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Star-Telegram.com

Colleyville Heritage girls give up makeup for beauty's sake

Posted Thursday, Oct. 07, 2010

By Shirley Jinkins

syjinkins@star-telegram.com

COLLEYVILLE -- On Tuesdays, about 180 girls at Colleyville Heritage High School leave their lipstick and eye shadow at home, attending classes with clean faces and fresh attitudes.

They also wear matching T-shirts that read, "Redefining Beautiful, One Girl at a Time."

Redefining Beautiful is a new student club meant to empower girls to resist stereotypes based on appearance.Samantha Gibbs, Lauren Gilby, Nina Smith, Caroline Tessler, Emily Gates and Laura Kelly came up with the idea during the summer.

"We're not against wearing makeup," said Nina, 16, a junior. "We're really against girls feeling like it's a shell to hide in."

The girls got the general idea from a website, www.OperationBeautiful.com, and decided to adapt the positive messages to a program that would fit at Colleyville Heritage. The website encourages teen girls to share their stories and to post anonymous encouraging messages in public places for other women and girls to find.

The friends recruited faculty sponsor Suzanne McGahey, made sure that their club met the criteria for a school-sanctioned organization and began signing up members shortly after classes started in August.

Six more of their friends joined them as charter members.

"We had more than 170 girls signed up within three or four weeks," McGahey said. "I don't know what they hit on, but it obviously made an impression."

Bill Gibbs, Samantha's father, said he was shocked at how quickly the club caught on.

"We ordered 25 shirts at first, and now there are 183 girls signed up," Gibbs said.

The girls say they expected maybe 40 girls to join.

"It was awkward the first couple of Tuesdays when there were just 12 of us," said Caroline, a 17-year-old senior. "People would ask, 'What are you doing?'"

Many girls have joined the cause, they say, but not all of them can kick the makeup habit.

"There have been a couple of girls we've asked to join that have said, 'I don't think I could do that,'" said Emily, 17, a senior. "It's encouraged me to not worry about makeup on other days besides Tuesdays."

The idea is spreading. Students at Grapevine High School are also interested in forming their own Redefining Beautiful club, and Southlake girls have expressed interest.

Even the guys at Colleyville Heritage are on board, with 20 boys forming a support group.

"That's all we're trying to prove -- that girls can be just as confident with or without makeup," said Lauren, also 17 and a senior.

Students plan to embrace women- and child-oriented service projects, including a Thanksgiving food drive and clothing drive for Christmas.

"It's wanting to share our story that no matter what has happened to you, you're beautiful and you should love yourself," Caroline said.

Redefining Beautiful members include classroom leaders, athletes and quieter types.

"We try to get the young girls to know that beauty is more about who you are than what you wear to school," McGahey said.

School counselor Robin Davis said the negative effects of marketing and entertainment on girls and women are seen all too often.

"It's the way our culture is; image and what you look like, what you wear," Davis said. "It contributes to the incidence of teens with eating disorders and other ways of changing their appearance, whether it be tanning or makeup."

No one associated with Redefining Beautiful has encountered negative comments from students, staff or parents, McGahey said.

Davis, an early fan of the group, wears her own Redefining Beautiful shirt Tuesdays and goes easy on makeup.

Gibbs is proud of his daughter and her friends.

"I think it's good for their self-esteem because they're focused on what's most important instead of the superficial," he said. "They were able to start something and make it work, and do something good with it. They're making a positive difference."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

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