Website wants women to embrace their looks

Norwich - Social worker Shakia Seabrook used to cringe when she heard friends or young girls put themselves down because they had a large nose or a scar or skin discolorations or unruly hair.

Now, she does more than just tell them not to worry about physical traits they can't change. She tells them to embrace their looks as "bare, bold and beautiful."

A year ago, Seabrook launched a Facebook group called "Barely Beautiful" and encouraged participants - now at 1,300 girls and women - to post photos of themselves to discuss features they consider beautiful and not so beautiful. Other group members comment, offer advice and compliments. The group turned into a movement, Seabrook said, and now she is ready to spread the word even further.

On Saturday, Seabrook will hold a website launch party for www.bareboldbeautiful.com, which will tackle the advertising, celebrity and media conglomerates that attempt to sway girls into believing they need perfect bodies to be attractive. Using makeup means "putting your face on," Seabrook said as an example.

"We are taking a stand and no longer allowing the media to define our beauty," Seabrook said.

The event is free and will feature a DJ, food, raffles, a silent auction, speakers and the live debut of the song "Bare, Bold and Beautiful" by Hartford singer Shawna Ortiz.

No-makeup Thursday

The Barely Beautiful Facebook page features No-Makeup Thursday, when participants post photos of themselves without makeup. If someone has a feature she "hates," Seabrook encourages them to include it in the photo and let others comment on it. She described one woman who posted photos of her lazy eye, thinking it ruined her looks. The resulting compliments about her features made her more confident to face cameras "full-face" instead of turning to the side, Seabrook said.

While the Facebook page is for women only, Saturday's event is open to everyone, Seabrook said, hoping to reach boyfriends and husbands, brothers and fathers to embrace the same concepts.

"I want guys to get involved," Seabrook said. "If their boyfriends say 'Angelina Jolie is the most beautiful person,' then they're going to try to emulate her."

At Saturday's event, speakers will focus on each word of the website's title.

Ashley Ortiz will speak about "Bare," encouraging women to wear makeup less often and encourage girls, women and the boys and men in their lives to embrace their natural beauty.

Telisha Gibson will address "Bold," asking women not to be afraid to show their "boldest features," which very well could be a scar, birthmark or other perceived flaw.

"I think it's beautiful because it's different," Seabrook said. "There may be a story behind it. That scar shows that you were able to heal, that you are strong. You're stuck with it, so you don't want to go through life hating it."

Jesse Wright will talk about finding her own beauty and will spotlight celebrities who also had perceived flaws that they came to embrace.

Seabrook, 26, grew up in New London and returned to the region after she earned her master's degree in social work at Fordham University in New York City. She now lives in Norwich and works at Noank Group Homes and Supportive Services and also at Safe Futures, formerly the Women's Center of Southeastern Connecticut. She is an active member of the Cornerstone International Church in Norwich.

She's not sure yet what the future of Bare, Bold and Beautiful will be. Supporters are encouraging her to set up a nonprofit organization to promote the effort. She also would like to visit schools and speak to students. She is considering developing a curriculum around the concepts as well.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

What: Bare, Bold and Beautiful website launch party

When: 6 to 9 p.m. March 15

Where: United Congregational Church, 87 Broadway, Norwich

What else: The event is free and open to the public

The website www.bareboldbeautiful.com will go live on Saturday.

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