A 12-year-old beat out 16,000 other people to win a Google contest — 7 years later, she’s a successful artist

Grace Moon.

As a sixth-grader, Grace Moon had more people gaze at her artwork in one day than visit the Louvre museum in an entire year.

That’s the kind of audience you can garner when your work gets recognized by the most popular search engine in the world.

Back in 2008, Moon won Google’s inaugural US “Doodle 4 Google” contest, beating out 16,000 other kids from around the country to have her illustration featured on Google’s homepage. She also received a new laptop, a $10,000 scholarship, and $25,000 technology grant for her California middle school.

Fast-forward seven years and Moon’s now a published author and illustrator who doesn’t shy away from the word “artist” like she used to.

The college freshman can still remember her complete and utter shock when she won the Doodle contest. Google had invited her and 39 other finalists to its Mountain View HQ for a tour of the campus and a special awards dinner.

“They called my name and I went on stage, but when I went back to my hotel room that night I had to watch the footage on TV, because I could still barely believe it,” Moon tells Business Insider, laughing. “It took me a really long time to accept the fact that I had actually won.”

Here’s her winning design in response to Google’s “What If?” prompt:

Doodle 4 Google

Moon says that having Google select her artwork to display to 100 million people gave her a newfound confidence in her abilities.

“It validated my idea that I could actually draw,” she says. “Before, I had a fear of failure with my art. But it made me realize, ‘I can actually do this.'”

Moon started entering more contests — a handful of which she won, including a competition that led to her artwork getting hung in The White House. She also opted to self-publish a children’s’ book she wrote and illustrated, called “The French Toast Revolution.”

Grace Moon.

After continuing to pursue art throughout middle school and high school, Moon just started college as an architecture major in her home of South Korea, attending the prestigious Seoul National University.

For a while she agonized over whether to major in art, but ultimately decided to pursue architecture. (Or, as she and other freshmen struggling through a whirlwind of caffeine-fueled all-nighters refer to it, “archi-torture.”)

Moon eschewed a degree in her original passion after realizing that she didn’t need to study art in school to identify as an artist.

“The most important thing for an artist or writer is to keep that fire and passion burning within, wherever you may be and whoever you are with, and most importantly, no matter how unnerving or different the circumstances are,” Moon says. “Trust yourself.”

Even though she’s not focusing on art full-time, she’s currently working on the illustrations for a series of children’s books.

She’s also keeping her eyes peeled to see who will win this year’s Doodle 4 Google contest, which has the prompt “What makes me…me” and encourages entrants to create their art using any material.

For example, here’s one submission made out of clay:

Google Doodle

See more of Moon’s artwork on her website and learn more about Google’s competition here.

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