Legacy of Beauty…a sneak peek

A couple of months back I asked all of you to submit photos to me of the women and girls in your family for a video called the Legacy of Beauty Project that I wanted to create to show that beauty is found in each of us, it is not something to be found on a magazine advertisement or billboard for a fashion house or a surgically altered Hollywood star.

I received hundreds of photos, and equally beautiful stories to tell me about the women and girls in your lives that you loved and cherished. It was both very moving and a great privilege to have had that shared with me.

Beauty is what we pass down in our families, from generation to generation, from mother to child. Beauty is found in the arch of an eyebrow, the curl of a lock of hair, the wrinkles on the back of a hand. Beauty is the dimple at the end of a smile, a twinkle in the eye, the shape of the legs that carry us through life. Beauty is looking just like our grandmother, sharing the shape of our aunt’s eyes, having wavy hair just like mom, or picking up the exact giggle and snort of the mother who adopted us.

Beauty is what we define for ourselves.

Because we are the beautiful ones.

Here is a sneak peek:

The full video featuring ALL of your photos will be out soon. I wanted to create some original music for us again, and asked a good friend of Pigtail Pals to help us out. But as often happens, life put a few bumps in the road and the project was delayed. I promise the end result will be well worth the wait.

Review: TGR Body

TGR Body creator Tracee Sioux believes labels matter.

I love being outside. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I just want to be outside when I’m doing it. I also love protecting my skin, and putting healthy products on my body. Same holds true for my children, because I know how important it is to keep toxins, carcinogens, and hormone disruptors away from their tiny, developing systems.

So I’m delighted when my colleague and fellow powerhouse blogging mama Tracee Sioux of The Girl Revolution contacts me about this new line of organic, empowering body, skin, and hair care she’s developed. TGR Body was launching soon, and I replied immediately saying please send me samples.
Then I remembered it was February. In Wisconsin. It would easily be six weeks before we were outside playing and needing sunscreen. Sigh.
Fast forward to mid March…and we get our first day of nearly 60 degrees! My kids are outside, half naked in the backyard mud like white on rice. I manage to catch them long enough to mist their faces, backs and tummies with TRG Body’s Natural Beauty Sunblock Mist with SPF 30. They report back to me the spray makes them feel “fizzy”. I have no idea what that means.
While they wallow in the mud, I grab my laptop to check out Tracee’s blog post about labels, and what inspired her to create the TGR Body. The images on the labels are awesome. And unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a beauty product. About labels, Tracee says,“I wanted to use images that are bold and powerful. Images that show girls doing what girls do: swinging, biking, snowboarding, hiking. I wanted to use images that allow a girl to put herself in the image, rather than some trumped up, over hyped beauty ideal that has almost no relationship to girls’ reality. So, I chose bold and powerful silhouettes of girls doing active things for the TGR Body labels.”
I love it! Really love it. I misted some TGR Body Natural Beauty Sunblockon myself and went outside to play. The product felt light and clean and applied easily. There was the faintest hint of the summery-beachy sandy-towel aroma. The kids and I played outside in the sun from 11am-2pm, they were shirtless (I was not). They came inside covered in mud and grime and went straight to the tub, and once scrubbed clean showed no signs of “getting sun”. While they were flopping around in the tub playing killer whales, I was looking at the label again. I love the emphasis on natural beauty – both in having it and protecting it. I turned the bottle around to read the organic ingredients, and was struck by the products instructions:
Protect your natural, inherent beauty by preventing sun damage and skin cancer with this sunscreen. Spray it on exposed skin, especially face and hands. Look in the mirror and say, “I am naturally beautiful.”
Whoa! So I’ve seen plenty of products that tout organic ingredients and not being tested on animals, which I think is really great, but….
when was the last time you bought a beauty product with the instructions to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are naturally beautiful?
TGR Body is doing some really incredible stuff – with messaging, labels, environmentally responsible ingredients and packaging. I think I’m going to enjoy being a customer for a long time.
TGR products have an average price point of $15.00 and I highly recommend you try them out. Now if only Tracee could develop a potion that encourages my daughter to comb her hair.

Legacy of Beauty Project

We are the beautiful ones. We will pass a legacy of beauty to our daughters.

 The Legacy of Beauty Project was sparked by a comment on my blog post “Take Up Space”, in which the woman discusses feeling validation after viewing the media literacy project Killing Us Softly by Jean Kilbourne that breaks down and analyzes the impossible beauty standard given to us by the fashion and advertising industries. Validation that what she was seeing was a digital magic show, and that indeed she was beautiful. She had worth. 

