In a world full of glossy ads featuring airbrushed runway models, Ryan High School junior Kennedy McWilliams wants to put a new definition to the word “gorgeous.”
“A gorgeous girl is not looking at what other people think of you, but instead realizing what you think of yourself is most important,” McWilliams said.
At the start of the school year, English teacher Katherine Myers asked her students a simple question: How will you make a difference? The juniors researched an issue and had to come up with a solution.
After running her own blog for two years, the 17-year-old McWilliams decided to tackle the issue of low self-esteem in young girls. She remembered the way she felt as a timid eighth-grader who saw that her body didn’t match what she saw in magazines, so she decided to publish her own.
Gathering photos, essays and personal affirmations, she published her first 12-page issue of “Gorgeous Girls” in December. The magazine featured advice columns from contributing writers and asked other women what confidence meant to them.
“Middle school was a challenging time for me,” she said. “Looking back in high school, if I had someone like who I’m trying to be, maybe things would’ve been better.”
The issue of self-esteem and body image has been a recurring theme in the news and academia. Dove, a popular beauty brand, even centered its social mission and ad campaigns on the subject.
Studies show having a negative perception of one’s body could lead to unhealthy behaviors, including eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 95 percent of people who have eating disorders are between 12 and 15 years old. However, only 10 percent of people who struggle with an eating disorder will get professional help.
McWilliams hopes her magazine and website offer some hope to young women who might be struggling with body issues. She decided to take the project further than the class assignment and published her second issue in February.
“It’s a little stressful to put the magazine together,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist and I know my deadlines and when I want things done. When I’m dealing with other people, sometimes it conflicts with their schedule. I just have to think about everything with the end in mind.”
Myers said she continues to be impressed by McWilliams and her personal mission.
“I can’t take any credit for this,” she said. “She did it all herself. I’m just excited that someone took the challenge and went above what I could have imagined someone was going to do.”
With a year left in high school, McWilliams plans to enroll in college courses over the summer and looks to graduate high school with an associate’s degree already under her belt.
She plans to continue “Gorgeous Girls” and wants to build a network of support within the community.
“If I’m able to reach one girl and change something in their life, then I’ve done what I needed to do,” she said.
To learn more about McWilliams or to download “Gorgeous Girls,” go to http://www.godlygorgeousgirls.com.
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.