Today, as for decades past, society and media tell us what beauty often looks like – flawless skin, shiny blonde hair and a stick-thin body. But there’s a growing chorus that knows how damaging such stereotypes can be to a girl’s self esteem. That simple notion of altering the definition of beauty that sparked the creation of Beautiful Me – a fun and empowering day of hair, makeup, fashion and motivational speeches for 30 teens from in and around the capital region.
“The day is an opportunity for at-risk, vulnerable and deserving youth (this year it’s girls aged 13-19, but a boy has also participated in a past event) to experience fashion and makeup, but that is just a starting point—a common ground—to have the conversation about changing perceptions. We introduce the girls to power statements – “I am…” and “beauty is…” and quickly move beyond what they see in the mirror,” said Sheila Chisholm, event founder and president of event host Plugged In, a non-profit group whose mission is inclusion – allowing access to all regardless of abilities, language or economics.
“If someone says they hate that they’re fat, or they have a crooked tooth, we say, ‘okay, that’s something you don’t love, but what do you like about yourself? Maybe it’s their dimples, bravery or kindness. And we honour if the girls don’t want any of the hair, makeup or fashion. We partner each girl with a like-aged peer who encourages the girls to find their voice—to feel comfortable in their own skin – and discover their inner beauty.”
That idea of helping someone find their own beauty is what motivated Edmonton entrepreneur Monika Kupczak Ainslie to donate 30 hand-crafted headbands for the girls attending Beautiful Me, and to volunteer at the event’s fashion station. There, the girls will be able to try on different outfits, including a one-size-fits-all ‘infinity’ dress, if they’re so inclined.
“For me, it’s a simple thing, helping a girl who doesn’t think she can wear a headband see that she can. It’s magical to see that transformation,” said Kupczak Ainslie. She sells her earth-friendly bamboo fabric headbands through retailers like Seasons Gift Shop in St. Albert and via her website houseofkoopslie.com. “I remember feeling uncomfortable about myself at age 14 too. Helping the girls see their outer beauty helps them feel more beautiful on the inside, and it’s a gift that I get the opportunity to contribute to that experience.”