If You Could Rewrite ‘Beautiful’ Would The Definition Include You?

One of the reasons GirlTalkHQ was created was not only to inspire young women everywhere, but to expand the limited media-driven notion of what “beauty” is. When we think of beautiful women our minds immediately flick through the images of Sofia Vergara, Eva Longoria, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Blake Lively, and inevitably they are always dressed to the nine’s for an awards show with perfectly styled hair and makeup. Are we close?

Pushing this notion of what one industry thinks beauty should look like onto an entire generation, is dangerous and inaccurate.

So where does true beauty come from and how do we define it? It’s a loaded question that deserves sensitivity, time and focus. One girl who is dedicating her life to this cause is Irvina Kanarek, founder of Rewrite Beautiful, a non-profit organization helping young girls combat eating disorders in a unique way. We met with her recently to find out more of what she does and how her organization is creating an important movement in the lives of young girls.

After suffering with anorexia, bulimia and overeating for 8 years, in 2008 Irvina decided to do something positive and use her experience to help others. That’s how the idea for RB came about. At the time she was juggling 3 jobs as a nanny, an art teacher and a counselor at an eating disorder rehabilitation clinic.

All the girls she came into contact with had something in common; they were jeopardizing their lives to make themselves “beautiful”. The art students were experimenting with eating disorders while the rehab patients were dying from them. Irvina worried that the little girl she was a nanny for would one day grow up and be stuck in this cycle too. It was the same scary traits she would see during her own 8 year battle.

The thing that struck her most about these girls was that they all had talents and skills, but many, especially the ones at the clinic suffering with an eating disorder, were paralyzed to utilize them.

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One night she prayed to God about what she could do to help these girls. She felt an answer come to her in the form of another question “What would help YOU?” For Irvina, what helped her most was hearing other people’s stories, and realized that she needed to become a vehicle where girls could feel comfortable doing this. But she didn’t want to just share stories, as a lot of them were very dark and sad, and her belief is that you have to balance darkness with light. So the idea of adding art and creativity to the program came to her.

Irvina created Rewrite Beautiful in 2009 and was influenced by the D.A.R.E program which was taught in schools in the 90s. But why wasn’t there anything for eating disorders?

She cites a scary statistic “One third of America is obese and 1 in 4 girls has an eating disorder.”

As the organization grew and developed, Irvina realized that she didn’t just want to be another eating disorder awareness program, but wanted it to be something fun. So art became a huge part of of Rewrite Beautiful and is their signature “event”. They organize street teams to create street art with a message and leave it in the neighborhood for people to see. They do it very guerrilla style, making it fun and rebellious!

So why Street Art?

“The art world is very similar to the beauty world. You have all the high brow institutions and schools which set standards and definitions, but then you have street artists who say ‘screw you’ to all the rules and rule-makers and create their own brand of underground art which becomes popular. There are so many people and companies in the beauty industry who dictate to consumers what they think beauty is, from photographers, to magazines, to designers and critics. But what we try to do is say there’s so much more than just your definition, and we show girls a new way of seeing beauty” explains Kanarek.

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Along with their street art stunts, Irvina also conducts workshops in various schools and community groups where she shows a documentary about eating disorders, and a guest speaker shares their personal journey and triumph. She talks to groups of girls about their issues, answers their questions and by doing this educates them and dispel myths about eating disorders which often plague society due to misrepresentations by the media.

“The idea is that we don’t just talk about eating disorders, but we want to show girls how to swap unhealthy thoughts for creativity, kindness and strength. These are our three main themes.”

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For example, she talks about icons like Martin Luther King in her workshops. She asks the girls, “what do you think was his legacy, and what do people remember about him? Was it that he was tall, good looking, had great abs, great hair etc?” Instead she points out the things he was remembered for are the kinds of things they too can be known for, not just the outward appearance.

The message of Rewrite Beautiful is that the world will be missing out on you and all you have to offer, if you don’t start focusing on being creative, kind and strong toward yourself first and foremost.

“It’s sad that I hear some girls tell me they never thought of ‘beauty’ as one of their traits because they had such a narrow definition of it burned into their psyche. But we want to encourage girls to start looking inward first, about what they already have, rather that just blame the media or other people.”

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It’s crazy to think that we live in a society and an age that is so extremely advanced on many fronts, yet so far behind in others. Why has it become common practice to focus on the exterior when it comes to wanting to be beautiful or attractive? Where do our personalities, skills, passions and talents fit in with this definition?

Media is not the sole blame for all of this, we have to be accountable as people for the influence and noise we create in our social circles. Who influences us? What makes us think we are attractive or unattractive? How much of our inner selves do we focus on ‘preening’ each day as opposed to our exterior?

Irvina is currently writing a book compiled of a series of essays. The topics are Creativity, Kindness and Strength and each series has examples from women she has encountered through her work, her own experiences, as well as workshops and questionnaires that a reader can use to put these themes into practice.

Rewrite beautiful is an organization that has helped and is continuing to help many young women in the Southern California area, and eventually they want to expand their school workshops nationwide. We respect and admire the work Irvina and her team are doing, as running a non-profit or a start-up can be a very time and money-consuming project. But this is an important conversation she has started and we are certainly proud to be able to promote it.

What is your definition of beauty? How has your upbringing, your social circle, the media, relationships and education shaped your view of yourself and what you think attractiveness is?

If you are unhappy with the way you look because you feel you aren’t as pretty or beautiful as someone else, you to can start by swapping unhealthy thoughts for positive ones. Tap into your creativity. Start thinking kind thoughts toward yourself, as this will turns into kind thoughts toward others. Focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses. Realize that what you have to offer in life is important, and unique. If you don’t live to your full potential, the world will miss out on who YOU are.

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If you are interested in getting involved with Rewrite Beautiful and want to be part of their Street Art events, CLICK HERE, and follow them on Twitter.

asha_irvina

 

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