only possible when we are not holding onto shame and guilt.

‘Some women hold onto these, as well as rejection, for most of their lives. They never truly look at themselves and think “damn I am amazing”.  The only way to self-love and self-worth is by letting go of shame and of our pasts. How do we do this? By showing people our vulnerabilities and embracing them. Pour out your heart, tell people what you are afraid of, tell them what you feel, speak out, speak out, speak out. And then don’t always expect a reply.’

Storm founded MakeNoise360 to equip, empower and give women the courage and the tools to cope and become the best versions of themselves.

‘MakeNoise360 is a movement. It’s a way of life I hope most people will be inspired by and adopt. More than that, it is a platform for individuals who have faced injustices, or who have experienced something that has kept them captive or quiet, to share their stories – when they are comfortable – in order to help others who might have gone through something similar.

‘At some point in our lives, most of us feel alone in some of our experiences – abuse, bullying, loneliness, depression, divorce, break ups, identity issues, discrimination, financial issues… the list is endless. The sad reality is that by staying silent, we are actually hurting ourselves even more. We end up losing our voices and we become powerless.’

And that she is not. With flexible working hours, Storm, in partnership with Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre, Drinkerbell, ProjectMe and Stand United SA, confidently shares her story and spreads her message of courage and hope at private events, women’s conferences and local schools. And she’s using her success in the beauty pageant world to make an even bigger impact.

Photo: Ashleigh Wegener Studios

‘The glitz and the glam was never what attracted me to pageantry; it was the change it could bring. You have women and girls looking up to you all the time, and I needed to connect with that audience. I‘ve had so many women and girls contact me and tell me about what they are going through – sexual abuse, physical assault, mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders and so much more.’

By sharing her story, Storm believes others have felt safe enough to come forward about their own. Slowly but surely they have begun to find peace and take their voices back.

‘My view on women in the world is this – they are the corner stone to every problem we face in the world. Educate women and they will create the top health care systems in the world; put more women into political roles and you’ll see more peace and resolutions than ever seen in history before; educate, upskill and provide opportunity for a woman and she will go back to her community and feed, educate and upskill them. Women need to stand together more than ever. One voice can create influence, many voices will demand change.’

When she’s not dishing out financial advice or helping shape the futures of others, Storm is very active within and runs the online Alpha for Grace Family Church.

‘My faith and my family play a major role in my life, but I am always on call for others. MakeNoise360 is me – I live it and breathe it. ProjectMe and Stand United SA are my back up if there are emergencies and women need immediate help or counselling. All I want for me… is to live the most authentic life possible and help people along the way.’

‘I am still a misfit, but not for the same reasons as before. I am a very strong and determined woman with an incredibly big heart. I have a loud laugh and quirky ways. But most of all I have courage, because I show my vulnerabilities and I share them with the world.’

Keys to coping in life

  • Remember that you can only do what you can do. You cannot stress over things you cannot change.
  • Take a deep breath and write down steps for things you can do to try and cope better.
  • Confide in a friend or a family member who you trust. At least this way, you’ll have the space to rant when you need to.
  • Stop yourself from hiding away at home and get out. Whether it’s the gym or a walk around the block, work off your frustrations and stress, while burning calories.
  • Have incredible faith – whether it is in God or the universe or your higher power, but mostly have faith in YOU.
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