- Posted November 17, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Young People Who Rock
YPWR- Emily Hwang
Currently, a startling 92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest. In a society in which girls are continuously bombarded with incredible pressure to look and act a certain way, confidence and individualism have painfully dwindled. This changing society has decreed that our female role models are no longer our mothers, teachers, and leaders, but the under-weight stars of our favorite reality shows, music videos, and Hollywood films. Women continue to go to extremes to achieve physical perfection, whether it be obtaining plastic surgery or developing an eating disorder. I myself suffered from anorexia- nervosa for three years and entered a state of depression and self-hatred at the tender age of 12. Throughout my childhood, I never once looked in the mirror and thought myself beautiful, and the sad part is, most women in the United States could say the same. In fact, only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful, according to Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. With so many women dissatisfied with themselves, how will be able to cultivate a future generation of girls who are empowered and confident enough to make a difference in the world?
Currently I am a member of the non- profit organization called Girls Helping Girls in which girls from around the world work to empower one another through youth leadership, cross- cultural collaboration, and education. As the new Program Director of a branch of the organization called the Fund-for-Respect, I introduced the idea of taking our empowerment movement to the next level and directly challenging the self-esteem and body image issues that plague millions of girls around the world. This past summer, I introduced the idea to hold a national art contest that asked girls to express their perceptions of beauty through any kind of artwork, media presentation, or literature. We wanted to utilize this art contest to empower girls to discover their own creativity: every person is an artist, because every person has the innate capacity to bestow self-expression on the world around her. By stimulating girls to think profoundly about how they portray beauty in their minds and then articulate this vision through art, we predicted that not only would we be able to promote a healthy outlet for self expression but also foster and extend the fact that beauty cannot be conformed to one image. We wanted girls to realize for themselves that true beauty has absolutely nothing to do with one’s face—but is born from and enriched by one’s soul. Physical beauty varies by culture, generation, and society, but the one beauty that remains universally constant lies within. We wanted to promote this idea and empower girls to start looking past achieving physical perfection and toward becoming a holistically beautiful person. With this mission in mind, I decided to call it the “Mirror Mirror Art Contest.”
To ensure the success of this art contest, I applied for and received a Do Something Grant that was used as scholarship money for the winning applicants. I sent letters and emails to art professors, asking them to participate in the contest as judges. Then, I proceeded to use social networking to find an artist that was willing to create a publicity poster for the contest. I publicized the art contest through scholarship websites and got permission from 7 school districts around town to put posters up on local high school campuses. The Mirror Mirror Art Contest attracted more than 10, 000 students this past year and we had a total of 1,057 art pieces that were successfully submitted, received, and reviewed. Through a careful deliberation process, we were able to announce three first place winners in the categories of visual artwork, photography, and literary art, who were each awarded $500 scholarships.
There is not a word in the English language that can describe the emotions I felt when I saw the artwork that these girls from all different ethnicities and backgrounds sent in. When I first introduced the idea of holding this art contest, I felt the need to share my experience of self discovery. But I feel that I’ve learned more than I expected along the way. I now fully understand the immense power of a holistically beautiful woman and I can sense the need for more of them in the world. And I feel empowered by the fact that the actions of Girls Helping Girls are encouraging a new generation of them.