Redefining beauty

'Selfie' project encourages girls to see beauty in their own way

With scantily clad, perfectly toned models on magazine covers, pop music stars with skin that appears flawless and television shows dedicated to exploring which “hot” woman will snag the even-hotter bachelor, it’s tough to be a girl these days.

However, students in Jennifer Bohn-Snapp’s classes at Jemtegaard Middle School in Washougal aren’t letting these images define beauty for them.

Instead, they are reshaping it, along with the help of their mothers and modern technology.

Inspired by Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and its documentary “Selfie,” which features real mothers and daughters talking about how they feel about their appearance, Bohn-Snapp challenged her students to use their cell phones to take an “honest” self-portrait, known as a “selfie,” with no filters or editing. She asked their mothers, or other influential female figures, to set an example by doing the same.

“I had more than 50 girls who were really eager to do this,” she said. “The challenge was persuading their moms.”

Bohn-Snapp wanted the adults to participate because, sometimes, mothers pass their insecurities down to their daughters when they complain about their thighs, face, wrinkles or other body parts they may not like.

“What the girls took away from this project is that they are all gorgeous,” she said. “Their differences are what make them beautiful.”

She is preparing the portraits for a gallery showing to be held in the school’s library at 6 p.m. Friday, after the school dance.

Art teacher Gabrielle Iversen is assisting with enlarging the photos and matting them for display.

Bohn-Snapp noted that the pressure to conform to a specific image can lead to destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self-mutilation and eating disorders.

“Beauty is being strong, brave and being happy with you,” she said. “A lot of girls compare themselves to what they see in magazines and on TV. Feeling pressure to fit in and conform to a specific mold is common. This project asks women to take a risk and put a true image of themselves out there without worrying about their own insecurities, whether it’s braces, an imperfect complexion, glasses, or anything else we might worry about.”

Seventh-grader Taylor Bollenbaugh and her mom submitted photos for the project.

“Most girls wish they could be as pretty as their best friend,” she said. “It makes me kind of sad because they don’t realize that they are beautiful and they don’t need to look like someone else.”