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Girls form a group to go to school without makeup

POSTED: June 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Sixty-eight girls at Jackson County Comprehensive High School have started a "Redefining Beautiful" club to promote better self-esteem amongst their peers. Freshman Hannah Langston, 15, (first row, center) helped launch the new club, which challenges girls to attend school makeup free every Monday. They're hoping the trend will grow.

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Abandoning blush, eye liner, eye shadow, foundation, mascara, and lipstick can be a dangerous move for a high school girl.

Hannah Langston and her friends are willing to take that risk.

Makeup companies advertise that wearing their products can somehow magically boost self-esteem and erase imperfections, but that promise can also have the opposite effect, leaving girls feeling insecure and vulnerable.

That’s why Langston, 15, a freshman at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, wants girls her age to know that they’re beautiful no matter what.

Inspired by a news story about several girls at Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas who started a "Redefining Beautiful Club," which challenges girls to go makeup free on Tuesdays, Langston decided to pursue a similar mission at her school.

Dubbed "No Makeup Mondays," Langston and 67 other girls have pledged to put down the makeup brushes and brave the hallways fresh faced each Monday. They did so four times this year before school ended on May 20. Langston said organizers plan to revive the club next year with hopes of attracting more girls to the cause.

"We just want to show ourselves and other people that we know God made us the way we are and we don’t need things to make us beautiful," she said.

The girls wear T-shirts each Monday with "Redefining Beautiful" splashed across the front and a Bible verse, "The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your Lord," on the back.

Several saw the three-minute video about the Texas club when their mentor, Jenna Monforte, sent the ABC News report to them about a month ago. Monforte is the director of programs and development for Mosaic Student Mall, a new afterschool program for teens. She meets with a small group of ninth graders each week that includes Langston and her friends.

Monforte said she sent the video hoping to inspire her small group, but had no idea that they’d launch their own club. "I just wanted them to see what other high school girls are doing to positively impact their school and community so they might begin to think about how they can impact theirs," she said.

Though it might not seem like much of a sacrifice, it’s taken courage to walk into school without a trace of makeup. "It’s hard," said Tessa Roland, 15. "Sometimes people make fun of you."

Some guys at school don’t like the new rule and other girls don’t understand it, telling club members that it’s a meaningless cause and girls are meant to wear makeup.

The support the club’s members offer each other has helped deflect these comments, said Kourtney Axelberg, 15. "I’ll tell Hannah, (for example), you look really pretty today and since she is God’s masterpiece, then we’re telling God what He made is beautiful."

Braving the real world makeup free can be just as daunting. In support of her small group, Monforte also went sans makeup that first week. "I’m not going to lie, it took some courage to walk out into my world makeup free as well that first Monday," she confessed. "I don’t know if I would of had the courage they have to do that when I was in high school. I was extremely insecure with my looks."

Working with middle and high school girls, Monforte sees firsthand the insecurities they deal with every day. Most just want to be accepted and will do whatever it takes to fit in, whether that involves wearing makeup, adopting the latest clothing trends or embodying that distorted Hollywood view of what women should look like.

Monforte said she is amazed with how the girls, at such an impressionable age, have taken charge of the initiative, organizing the group, selling T-shirts, recruiting others to join and showing that it’s OK to create a new sense of normalcy.

"When girls become confident enough to step out and stand out; when they are willing to risk their reputation and do something out of the ordinary, they begin to believe in themselves and they begin to positively impact the world around them," she said. "This is just the beginning of a generation of more confident women."

Monforte may be right. Though the girls just started the club, its message is proving contagious.

"It’s not like you look as bad as you thought you would without it (makeup), because you always see yourself with it," said Roland.



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