Gabrielle Union and her 14-year-old stepdaughter Zaya recently teamed up with Dove’s Self-Esteem Project to help teenagers around the world detox their social media feeds of harmful beauty fads and advice.
“There is a lot on social media that tells us we need to look a certain way or change how we look, Zaya told PEOPLE while speaking about the recent partnership and its significance.
“This causes so much pressure to live up to a certain standard of beauty and I want other teens my age to know that while this type of harmful beauty advice is out there, they don’t need to listen to it and their uniqueness is what makes them beautiful.”
Through the initiative, the mother-daughter duo hopes to shine a light on some of the toxic beauty advice that has had a negative influence on young teens across social media from flawless skin, and perfect hair to having a thin frame.
“As a mom myself, I was shocked to find out from Dove’s newest research that one in two girls say idealized beauty advice on social media causes low self-esteem,” said Union.
“As a parent to two girls, it’s so important to me that my kids have positive experiences,” she continued. “This research from Dove has made me realize how insidious toxic advice can be and how important it is to talk to my kids about how to navigate it.”
Studies have shown that harmful beauty standards can directly contribute to anxiety and even depression in young teens. They can also trigger eating disorders and conditions like body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder that can cause an individual to obsess over a perceived flaw in their appearance. A recent study conducted by Dove found that “7 in 10 girls felt better after unfollowing toxic beauty advice on social media.”
After Zaya came out as transgender in 2020, Union, 49, shared that her bond grew even stronger with her stepdaughter.
“In a nutshell, time. I think as a stepmom, it’s not my job to push myself into her life or force anything,” the Breaking In actress said. “So, time has allowed our bond to grow organically and naturally. Being consistent with each other and being trustworthy with each other also.”
“Zaya coming into truest self did help because I am able to bond with who she actually is versus the representative that was speaking for her for years. Now, she is completely herself and so I know her, not her representative.”
Zaya echoed a similar sentiment, noting how the process of discovering herself “deepened” her relationship with Union and others.
“I can be truthful and honest with myself and therefore, truthful and honest with other people. That helps better everyone’s connections and relationships with each other,” she added. “Our relationship has grown so much from the first day I met her to now. It is because time has allowed us to grow together and progressively.”