Research has shown that in today’s society, it has become very normal for women and young girls to find themselves unhappy with the way they look and with their bodies overall. The effects of that can create stress, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, a poor relationship with food as well as unhealthy sexual relationships with young men. In addition to that, a lack of confidence can even impact the educational achievements of a girl by making it hard for her to even feel comfortable raising her hand in class.
So what is being done about that?
The best way to reach young people of today, as we all know, is through their phones. With that in mind, Dove’s Self-Esteem Project teamed up with supreme storyteller Lena Waithe and media platform ATTN: to bring young girls, particularly young Black girls, a series that combats the messages they get on a daily basis that help to stir their insecurities. The end result is a lovely show called Girls Room. It’s a five-part scripted series penned by Waithe that tackles topics that impact self-esteem, including bullying, the influence of social media, body image and functionality, as well as the ability to take care of yourself and your health.
Things that make Girls Room so different and special include the fact that the whole series is shot in ratio 9 :16, making it perfect for viewing on your mobile phone. The episodes premiere on the ATTN: IGTV channel every Wednesday at 9 a.m. EST, making them accessible to any young person who gets on Instagram.
What also makes the project special is that it features a group of young Black girls and women who are genuinely great actresses. The story, thanks to Waithe, has such good dialogue and the whole thing, directed by Tiffany Johnson, is shot beautifully. It will be enough to not only entertain young girls, as it certainly left me with my face close to the phone, while also helping them feel like they’re not alone and more comfortable in their beauty.
We screened all of the episodes during an event in New York City this week where Waithe, Johnson, the cast of actresses and those behind the series’ creation were present. They talked about their own experiences with their self-esteem growing up and why the project was so important for them to take on.
“Beauty is in the brain of the beholder. Beauty, you really have to define it for yourself,” Waithe said. “The truth is, the most beautiful people I’ve found are the people who believe they’re beautiful.”
And Waithe looked at her beauty in a different way than others as a teenage girl. When asked if she could tell her younger self anything what would it be, she said to “keep doing you.”
“In high school I was dressing like Da Brat,” she said. “There was no faking the funk or anything like that. I think, when you look at old pictures of me, people say, ‘Oh you haven’t changed.’ That’s, in a way, a compliment in terms of the fact that I was very aware of myself and I embraced it as well. I would tell myself, don’t be afraid to wear baggy pants and an oversized Phat Farm T-shirt and snapbacks because that’s a part of who you are. Your look will evolve but the way you are wanting to present yourself to the world is totally fine.”
Johnson said she was drawn to the project because of the positive impact it could have on young girls, because she could relate to the issues addressed in the series.
“Lena, who is a dear friend of mine, told me she was working on this project about self-esteem and as a filmmaker you always want to find projects that speak to something personal,” she said. “I grew up with self-esteem issues and what not and so I think any chance to work on something that’s positive, you’ve got to do it. That was the why.”
The “why” for Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, researcher, health psychologist and professor in Psychology at the Center for Appearance Research in Bristol, was to address what she deems an emergency for today’s young people when it comes to low self-esteem, easily impacted by a social media age most people didn’t grow up in. Diedrichs brought the science-backed research to the project to help figure out what topics Waithe would tackle for each episode.
“The Dove Self-Esteem Project has been around for a long time now, and it has been reaching young people all around the world with global body image programs and initiatives. Traditionally, that was done in schools and group settings. We decided that we really need to work out ways to reach people with important messages and remove a lot of the barriers that people face to get these important messages about self-esteem and confidence, whether that’s geography, resource, and stigma also that’s associated with talking about these issues sometimes,” she said. “What’s really exciting to me is we’re combining science and research on the key influences that we know affect girls’ body image with entertainment and the creative mind of Lena and Tiffany to really scale up these messages and to reach girls where they are when they’re going about their everyday lives.”
Though the episodes are short, they are a whole range of things, from funny to profound, and overall, very informative. They are all of that without coming off as cheesy Saturday morning specials. They are a visual treat to watch and the girls handle all of the rough subjects well.
Considering it’s been years since we’ve had a show like this with a cast like this, all tailored to young Black women (Moesha comes to mind), Girls Room is right on time — and we think you too will want to see more of it, too.