Dove Self-Esteem Project helping girls embrace their own beauty

Adolescent girls have to navigate a 24-hour news cycle of pop-culture trends interwoven with unrealistic beauty standards and body idealism. Subtle messages in magazines, on television, and throughout social media can negatively impact the self-esteem of even the most confident young woman. According to research facilitated by Dove, six in 10 girls believe that the media and advertisements set an unrealistic standard of beauty. The research also indicated that eight in 10 girls with low body confidence will opt out of important activities, like speaking up to voice an opinion or something as simple as raising a hand in class. Dove is on a mission to change that.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project launched more than a decade ago and continues to work to empower the next generation of girls, so they can embrace their own beauty. Young women should develop confidence and reclaim their power as women. So far, more than 20 million youth have participated in Dove’s self-esteem education, reports the personal wash brand. The campaign offers materials, resources, and lesson plans for parents, teachers, and youth leaders to help girls reach their fullest potential. The resources are free.

The campaign has resulted in the company becoming the largest provider of self-esteem education in the world, reports Dove. Its Self-Esteem Project promotes positive conversations with girls and is meant to focus on adolescent girls. This is a time when young women are often bombarded with destructive messages in the media or even involved in toxic friendships at school. Now, experts have taken a look at the power of mentorship and the positive effects it has on a girls’ adolescence and development. Many agree that one hour spent talking to a girl about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem can help change the way she sees herself. The effects could last a lifetime.

“An Hour With Her” is a short documentary film created by producer-writer Shonda Rhimes (creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”), director Debbie Allen (“Fame”), and Dove, in which actress Chelsea Harris (“Grey’s Anatomy” and “Designated Survivor”) shares the lessons that she learned participating in the Dove Self-Esteem Project 10 years ago. She mentors 17-year-old aspiring actress Caralyn Singleterry. The 4-minute film explores the power of mentorship and encourages women to spend an hour with a girl in their life. They find that their personal journeys are similar and both had to confront negative thoughts related to their appearance. During their hour together, Chelsea and Caralyn discuss managing low self-esteem and coping with bullying. Although these experiences nearly held them back from their dreams, they persevered. By the end of the film, there is a sense of optimism, camaraderie, and confidence to disregard other people’s definitions of beauty.

“It was truly moving to see the powerful mentorship develop between Chelsea and Caralyn as we filmed,” said director Allen. “My experiences working in Hollywood over the last few decades have allowed me to forge relationships like theirs — as both the mentor and mentee. It was a privilege to bring their stories to life with a 100 percent female crew beside me, each with their own stories and perspective that helped shape this film,” she added.

Dove Real Beauty Productions launched in 2017 with a mission to shift the power of storytelling. Real women are expanding the definition of beauty, not only in their homes, but in their communities and the greater world. The most recent film is inspiring intergenerational connection around beauty, confidence, and self-esteem. The production company is sending a powerful message confronting appearance-related negativity and embracing individual beauty in its content.

“Dove has always been committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety,” said Amy Stepanian, marketing director of Dove. “As a global beauty brand, we have a responsibility to encourage the next generation to develop a positive relationship with their appearance in order to reach their full potential. We know that more than half of girls aged 10 to 17 are facing low self-esteem, and it’s leading them to opt out of important activities in life. In moments like seeing Caralyn overcome her struggles with confidence and get back on stage to pursue her dreams of acting, we find our biggest inspiration,” she added.

Dove aims to inspire the next generation of girls to embrace their beauty, and it hopes to reach 40 million girls with self-esteem education by 2020. Parents, mentors, teachers, and youth leaders can find resources, videos, and free downloadable lessons on the company’s website, dove.com. (Just click the Dove Self-Esteem Project tab.)

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer, based in Manhattan, where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.