This Is What Happened When Girls Of Color Were Taught To Rewrite Their Beauty Stories With Self-Love

March 8, 2018  |  

Actress Dascha Polanco mentors local girls from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America at an empowering Dove Self Esteem Workshop at Lightbox Studios on March 6, 2018 in New York City.

Teaching Black and Brown girls to love themselves is no easy feat. And as a self-esteem workshop hosted by Dove this past Tuesday showed, no matter how many positive messages we give our girls, it still won’t keep their peers from saying mean things that can damage their self-image. But what we can do is teach them how to combat those negative messages and that’s exactly what happened at this event.

In anticipation of International Women’s Day today, Dove brought more than 35 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 together in New York City March 6 for an #HourWithHour, a confidence-building workshop co-led by actress and body positive advocate Dascha Polanco. The event was a part of Dove’s overarching Self-Esteem Project, now in its 12th year, which has a national partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, delivering self-esteem education to young people through free, accredited curriculum.

Through research, Dove has found 8 out of 10 girls opt out of social activities as little as raising their hands to share their opinion when they don’t like the way they look. On the flip side, experts believe just one hour talking to a girl about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem can change the way she sees herself; hence the #HourWithHer workshop was born.

The focus of Tuesday’s event was rewriting one’s beauty story, based on the idea that when someone says something negative to us about ourselves, not only do we not have to tolerate that type of behavior, we also don’t have to internalize those hurtful messages and let them affect how we see ourselves.

Actress Dascha Polanco mentors local girls from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America at an empowering Dove Self Esteem Workshop at Lightbox Studios on March 6, 2018 in New York City.

Guided by Dove ambassadors, the girls were asked to write out experiences where a peer said something bad about their personality or physical appearance and share the stories with others at their table. During that time, Dascha walked around to personally chat and connect with each girl and show them how to turn those negative interactions into positive ones.

Perhaps the most telling moment of the afternoon was when the girls were invited to reenact the hurtful scenarios they wrote out earlier, this time rewriting the ending by standing up for themselves and reinforcing their own strength and beauty.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 06: Actress Dascha Polanco and her daughter, Dasany, mentor local girls from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America at an empowering Dove Self-Esteem Workshop in NYC on March 6, 2018. Dascha and the Dove Self-Esteem Project are joining forces this International Women’s Day to encourage mentors to spend an #HourWithHer using confidence-building curriculum from Dove to improve a girl’s self-esteem for a lifetime. Visit to access free, accredited educational tools and resources. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Dove) *** Local Caption *** Dascha Polanco, Dasany Gonzalez

In pairs, the girls came forward restating incidences of being told they were “too skinny” or “stupid” or thought they were “all that.” But this time, instead of letting the words affect them, they clapped back at their bullies, so to speak, letting them know their words were mean, rude, and had no bearing on how they viewed themselves.

In one scenario, three girls actually came forward and when one girl told the bully what she said to her wasn’t nice, the third girl stepped in to stand up for her as well. The scene demonstrated how powerful it can be to have a friend/ally have your back in these situations, and how important it is to correct others when you see them treating people badly.

Asked if she wished she’d had someone to step in for her in real life when a boy at her school taunted her for being too skinny, the middleschooler said yes, adding the fact that her friends didn’t step in made her “realize who I am and who’s around me.”

Actress Dascha Polanco mentors local girls from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America at an empowering Dove Self Esteem Workshop at Lightbox Studios on March 6, 2018 in New York City.

Every single girl in the room said she’d wished she’d had the confidence to say something back when a bully said something mean to her in the past. And when another young girl who recounted being taunted at school reenacted her story, this time saying she didn’t care what the other person said about her, she told the group she “felt empowered” by responding.

In congratulating and celebrating the girls’ openness to share their stories in front of one another, Dascha reminded them, “Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s a sign of strength.” She also coached the girls on the importance of projecting confidence with their body language and tone of voice and how those things are a reflection of how they feel about themselves.

Author and advocate Jess Weiner who co-hosted the event also left the young ladies with an important parting message. “People are going to say stuff all the time. You can’t control it. What you can do is control how you take that in. Today, you got to define yourself, your beauty, and your confidence on your own terms.”

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