As promised, I’m turning this space over to a Q&A with Woody Winfree, creator of the I Am Beautiful Project and editor of the new book We Are More Than Beautiful 46 Real Teens Speak Out about Beauty, Happiness, Love and Life. I’m doing this because I think that Woody is doing work that matters and is making a difference in the lives of woman and girls. The book is beautiful and touching and empowering – and something every girl should have.

The new book, We Are More Than Beautiful for teen girls is the latest addition to the work of the I Am Beautiful Project, an initiative committed to producing creative and educational works that encourage personal growth and discovery for women and girls of all ages.

Author, Woody Winfree says the project’s mission is simple: to create a world in which every woman and girl can proudly proclaim, “I AM BEAUTIFUL!”

What is the I Am Beautiful Project all about? It is about changing the definition of beauty in our culture – one girl at a time, one woman at a time. Quite dramatically, the mass media has chipped away at our sense of beauty and well-being by presenting a singular, narrow and distorted image of female beauty: super-thin bodies, topped by large, perky breasts, with flawless youthful faces surrounded by shiny bouncy hair –and of course, sparkly white, perfectly straight teeth! This suggestion of beauty is not only wrong, it is a LIE. In truth, only three percent of the U.S. female population has the genetic makeup to look like this ideal. That means 97% of us are spending billions of dollars, untold hours of our lives and huge amounts of happiness in an attempt to pursue this distorted ideal.

In sum, the I Am Beautiful Project is about books and films, and workshops and seminars — and anything else I might think to create along the way – that help guide women and girls to change their perspective about the definition of beauty. Beauty is NOT the size of our waists, or the cascade of our hair. Rather, beauty is the sum of our talents, accomplishments, intellect, contribution to our families and communities, and every other measure of living a life that deeply matters.

Where did the idea of this project come from? With the creation of my first book for women, I Am Beautiful – A Celebration of Women, the hope was to give our daughters – mine and yours and every other American girl — a tangible work that they could hold onto. To expose them to images of women that are as real, interesting, diverse and beautiful as real women are. The success of this first book (that is now available in a gift edition), naturally led to creating a book just for girls: We Are More Than Beautiful.

The seed for this work, however, was planted some years before book ideas ever came into my head. When my now 23-year-old daughter was five someone asked me if she could model for a photo-shoot for a leather goods product ad. I thought this would be a fun experience, so off we went. At the time we were living in rural Connecticut. My daughter was a frog-chasing, tree-climbing nature girl almost completely free from the mass media – billboards, magazines, TV, etc. But the second the photographer bent down to take a few test shots, my little nature-girl struck a provocative pose of hip out, lips pouting and a come-hither stance, while her dumb-struck mother looked on! Where could she possibly have learned to do this? Why did she think that this is the natural relationship that a woman has with the camera? I came to believe that her weekly journey through the gauntlet of fashion magazines on the grocery check-out aisle is where she learned this “un-truth.”

Tell me about the new teen book. Who is in it? Where are they from? What stories do they tell – and how is this important to other girls who read the book? The girls in the book are ages 12 to 19, from all walks of American life, facing and exploring all types of issues with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Each girl responded to my query – “Tell me why you are beautiful.” At once, every story is unique to the individual girl’s experience, but universal to the experience of American girls everywhere. Each girl is presented with her picture in an artistically graphic and colorful layout over two pages. This presentation is, not only contemporary and exciting to girls raised in the most visually stimulating culture ever but, affords the reader to enter fully into each girls’ “world” and experience her journey of claiming her beauty.

Bottom line, experiencing other girls’ stories is important because it supports, helps and guides the reader to learn how to ask and answer that question for herself. The book creates a classical “peer” environment for sharing information, even trading secrets in a safe, supportive way. It also teaches girls to learn that they have a “right” to their sense of beauty and how to formulate conversations with their own friends on the subject.

Can the book be used by mothers with their daughters? Absolutely! My hope is that mothers and daughters will read it together and use its stories as a springboard for ongoing conversations. Conversations about:

  1. The true definition of beauty
  2. How the culture distorts that definition – and why
  3. Why a narrow, distorted definition is harmful
  4. Who are the women and girls in our lives that we find most beautiful – and do they embody the cultural ideal of beauty – or a deeper, more meaningful definition?
  5. How we can enjoy the fun and frivolity, even the consumerism, of American life without buying into notion that we must alter our natural features in order to feel beautiful, make friends, get good grades, get ahead and on and on.

