When I was offered a chance to work with the very talented director, John X. Carey, on a super secret project for Dove, I was beyond excited. I have long been a fan of Dove’s campaign for True Beauty, from the original Dove Evolution and A Girl’s Self Esteem, I have always been profoundly moved by their films, and as a woman living in a world most women and girls don’t believe that they are beautiful-an astonishing 96% of us-I feel that their campaign is an important one.
So, when I randomly responded to a craigslist ad that resulted in an audition for an ambiguous “documentary” for a company that was whispered to be Dove, I was a little excited to say the least. A few weeks later, when I found myself outside The Nine studio in the pale light of 6AM, I was hopeful that this was the sort of project that had made me a staunch supporter of Dove. Below is the beautiful, moving and incredibly powerful result of that days work.
I admit, I suspected what they were up too as they paired us off, instructing us two to get to know each other. And it became even more clear as they seated us beside a wall of windows, beyond which the uneven rooftops of San Francisco’s SOMA district staggered off until they met with the sheer walls of downtown’s sky scrapers. From beyond a teal curtain, a disembodied man introduced himself, explained his job, and began to question me about my appearance.
It was…disconcerting. To put it mildly. The act of explaining what I looked like to someone was strangely uncomfortable. I found myself fumbling for words, grasping for phrases that weren’t too negative–but also eschewing the obviously positive, as I was raised to think that talking about oneself was rude (me and Don Draper, we are much alike). I struggled to explain to this corporeal man what my hair was like, the texture, the color, the length. Describing my face shape, the width and angle of my eyes, the lines of my mouth or the length of my nose. At one point, I believe I responded to his questioning about my chin with the words “It’s a good chin.” Not because I have any particular fondness for my chin, but because I could literally not fathom what I-or anyone for that matter-might have to say about my chin.
Later, after he had finished grilling me and my partner-an incredibly sweet woman, whose name completely escapes me now-was led off to presumably undergo a similar ordeal, we were brought out, one by one, into the studio, which had been transformed into a strange, suspended gallery. Portraits hung from narrow wires, and we were gently guided to our own. It was strange, to see those faces staring back at me. My own, but not. The strange minutiae that this stranger had picked up on; the dimple puckering my left cheek, my nose ring, the shape and curve of my mouth…they were things I had assumed most people didn’t notice. Things I liked about my face, but which I had always felt were overpowered by its flaws. There was a gentleness to the portrait composed by a near stranger, like looking at yourself through foggy glass. The imperfections smoothed away, the lines and flaws you obsess over just aren’t there, when another person looks at you. I think it’s important to remember this, in a culture which encourages us to obsess over our image, over our face and whether it measures up to the air-brushed images of celebrities in magazines, or even to the other girls in the room with us.
Stop obsessing. Take a deep breath, and look in the mirror with clear eyes. Remember your worth. Remember that you are more beautiful than even you can comprehend. I met most of the women features in this video, and all of them were beautiful, all of them possessed of an innate grace and kindness that came across in even the brief amount of time I spent with them. People don’t see those things. Or, if they do, they don’t see them in as harsh a light as you do. You are more than just the lines in your face or the mole on your cheek. Your beauty isn’t diminished by your flaws, or your imperfections. They help to shape your unique beauty. They are the brushstrokes of a completely original painting. They are the fingerprints of the sculptor that cast you, and they define the ways in which you are uniquely and completely irreplaceable beautiful. Never forget that.
Mind you, I am in it for a total of three seconds, and my portrait is not up on the Real Beauty Sketches website, but I don’t give no shits cuz this stuff is pertinent.