Beautiful (written by me and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff) is a book of few words. But the topic of beauty and how it impacts girls is incredibly complicated. My editor Lisa wrote me a four-page letter while we were revising this book, and I sent her back the polished manuscript and an essay. I believe it's the first time she'd ever received an essay with a picture book manuscript.
I'd love to share with you some of the things Lisa and I learned while creating this book. (Don't worry. It's not the full essay.)
We compliment little girls on their looks and not other strengths. I've noticed that I do this often. Meeting a young girl, I might say, "You're so cute," or "I love your hair." However, with a little boy, I might notice a dinosaur shirt and ask, "Do you like dinosaurs?" I need to stop making appearances the first part of the conversation. Compliments are great, but I now try to look deeper.
The mirror is different for everyone. Women often use the mirror to study flaws: wrinkles, gray hairs, bags under the eyes. Men, more often, see their positive traits. Young children can consider a mirror a toy and enjoy making goofy faces or trying to outwit their reflection. Is there a way to keep young girls from seeing the mirror as a tool for self-criticism?
Some Interesting Research:
- 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful (Dove Self-Esteem Project)
- Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’ (Dove Self-Esteem Project)
- 55%-59% of girls between the ages of 6 and 8 think they need to be thinner. (Common Sense Media Research)
- 53% of 13-year-old American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." (National Institute on Media and the Family)
- 78% of 17-year-old American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." (National Institute on Media and the Family)
My definition of beauty. My editor asked me to create a definition for this book. What did I want to convey? After reading countless articles, blog posts, and research, this is my definition of what it means to be BEAUTIFUL.
True beauty is a confidence found in what you do and how you feel. When a girl is doing something kind or challenging or fun, her inner beauty overwhelms her exterior, no matter what she wears or how her hair looks. When a girl feels empowered or strong or smart, the same thing happens.