I encourage mothers and daughters to write their own essays together, to deeply contemplate what makes them beautiful, then write it down. Share it with one another. Put their written answer in a place where they see it every day – maybe next to their toothbrush, or on their nightstand. Read it again and again. Slowly, over time it is my promise that this simple act can have powerful results.

Proof positive of this is seen in my own two daughters. Because I have been working on projects related to this subject for more than 10 years, my daughters have been raised on a nutritious and bountiful “diet” of ways to define their beauty. Like any belief or idea that one is exposed to, affirmative ideas of who they are have shaped how they see themselves. Further, 1,000 “teaching moments” over dinner conversation or watching TV or looking at magazines, have raised their awareness of how and why the media diminishes women. And, knowledge is power. Oh sure, they have “bad hair” days and times when they are knocked off their stride – just like we all do. But at their core, they have a deeper sense of self and an expansive measure of their worth to draw on. This is the gift I work to share – one girl at a time, one woman at a time.

Why do you believe that naming our beauty is so essential? When we give “voice” to anything, ascribe literal words to a thought or idea, a major shift begins to take place. It might be ever so subtle in the beginning, but in time the act evolves into a concrete declaration of fact. I also believe that we deserve to know and feel our beauty. I believe it is our right, our spiritual right. Can we reach our full potential in this one precious life we have been honored with if we are chasing an artificial ideal of our self-worth? This is the ultimate question that we must ask ourselves – and guide our young daughters looking up to us to do the same.

What else are you up to with the I Am Beautiful Project? I speak frequently to various audiences of women and girls on this subject. From colleges and universities around the country to high schools, at companies and more. These seminars and workshops are designed to dig deeper into the issues we have explored in this interview. These events are listed on my website:

My website also recommends other books and web links on this subject, as well as tips on building better self-esteem. Please visit! Please write with any questions.

These few weeks at the end of January and beginning of February confuse me. We are always so busy, yet it feels like we aren’t doing anything. Maybe the gloom makes everything flat and dull and then I can’t remember what we’ve done nor grasp any sense of accomplishment. But already the days are growing longer and the light is stronger and there is always my camera. I just have a look at what’s on there and I can see all we’ve been doing to fill the days. I know I have been reading a lot. For so long I could hardly read at all and I missed it and longed for it and mourned it daily. But I have been reading at least an our and a half every day and I love love love it. Obviously, there has also been some bowling ;)

We have colds, but nothing too bad. None of us has taken to our bed just yet. The Baby, however, has sore ears so they are full of garlic oil and stuffed with cotton – which he doesn’t seem to mind at all – and we follow behind him sniffing hungrily because, frankly? he smells delicious.

One of the things I’ve been reading is this book:

What a beautiful piece of work! Later in the week, I’ll give this space over to Woody Winfrey, creator of the I Am Beautiful Project. I can’t wait! But right now.. I’d better get to bed because Mr Yummy Garlic Head is an early riser and the bigger boys have to be out of the house first thing in the morning for snowboarding. And at some point, there is just not enough coffee to make up for one’s lack of sleep. Believe me, I know ;)

When the publisher contacted me some time ago about reviewing the children’s book I Love You More by Laura Duksta and illustrated by Karen Keesler, I jumped at the chance. Books are big deal around here chez Bountiful and I’m always looking for books that are beautiful – beautifully written and beautiful to look at and to hold. And with the arrival of the The Baby, I am suddenly looking for books for young children again. I agreed to review the book… but I did not agree to sell it, or to only say positive things about it (– not that anyone asked me to be dishonest, because no one did)… but the ONLY negative thing I can say about this book is that, apparently, it doesn’t come in board book format. If it did, I’d buy two right now. As it is, I have already purchased one to give to a friend and I have no doubt I’ll be buying more in the future.

