July 15, 2009
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? We often look at the image staring back and point out flaws that need to be changed. A flatter tummy, smaller nose, smoother skin is what we note. But what if we celebrate and honour what we have already. Love our stomachs, laugh lines, and radiant eyes because they make us beautiful.
Taking pride is who we see in their mirror every morning hit home a few days ago when I had the privilege to view the Beautiful Women Project. Artist Cheryl-Ann Webster conceived the project after discovering her daughter’s 13-year-old friend was saving money for breast implants. She realized that very few people love their reflection; in fact 93% of Canadian women want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. This fact should come as no surprise when we see that our locus of comparison is the same uninspired beauty ideal staring at us back from almost every magazine.
Determined to challenge this beauty ideal, Cheryl-Ann worked with 120 real women between the ages of 19 to 91 to create visual role models who reflect us. She made a clay mould of each of the 120 women’s front torsos from their necks to their hiplines. She then decorated the surface of each mould to reflect each woman’s inner beauty. As she worked with the women, she asked, “Why did you volunteer for my Project?” Some offered their body in honour of a loved one battling cancer or who had passed away; others chose to partake as another step in their personal discovery or healing; many wanted to face their own body image issues.
Her first exhibition of the Beautiful Women Project opened to the public in Kingston, Ontario in January 2006. Since then, the exhibition has toured communities and showed people the true panorama of our human splendor. My recent viewing of the exhibit left me with a beauty challenge for all of us: Look in mirror and, aloud, tell yourself three parts of your body that you find beautiful. Each day, add a new body part to your list and rediscover why you are beautiful just the way you are.