I can't think of a better way to finish up 2018 and head into the New Year than going back to what it's all about. This is why I've always loved photography; it's a wonderful way to empower girls to feel beautiful in their own skin, and embrace all the things that make them unique. Psalm 139 says, "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" That is a promise for each and every girl, that God has created us for a purpose, with our own identity, looks, and personality, and it's something worth celebrating. The world needs us to share that!
I didn't always feel that way, and if you saw my senior portraits you'd see a girl who had photoshopped her legs and butt smaller, toned up her arms, and removed every single imperfection from her skin. Struggling with self hate and an eating disorder through high school trapped my mind into seeing myself as never good enough. My athletic legs weren't small enough, the gap in my teeth unfortunate, and well, compared to everyone else I just wasn't pretty. I loved and admired my friends, every bit of them, but couldn't pass that grace along to myself - learning to accept both the good and the bad.
It wasn't until I believed what God says about me that I was able to see myself as beautiful, and that meant I no longer had to work out hours a day, try every diet under the sun, or photoshop any photos of myself that went up on Facebook! In a world that pushes a fake perfection on teens, knowing that God loved me just the way I am was overwhelmingly freeing!
Now I want every girl to live in the freedom God gives!
This December, 16 high school girls from all over the Madison area (and one from Florida!) chose to show up without makeup and receive photos without any retouching. I think everyone was a little nervous, but it was so cool how everyone's nerves made each person feel more comfortable! When we struggle with our body and identity, we often feel so alone. Realizing that every. single. person. has had doubts or insecurities can help us feel more confident and comfortable sharing ours. You're not alone!
I can't express how proud I am of all the girls in these photos. They were all so engaging, kind, and encouraging in a setting where most didn't know the others. I don't think anyone left without a giant smile on their face, feeling more confident and ready to share what makes them beautiful.
Please look through the photos and read some of the stories from the girls. Recognize what makes them an individual and celebrate that; all while seeing that just because you're different it doesn't mean you're less than. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the world needs your beauty too ❤️
I'm Diamond, I'm a model but when I had signed up for this event that involved no makeup or editing I was a bit nervous. Weeks and days leading up to the event I was super excited. Then, it came to the day of the shoot and I was nervous and not confident.
As we pulled into the location conversation with my best friend and parents sounded like "I don't feel good, I'm not ready, what if no one likes us?" Parents being parents told us we would be fine. Inside when we started meeting up with everyone my nerves got even worse! I don't wear makeup but my confidence was still really low. Once we finished introducing ourselves to everyone we were split into smaller groups.
My best friend and were paired with another set of best friends. We clicked instantly and the nerves just faded from there! Everyone was so sweet and we were all so similar to each other that we had nothing to be afraid of. Being comfortable let us bring out our true selves with singing and dancing. Connecting with everyone made me feel good and confident with myself and all the activities truly showed me I am perfect just the way I am.
When sharing these photos I want everyone to know that they are perfect and beautiful just the way they are. Leaving this event was exciting knowing we had just mad a lot of new friends, some that will be long term, and I was leaving with way more confidence then when I came in. Even better was sharing with my parents everything we did and I learned. This event just put a huge smile on my face and had a huge impact with my confidence and I hope seeing these pictures will teach others as well. I now love myself more inside and out thanks to these wonderful pictures.
Emily, Senior, Oregon High School //
I absolutely loved this opportunity to be a part of such a fun shoot with so many great girls! I am also grateful to have learned so much through this event; I learned once again that I am beautiful just as God made me! I learned that even with what I think are my imperfections, I am beautiful in God's eyes and he loves me just the way I am.
I plan on using these photos to show my friends, family, and others that I know how even without makeup and editing how amazing all of these photos turned out. In all of the photos you can really see the girls natural beauty and that's what we should be focusing on when posting to social media. I want to encourage others to focus on their natural beauty and to find one thing they love about their appearance. I also plan on posting more of the pictures on social media to show others that follow me that pictures don't need to be edited to be beautiful!
