Photographed by Kate T. Parker, Strong is the New Pretty celebrates girls — of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes — being independent, being strong, and most importantly, being themselves.
If you tend to judge books by their covers, then you have to pick up the photography book, Strong is the New Pretty. On the cover is a fearless girl swimmer, equipped with a swim cap and goggles, and an expression that says, “Don’t mess with me.”
As you turn each page, the girls jump out at you, loud in their expressions and passions. Some are athletes proudly dressed in bloody jerseys; some are warriors courageously fighting illness; some are future members of congress. And the one thing that connects them all? They are all trouble makers who will one day change the world.
Beside every inspiring photo is a quote from the girl being photographed.
I managed to score an interview with Kate T. Parker, and here’s what she had to say about the book:
Q: Why did you create “Strong is the New Pretty?”
A: I am mother to two young girls Ella (11) and Alice (8)—they are my inspiration for Strong is the New Pretty.
I was photographing them every day and noticed that the images that were strongest and most meaningful to me were the ones where the girls were being themselves, whatever that was at the moment: dirty, feisty, silly, sassy, angry, funny, loud, and louder.
They didn’t need to pose a certain way, or smile for the camera, or brush their hair to be beautiful. I wanted my girls to know that those images that captured their true personalities showed their beauty. And the images turned into a tool I could use to combat the messages the media often sends to girls and women—that beauty is a particular hairstyle, size, or outfit.
I was never told by my parents that I need to look, act or behave a certain way because I was a girl, and I felt a responsibility to pass this along.
Q: Who is this book for, and how are people responding to it?
I truly think this book is for anyone. It’s a message that resonates obviously with girls, but it is something that we all need reminding of. We all need to remember what makes us different. “Unique” is where our power lies. And we need to embrace it.
“Strong is the new Pretty” — as a photography project, book and movement — is about giving power to what is important to young girls. Encouraging girls to find what is unique about themselves and pursue it. Even when others question it.
It is about finding out who you are and celebrating it, 100%. That quest and journey never ends. As women, we forget that, and it never hurts to have a reminder of how awesome you can be.
Q: What inspired you take on this project?
Women and girls are strong—that’s not new. But it’s convincing them that their strength has value and is worth expressing is something that can take some work.
So it’s a message that bears repeating. Because while every generation of girls is dealing with a similar scenario, what is new and what is different about this generation of young girls are the pressures they face — mainly from the Internet and social media — to look, act, and be a certain way.
I wanted this book and its message to be a little oasis for the girls. Something for them to look at, to read, to take in and internalize that they don’t need to change, add a filter, or be someone or something else to be beautiful. They already are.
Q: Where and how did you find your subjects?
I found the amazing girls represented in this book through so many different ways, but mostly social media. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and the girls themselves reached out to me. My goal was to show the many different ways that girls can be strong, or be themselves or pursue their passions. I wanted girls to be able to pick up the book and either find someone that inspires them or someone they can relate to.
Q: Chapter 1 starts with: “Confident is Strong.” As parents, how can we instil confidence in our daughters?
Confidence starts with giving girls a safe place to be themselves. To figure out who and what that is. That can be hard as parents, we have so many expectations of who we think our kids should be. We need to allow our kids to be who THEY are, not who we’d like them to — that’s a great start.
Q: What project are you working on now?
I am still shooting this project. I think I always will be, it is such a huge part of me, how I grew up and now how my girls are growing up. I love to expand this project. See where it can go, girls around the world! Women!
I am so thankful and honored to share these stories of these young women around the country and felt a huge responsibility to them to tell the truth and share their stories.