March 20, 2006

Mirror Mirror

Posted on Wed, Mar. 15, 2006

True reflections"Mirror, Mirror" workshops help girls see and appreciate their real selves.
BY RHODA FUKUSHIMA
Pioneer Press

Five local teenage girls want younger girls to know that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.So, they've created "Mirror, Mirror," a workshop on self-esteem and body image aimed at girls 9 to 12. Since December, they've presented to a handful of St. Paul and Minneapolis Girl Scout troops and one day hope to create a training video to spread their message."The more the merrier," says Elle Kokkinos of St. Paul, one of the teenagers behind the project. "Seeing these girls see that they're beautiful almost makes you want to cry."Kokkinos' mother, Wendy Nemitz, had the original idea for the workshop, which fulfilled a community-service requirement for a local leadership program. Nemitz, a marketing professional, also wanted to spend more time with her daughter.Kokkinos, 15, and her friends, Elin Harm, Heather Campbell-Bezat, Caroline Thompson and Christina Letness — sophomores at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis and Central High School in St. Paul — met with a committee of women and started shaping the workshop.The workshop, which runs just over an hour, is part performance, part lecture, with big helpings of art and affirmation. One recent night, Kokkinos, Harm and Campbell-Bezat spoke to 10 fifth-graders from Troop 1158 at Randolph Heights Elementary School in St. Paul.They began by performing a skit about the new girl being accepted at school. The girl shrinks back as the Popular Girls approach."Eeww — look at the new girl … ." Kokkinos says, playing the Queen Bee. "She's wearing a green shirt, jeans."Thing is, the new girl is wearing the same thing as the Popular Girls. Some of the scouts say they have seen this happen — or variations of it."Stereotypical popular snottiness isn't right," Kokkinos says. "That goes on a lot at schools."Next, the girls tap their inner artists. Using colored felt markers, they draw pictures of themselves on poster boards. Kokkinos, Harm and Campbell-Bezat peek over shoulders and offer praise."Ooohh, I really like the hair," Harm says about one of the self-portraits.Next, the girls write three positive comments about themselves on their pictures. Some of the girls find it hard to do. After that, Campbell-Bezat instructs them to move around the room and write at least one positive comment on each drawing. The pens fly."You're a good soccer player."Love your eyes."You will grow up to be an extremely beautiful woman."The teenagers show photographs of themselves when they were fifth-graders on the cusp of puberty.The conversation moves to serious talk about anorexia, bulimia and obesity. Two scouts say they know people with anorexia. One girl reminds the rest about Mary-Kate Olsen, the young actress who was treated for anorexia."Women are meant to have fat," Kokkinos says. "The average woman is 5-foot-4 and 152 pounds. The average actress is 5-foot-9 and 100 pounds. Can you imagine that?"The teens stress the importance of eating nutritious foods and getting enough exercise — rather than trying to live up to unrealistic Hollywood standards of beauty. They circulate celebrity magazines laden with photos of stick-figure-thin actresses. Campbell-Bezat reminds them magazines airbrush photos."If you look through these magazines, (the models) all look the same," Harm says. "Look around this room. None of us looks the same."Nowhere is that more true than when the teens unveil the magic mirrors. Each scout gets a jeweled hand mirror in a pretty bag with instructions to take a good look at herself and read the comments on her portrait. Soon, a cacophony of voices fills the room."With conviction!" Campbell-Bezat says, amid the din.Scouts Mackenzie Wolff and Sarah Hoh, both 11-year-old fifth-graders from St. Paul, give the workshop a thumbs-up. They say they got good information about what to expect as they grow up — and a boost of self-confidence.Wolff says she enjoyed reading aloud the comments on her page."With attitude," Hoh says.

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