What stuck in my mind is, “What if there are thousands of women who never see that documentary? Who don’t know every magazine image they see is retouched? Who don’t know the average fashion model is 5’10” and 114 pounds? Do they look right past the beauty in front of them, and in the women all around them? Will they continue to wait for an absolution that may never come?” 

The stats on the state of female body image, disordered eating/Eating Disorders, and thoughts on beauty are so low it makes my heart hurt. And now it is trickling down to our preschoolers. Yes, preschoolers. 

As a mother, a friend, a woman….I think this is all unacceptable. Mostly, we are failing our daughters.  

We need to make changes. Fast. 

And we hold the power of change. 

 The Legacy of Beauty Project is simple: WE are the beautiful ones. WE define beauty for ourselves. WE will give this legacy to our daughters. 

So let’s make a video, a collection of our beautiful images, along with some inspired music, to show each other, remind each other, teach other….WE are the beautiful ones. 

We will make our definition of beauty more inclusive, more loving, more tolerant. We will offer more grace to our sisters. We will love ourselves more. 

Here’s how it works: Email a photo of you, your daughter, or other girls/women in your family or group of friends to info@pigtailpals.com.Close ups or full body is fine. Casual snapshots or formal shots like weddings are fine. Makeup or no makeup is fine. Babies, kids, young adult, elderly….all fine. Why? Because we are beautiful throughout our entire life. 

Please limit your submission to four photos. Please have photos submitted by March 15, 2011. And please feel free to pass this along to your friends, as we need this message of beauty to reach as many as possible. 

Now pause, have you allowed yourself to feel beautiful today? 

Here I am, no makeup, in pajamas, and a head full of snot, as raw as I can get. We can do this. We can give the gift of beauty to each other. We can allow each other more grace.  

Fear of Fat: Preschool Girls and the Thin Ideal

*Cross posted with permission from Jennifer W. Shewmaker, Ph.D.*

The old and new Strawberry Shortcake, one of many old school children's characters getting sexier, thinner makeovers.

In a study published in 2010, Dr. Jennifer Harriger, a colleague at Pepperdine University, looked at how much girls aged 3-5 had internalized the thin ideal (the idea that beauty in females = thinness) and how they attributed stereotypes to others because of their weight (fat=lazy, stupid, has no friends while thin=nice, sweet, has friends).

Yes, you read that right, 3-5 year olds! You may be thinking, “Oh come on, kids that young don’t think about things like that.” But, according to Dr. Harriger’s research, there is a very strong research base out there that tells us that children as young as 3 years of age are already beginning to buy into the idea that for females, thinness is equal to goodness.

So what did she find? The little girls that were studied showed evidence of having already begun to internalize the thin ideal and to stereotype others based solely on their weight. What was interesting about this study is that they had girls choose from several different game pieces (like those in Candy Land) which were identical except for their weight. The kids chose pieces that represented themselves and a best friend. Up until now, research studies have shown that kids don’t tend to distinguish that much between thin and average weights. However, in this study, the girls more often chose thin game pieces over the average sized ones. Dr. Harriger thinks this may be due to the fact that in recent years, the thin ideal has been presented to very young children more strongly through products and entertainment.

For example, consider this photo below, which was commented upon on Feminist Fatale.com, comparing a Barbie doll from the 1990s to one manufactured today. As you can see, the proportions of the doll, while always ridiculous, have changed even more to emphasize the thin mid-section and curvaceous breast and behind.  There have been many recent make-overs of several well-loved children’s characters, such as that of Strawberry Shortcake, to give them shapes and appearances more in line with the thin ideal. This change in the characterization of positive characters is likely connected to the change in young children’s opinion of thin-vs-average weight.

Barbie may have changed over the years, but her body now looks like a Victoria Secrets model.

One of the saddest and most startling findings in this study had to do with the things that the little girls said about the different game pieces. For example, they said about the fatter piece “I hate her because she has a fat stomach” or “I don’t want to be her, she’s fat and ugly.” What’s worrying is that we also see girls as young as ages 5 and 6 talking about dieting and wanting to be thinner. It’s time to stop and think about the messages our young children are getting about body shape and value. It’s time for all of us to stand together and show our children that being healthy and good isn’t about being “thin,” but about so much more than that. Instead of focusing on thinness, let’s focus on strength, both of body and character.

Harriger, J.A., Calogero, R.M., Witherington, D.C., & Smith J.E. (2010). Body size stereotyping and internalization of the thin-ideal in preschool-age girls. Sex Roles, 63, 609-620. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9868-1


Jennifer W. Shewmaker, Ph.D., is Director of the School Psychology Training and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. She often writes on the media, sexualization, and parenting issues.