Grace // During the event I learned that most girls are insecure about how they look compared to others. Having the other girls to say nice things about us while we were in front of the camera was really uplifting and made me smile.
Nicole, 16, Stoughton High School // Through Project Beauty I learned how to embrace my flaws and have confidence to matter what.
Drew // I learned that real and true beauty comes from within, and that everybody is truly beautiful in their own way. During the shoot I met so many amazing girls that I connected with not just because we had the same interests, but the same insecurities. Immediately we started encouraging each other, telling each other "of course your eyes are beautiful!" and "your hair is literally perfect!" and I realized that if we can say this to someone else, we can say it to ourselves. It is very important to take care of yourself just as you would your friends, because self care is extremely important in believing that you are as beautiful as ever."
My name is Elizabeth and I'm a senior at Stoughton High School, I swim, and love being with friends. I wanted to do this event because I usually always have makeup on, at least mascara, but I wanted to try something different. I had so much fun being there and seeing everyone in their natural state and I think we were all in the same boat with being a little nervous, but everyone seemed so happy. I loved the shoot and just talking and getting to know everyone, and would definitely recommend doing it again! It brought out confidence that I thought was buried in me and it felt good to share the photos and tell my story.
Sophia // I have never posted a picture of myself without makeup on any social media accounts. I have always felt like I wasn't good enough or pretty enough. I have never felt as if I fit my own definition of beauty. So when I had the opportunity to participate in Project Beauty with Sarah, I was honestly super nervous but also extremely excited for a new adventure. When I got to the location, I was met with smiles and positivity. We discussed how our own definition of beauty can really distort what it means to be beautiful and what true beauty looks like. In those moments we were all vulnerable but it was so amazing to come to a realization that we are all good enough and we are all beautiful in different ways. Everyone at the event was super supportive and empowering. Project Beauty completely exceeded my expectations and it was a day I will never forget.
Meg // I had so much fun during Project Beauty and felt so included in every activity. All of the girls were so sweet!! It made me want to get involved in more projects like this.
Sydney // I've never been happy with myself. I always judge the tiny little details, and honestly hate most things about myself. But when I heard the idea for Project Beauty I thought it was such a great idea to help girls like me feel comfortable in their own skin.
At the event I met a lot of beautiful girls who were so happy and fun, it really changed my outlook on beauty. The differences between us are what show real beauty, and I think that that is really important for people to know. I still don't love everything about myself, but I'm working on realizing that God has a plan for and he doesn't make mistakes.
During this event, girls were split into groups of four. They went through various activities besides photography. During speed dating, pairs asked each other questions then were asked to describe the girl they'd just met. These are just some of the things they had to say about one another:
"You are so kind, and really see the world through bright eyes! Your smile really shines ... you have an amazing heart and your light and beauty shine through your words"
"You are very calm and friendly, and really made me more comfortable when I was able to talk to you! You have such a sweet smile, and are beautiful!"
"You are comfortable, talkative, and funny! You are beautiful just the way you are, and should never let anyone tell you differently!"
At one of the stations, girls were given a card with the outline of a person and asked to fill it in with their answers to:
1. When you look in the mirror, how would you describe yourself?
2. How do you think the world describes beauty?
3. Look back at the words you used. In what ways do you compare yourself to the world's standard of beauty?
What would your answers be?
Now, go share a little more of your real self out there. Whether that means some extra self care, encouraging your friends, or being bold on social media and sharing something hard. You're not alone, and you're beautiful just the way you are ❤️
"Define yourself as one radically loved by God. This is your true self. Every other identity is an illusion." - Brennan Manning
Keep an eye out for an exciting announcement regarding Project Beauty in the near future! If you are interested in participating in a similar event, or hosting one for your youth group, church, etc., please contact me above.
A huge THANK YOU to Sarah Kay Photography for helping with photos, Brooke for all her help with activities, and The Purple Goose for providing such a beautiful space!