ABOUT THE PROJECT
The True Face of Teenage Beauty is a project dedicated to changing inaccurate media representation of teenagers, which leads to low self-esteem, and increasing awareness on the issue through photography. It was developed for a Girl Scout Gold Award.
Hi! My name is Miranda, and this is my project. I first came up with this idea when I was about 14, and I realized that media representation of people my age was totally inaccurate. Teens in TV shows and movies are almost always played by adults, or (especially in the case of cartoons), horribly over-exaggerated. Mean Girls, Riverdale, Love, Simon, 13 Reasons Why, Paper Towns, Glee, The Fault in Our Stars. All of these movies and TV shows have one thing in common: they're movies about teens, for teens, with not a single actual teenager in sight.
The actors playing the teen characters in these shows are adults. They have matured, passed puberty, had their "glo up," whatever you want to call it. They look like beautiful young adults. But when they're portrayed as teens, in high school, it's very convincing. And that does something really damaging to us, actual teens with actual puberty and actual acne and braces and glasses and awkwardness and all of that. You know why it's damaging? Because when we see beautiful adults who are not in the middle of puberty like we are, when we see them portrayed in movies and TV shows as us, our age, over and over again, we start to think, "Wow, why don't I look like that?" even subconsciously, without even realizing they aren't what we're actually supposed to look like.
Art is a very important outlet for me. I depend on it to make me happy. A big part of the art I love to do is photography, especially photos of people my age. I find people and their emotions really interesting. When I discovered this problem, I knew I could use my love for photography to help. I decided for my Girl Scout Gold Award I wanted to raise awareness about this issue through the art I love and take pictures of my friends and peers, as a way of showing the world who we as teens really are.
And this particular issue is especially important because unlike something that's extremely unrealistic, like tiny-waisted Disney princesses, when they're real actors, it's easy to forget they're not real teenagers. They look normal, young and healthy, etc. But what they look like isn't normal for us. We do not look like that! We don't have perfect symmetrical faces. We don't have clear skin. We don't have straight teeth. We don't look like we're past puberty, because—guess what—we're not! And that shouldn't be something we feel ashamed of, or something that we try to fix or hide. It shouldn't feel unnatural just because we never see who really are supposed to be in TV shows and movies. All we see is an impossible standard that only does terrible things to our self-esteem.
This is a slider comparing the original photo with one that's been photoshopped to hide acne. Try dragging the line back and forth to see the difference.
Did you notice how when you see the original, nothing seems wrong with it? But once you look at the edited version and then go back, suddenly all the flaws that were erased seem much worse and more visible. This is a similar effect to what happens when we see normal representation of ourselves (nothing seems wrong), versus an impossibly perfect version—suddenly all the acne seems like a much bigger deal, and much more of an issue than it would have been had we only seen the original picture.
Kids see this kind of thing all the time and think "I need to look like that to be accepted/pretty/normal." Just this small thing, a normal part of human life being covered up, has extremely damaging psychological effects on teens. When I go to school, the majority of people I see are exhausted, with eye bags, holding coffee, to start. High school is the worst and I've never heard an actual adult in real life say otherwise. Secondly, the vast majority of people I see have acne. And no, it's not because they don't take care of their skin, it's because it's natural, And a normal part of life! It's not something to feel bad about.
This is really important to me and I really believe that if we as teens could grow up with people in media who are actually like us and played by people actually our age, if we could see that it's normal and it's possible to be pretty even when you have acne and/or braces and/or glasses and/or anything else, then self-esteem levels and happiness levels and all of that would be drastically better. People are always going on about "Teens are so depressed and moody" and "You're just a grumpy teen, you don't know what you're talking about." Well, maybe we wouldn't be so depressed and moody and maybe we wouldn't hate ourselves so much if everything else in the world wasn't telling us that we should.
As it is teenagers struggle with feeling invisible, but this just spreads the message that how we look isn't appropriate for the public eye. We spend our developing years with this mindset, and it severely impacts self-esteem—both now, and even later in life, once those self-destructive habits are set. So, thanks for reading. Now that you know the truth, can you join me and help to stop holding teenagers to an impossible standard?
HOW CAN I HELP?
There are several ways people can help combat misrepresentation of teens. It would be really helpful for me, my project, and this cause if you could:
1. Share this page to as many people as possible, especially those who can help as well
2. Help educate others about the issue
3. Get involved! Explore the galleries, and even submit your own photos for a chance to be featured on this website. Or just send me a message! See my contact page for more information.
Thank you for reading and visiting my website!