“Generations of Women, Finding Beauty Among Themselves”

A couple of days ago I shared this post with you from our guest Lee Skallerup Bessette. In some very moving passages she shared with us how easily a legacy of self-loathing and insecurity can be passed down between generations, and how she is determined to give her own young daughter healthier, more loving messages.

I don’t know what kind of woman society will value when my daughter is a teen ten years from now. I do know that I have to somehow figure out how to love myself. Everything that I saw, everything that I still see as a fault, I have to learn how to embrace it as a strength rather than a liability.  I already think that she is perfect in every way, and that won’t really change. If I want her to see herself that way, too, I can’t just tell her, I need to model it for her. That way, maybe I can break the cycle of women who see perfection all around themselves and never in themselves.

I am the mother to a daughter just a little older than Lee’s, and her words above made me teary. I hear and see too many women and girls out there that do not love themselves. I see it online, I hear it when I talk to girls, I read about it over and over again, I see it when the women in my fitness classes are self-conscious about their bodies, I hear it when my girlfriends talk about weightloss and dieting. It boggles my mind how controlling this is in our lives.

I love and appreciate my body. I am grateful for my health and my strength and my curves and my softness. I have muscle in the places I want it and softness in the places that show I am a woman who has had two children. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a beautiful woman looking back. I accept my entire body, even the places that would be considered “flaws”. Yes my former flat stomach is gone, and in its place is stretched out skin from when I was full with my children. I suppose I could give time to thinking about this, but I am too breathless at the magnificence of the two human beings my body made from scratch to really notice. I have defined beauty on my own terms.

Mothers have the responsibility to teach their daughters their own definition of beauty. Beauty is something WE own. Beauty is something WE give life to. Beauty is something WE create inside each of our familes, around each of our circles of women. It is not something that can be sold to us or packaged or photoshopped or glued to a billboard. It is OUR responsibility to not only define beauty on our own terms, but to then teach it to our daughters.

Recently my good friend and life coach Andrea Owen put forth a question to her Facebook community, “If you could have one wish this holiday season for a specific group of people, what would it be?” The asnwers given by such warm and caring people moved me. My answer: “For all of the girls out there who are insecure, unloved, and full of self-loathing to understand they are more beautiful than they will ever know.”

That is my wish. A girl’s heart is not meant to be beaten down and twisted and starved so that the companies who sell us things can turn a profit from this culture of insecurity they have manufactured. Each girl is born with a heart that is open to the joy and awe this world can bring to those willing to see it. As mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, grandmothers, and mentors, it is our job to protect the hearts of our daugthers. The health and happiness of the girls in this world rests on the shoulders of the women who care for them.

As the heads of our families, women need to define beauty on their own terms. All of our families are different, but each is beautiful. Each family has traits and physical features that repeat themselves with each generation of girls born to them. We honor our daughters by giving them a legacy of loving these traits and teaching these as the definition of beauty.

This time of year, when families from all over come together to celebrate various holidays and traditions, create a culture of beauty inside your own family:

  • Review old family photo albums and show your daughter how she looks like grandma and grandma looks like great-grandma, and share stories about their lives.
  • Spend time laughing and talking and sitting and playing and cooking and sharing with each other. The face is most beautiful when smiling. Create smiles.
  • Play dress up and take silly pictures. Sillyness looks beautiful on everyone.
  • Make time for family traditions, as your daughter will pass these down to her family some day.
  • Sing. Dance. Sing and dance. Dance, dance, dance.
  • Play flag football or shoot hoops or go sledding or ice skating. Show your daughter the joy of what her body can do.
  • For little girls, color or finger paint self-portraits or family portraits. If she is old enough, ask her to say three nice things about each woman and help her write them by each likeness.
  • For older girls, find a special dish or vase and fill it with little scraps of paper upon which you have written things and people and actions and places you find beauty in.
  • For adopted girls who may not share physical family traits, create a piece of art in silouhette, filling the form with wishes or funny family jokes or words that reflect her character. Family isn’t about genes, it is about heartbeats.
  • As a whole family, use ribbon and noodles and markers and colored paper (or scraps of wrapping paper) and whatever art supplies you can find to create self-portraits or collages with verse about what beauty means to your family.

We live in a culture that focuses on physical beauty. Our collective definition of beauty and those that fit inside of it needs to be expanded. As mothers, we need to take back the control over the messages that reach our daughters. If each of our daughters came from a family that had defined their own beauty and taught that to her, well oh my goodness. My wish would come true.