The story itself is warm and tender. A child asks his mother how much she loves him and she tells him how much in page after page of beautiful illustrations and poetry. His response? “I love you more”. And then you do a really cool thing: you close the book, flip it over and start reading from the other end… as the little boy tells his mom how much he loves her. Brilliant concept and very effective.

When we read it for the first time it became an instant favourite. The Baby (12 months old) is drawn to the rhythm of the words and finds the illustrations irresistible. He brings me the book over and over so I’ll read it to him. And because the message is so wonderful, I am happy to read it as many times as he will listen.
Jordan, who is 11, also loves the book, but for different reasons. When he was little, we played a game. He would say something like, I love you more than ice cream AND one million sixty four hugs AND a zillion kisses ALL PUT TOGETHER. And I would think for a minute and say, Well… that is a lot. It’s really a lot, but you know… I love you WAY more than that… and then I’d tell him how much and he’d counter that while I apparently loved him a lot, he loved me way more… and so on. This book HIT HOME with him – with both of us :D
I asked him how he liked the look of the book and he only had good things to say. He said that the illustrations give the feeling of Love as strongly as the words do.

It is my belief that every child should have one or two special books that tell how much he or she is loved. THIS is one of those books.

Five Stars.

IMG: Smokey likes ribbon!
The kitten enjoyed Christmas – especially the ribbons :)

Happy New Year! And hello 2007 – have I got plans for you! :D

My site was down for a couple of days, but all is well now. All I’ve lost is a few comments, but it could have been much worse, so I’ll take it!

For Christmas, we gave Jordan the book Eragon and wrapped it up with the video game. Instant hit. Jordan played the video game right away and as soon as he and I could have some time together, I started reading him the book. Each evening when we read, he begs for “just one more chapter” when I’m finished. Of course, he finished the game 2 days ago (sheesh!), but that was on ‘easy’ he tells me and he’s going to do it again on ‘hard’.
I’ve been waiting for YEARS until he was old enough for this story and it hasn’t disappointed. I definitely recommend it.

Things are slowly coming back to normal around here. Well… what passes for normal ;) Hockey started up again tonight (wait – did it ever stop? I don’t think so!), slowly we are getting stuff put away and next week, we hit the books.

IMG: Smokey likes ribbon!
Saint Sebastian.

***Edit: I’ve disallowed comments and ping-backs until the @($&#%$ Sp*mmers move on. More than 200 a day for the last 3 days is a bit much, non?***

Current Location: home!
Current Mood: bleary :P
Current Activity: little-to-none. Wait – does laundry count? I’m doing laundry! And breathing. Mostly.

We left California Wednesday night and our plane finally landed in Toronto just before nine yesterday morning. didn’t.sleep.a.wink. omg. Aside from fussing over Jordan, attempting to sleep, and changing planes in Newark, I did manage to read most of The Broker. ehhhh… pretty good book. Likely, Ill flop on the couch later and finish it off. My inlaws picked us up at the airport, and took us to their house. I was waiting for the coffee to finish up when suddenly I woke up four hours later on the family room floor. Someone had put a blanket over me and Jordan was curled up beside me, snoring away. Take two on the coffee and some lunch and then we headed for home, where we caught my dad and my sister looting the place fussing over the pets and generally taking care of business.
I feel like I’ll never sleep at the right time again.

Apparently, while we were gone, the herb garden began taking steroids because holy cow! It’s crazy big and green! I can’t get over the roses – GROWING! It has to be a joke and in a few weeks, when I’m all excited about blooms, it’ll suddenly turn black and shrivel up, dead as dead can be.
Also while we were gone, the cat was very very lonely. We have always had our cats two at a time and leaving them while on holidays (with someone checking in every other day or so to feed and pet) has never been an issue. However, with only one cat now…. well… he was sad. My dad sat with him for long periods. This cat hardly ever made a sound in the 4 years we’ve had him – but he hasn’t shut up since we came home. He is also stuck to me like glue (remember that Muppet Show episode with Gilda Radner? aaaaaahahahah!) and even slept on my pillow last night. I am covered in orange cat hair. It’s attractive. No, really.

So, I think I”ll make my way downstairs and switch the laundry around. Then maybe I’ll have another nap. With the cat, of course.

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