Today’s blog features an interview with Irvina Kanarek, Founder and Creative Director of the non-profit group Rewrite Beautiful.
When and where did Rewrite Beautiful start?
It started in Southern California about 3 years ago. I was working 3 different jobs: a nanny, art teacher, and counselor in an eating disorder rehabilitation clinic. I quickly learned that all of the girls I came into contact with had one thing in common; they were all jeopardizing their lives to make themselves “beautiful”.
The art students were experimenting with eating disorders while the rehab patients were dying from them. I saw how the little girl I nanny’d mimicked everything I and her mother did.
At the time, the only thing I could think to do was pray that God would protect the girl from ever developing an eating disorder. That prayer turned into me asking myself a question: What could have prevented me from having an eating disorder? My answer: Some kind of an awareness program at my school. Someone who had been through the disease telling me the signs to look for and how deadly this disease is.
Also I realized that my vision of what made me valuable as a person was very distorted. I was raised to think that people loved me because I was attractive, funny or smart. The truth is that is not why I love people. I love people because of their actions of creativity, kindness and strength. I love when people are creative and find great solutions to problems. I love when they are kind and generous with their time. I love when they are strong by sticking up for themselves and others. From there I realized that I would be directly “rewriting beautiful” in ambitious ways and that’s how I got the name, Rewrite Beautiful.
How does the program work?
All of our programs have the same 3 goals: prevention, awareness and creativity. We accomplish these goals through two programs: School Programs and Street Art Workshops.
School Programs are held with students at Junior High, High School and College campuses. I share my own eating disorder testimony, play our photo documentary (which tells the story of 5 girls with eating disorders), hold a Q&A Panel about eating disorders and engage the students in creatively changing how they see beauty in themselves.
Street Art Workshops are a place where the public can learn the Rewrite Beautiful vision, hear an eating disorder testimony, view our photo documentary and create street art which allows them to change how they see beauty in themselves. After the workshop the art is put in a public place for others to hear our message.
Our vision is through these programs we will build a nation of revolutionary girls who don’t focus on their bodies. Instead, these girls focus on the gifts and talents they have been blessed with and figure out how to share those gifts with others. We want girls to focus on changing their communities instead of changing their bodies.
Our vision is to see each and every girl say, “I’m beautiful, because I know I am creative, kind and strong. I don’t care what you think of my body, because I know I am beautiful in a way that can never be changed.”
How does a Very Rewrite Beautiful Birthday Party for a child work?
Since 2002 there has been a 116% rise in eating disorders among children. We know parents who want to do something preventative for their children. In order to not scare kids about the horrors of eating disorders we have made the birthdays fun, modeling them off of our Street Art Workshops. In the workshops we have the participants claim what makes them creative, kind and strong.
In the birthday party we talk about what makes Cinderella beautiful. Yeah, Cinderella has great taste in shoes and chokers, but what makes us love Cinderella is she was strong, kind, patient, faithful and a good sister!
We then pull out a poster board and have the birthday child sit on it. We ask all the kids at the party, “If being strong makes Cinderella beautiful what makes the birthday girl beautiful?
The kids all shout out what makes the birthday girl beautiful, such as:
“She is a good friend! “
“She is funny!”
“She is good at art!”
We have all the kids do this process and get the opportunity to hear what actions make each of them beautiful (or in the boys’ cases, strong).
Afterward we bring out the paint and encourage the kids to get creative with their posters. It is the sweetest thing to see kids for the first time grasp the concept of what truly makes us beautiful as people.
What are Beauty Cards and what result is hoped for when someone receives one?
A Beauty Card is an easy, free way we have set up for people to tell their friends what actions make them beautiful. By sending a person a beauty card we allow the recipient to understand where their beauty truly lies and hear the Rewrite Beautiful message. It also brings them to our website so they can learn why eating disorder prevention is so crucial!
How can someone become involved in this group?
The people most interested in being involved with Rewrite Beautiful are students. Therefore, we promote Beautiful Action Campus Clubs started by students at Junior High, High School and College campuses. We call the leaders of these clubs “ Beautiful Actionistas”. These leaders spread the Rewrite Beautiful message through campus activities and fundraisers.
For more information: www.RewriteBeautiful.org
To send a Beauty card, go here: http://rewritebeautiful.org/beauty-cards