Strong is the New Pretty

By now many of you are probably familiar with the new photo series showing how “strong is the new pretty.” A photographer in Georgia has been taking incredible photos of her daughters showing how strong, messy, and confident they are in their activities and pursuits. She shows the wild and tough side of girls grabbing life by the lapels. They are amazing photos and if you have yet to see them, click here.

One of the reasons I love these photos is because I was not a “pretty” kid. I was the kid building forts in the woods, making random things out of scrap wood, and swimming in a dirty pond full of rocks cutting at your feet. There is nothing wrong with little girls playing with barbies and pretending to be princesses, it just wasn’t me, and I was okay with this. Likewise, “strong is the new pretty” isn’t saying its bad to be pretty, its saying that there is more to girls/women than their outward appearance or the box we place them in through stereotypes. Who wants to just be “pretty” when you can be so much more. There is an amazing strength and confidence in young girls and I think many women loose an aspect of this as they grow older and are told to grasp another set of ideals.

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Another reason I love these photos is because they remind me of the strong and beautiful young women I work with at My Refuge House. The girls at MRH are reclaiming their strength and confidence after being stripped of them through abuse and exploitation. They have a strength that does not make them pretty, but beautiful. I presented this concept of “strong is the new pretty” to the home school teachers at the shelter along with an idea to show others how the girls at My Refuge House are embracing their strengths.

I spoke with two of our girls first to explain the movement of breaking stereotypes for girls (also championed by others such as Amy Poehler and Sheryl Sandburg to name two) and see what they thought of the idea –  my passion for this movement caught like fire. These two girls gathered together the remaining eleven girls (ages from 11-19) and presented these questions: during your daily/weekly activities what gives you strength and empowerment? What makes you feel strong and confident?

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The girls took time to think about their answers and then they each wrote down their thoughts on individual pieces of paper. All of their answers include music in some way – we have exceptionally talented girls. We then took a series of photos to capture the girls participating in an activity which makes them feel strong. Here below I would like to share with you how the girls at My Refuge House are exemplifying “strong is the new pretty.” You will see a statement from each girl on what makes her feel strong and why, along with a photo of her practicing empowerment. (Their faces are hidden due to confidentiality).

Jacky

Volleyball, because it gives me strength to express my problems. Calling my father and brother on the phone, because when I call them my longing for them would lessen and they also give words of encouragement to pursue my dreams and goals in life. Cutting grass, because I can see myself very useful and strong. Talking with friends, because it gives me strength to know that they are always there for me no matter what. Studying gives me the strength to reach my dreams to become a teacher. Listening to music, because whenever I listen to Christians songs it gives me strength. Praying to God, because I feel closer to Him and secure in His love. Reading the Bible, because everything inside the bible is my source of strength.

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Jennifer

Journal writing gives me strength because when I feel sad, mad, and especially when people hurt my feelings – I just write my journal and that’s what keeps me going throughout the day.

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Ashley

It gives me strength to make art, play guitar, and see the silly little smile of the important person around me. Crying and spending time alone can give me strength, as well as prayer and being around people I love.

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Sarah

Playing guitar makes me feel special and complete!

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Hope

Reading books, talking with friends, praying, playing ukulele, singing, sleeping, writing poems, calling my family, and learning new things gives me strength. All of these things I do every day because it helps me express who I am and enjoy life freely! It gives me strength to keep going despite the challenges I have encountered in life.

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Mandy

Taking care of the dogs and cats, because when I see them it gives me strength. Sleeping in the afternoon, because I wake up early every morning. Talking with other people, because they give me advice, and praying to God every day, because I want to thank Him for the blessing He gives me.

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Maggie

Listening to music, playing guitar, learning how to play keyboard, reading books, sleeping , eating, watching movies, talking to God everyday, my family, because they are always there to support me, whenever I need them. These all give me strength because I enjoy doing new things and they help me to express my feelings and live freely and just be me.

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Carrie

Worship songs, writing English, seeing the creation of God, playing guitar, my family, and reading Bible verses. All of these things I do everyday because this can help me to have strength.

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Abigail

Composing songs gives me strength because it helps me to pursue my goals in life. Playing guitar gives me strength because it helps me to express my bad emotions.

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Cindy

Playing guitar, drawing, praying, quiet time, reading the Bible, writing stories in Tagalog, listening to music, talking with friends, sleeping, and eating. Strong and patient everyday! All of these things are my strengths everyday because if I do all of these everything is fine, there are times that I feel so down but I am still ok and still a strong girl.

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Jessica

Prayer, because praying to God everyday is helping me to release my emotions, the bad emotions will become good and this is because of the Lord, who answers your prayers. He makes me happy.

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Loren Mae

Sleep, beat box, tv, eat, and pray. I am doing all of these to feel more relaxed.

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Stephanie

Learning to play guitar and beat box gives me strength. Doing daily devotions because God is my Savior.

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We hope you have enjoyed seeing how the thirteen girls of My Refuge House are strong, talented, and confident. They are rising above their past circumstances on a daily basis by learning new things and striving to be the best they can while living free. They are overcoming abuse, trauma, and pain by focusing on what gives them strength and empowerment. They are some of the strongest young women I know. Thanks for reading!

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