Woody Winfree is a founder of Sole Sisters, Inc., and the critically acclaimed The I Am Beautiful Project, dedicated to creating a world in which every woman and girl can proudly proclaim, "I Am Beautiful!"
So, when the nice people at Sourcebooks asked if I would like to participate in the I am Beautiful Blog Tour, I jumped...literally, leaped from my chair and banged my chin...HARD...for the opportunity to interview Ms. Winfree.
I mean, she asked that I call her Woody and I nearly giggled myself silly.
[sound of crickets chirping]
I read Woody's book, We Are More Than Beautiful: 46 Real Teen Girls Speak Out on Beauty, Life, Love and Happiness, while waiting for my two youngest in an extremely long line of minivans, and then began to vigorously wipe the mascara from my face.
We Are More Than Beautiful is compilation of essays written by the MOST beautiful - not to mention, fascinating - group of "real teens" and, can I just tell you, I wanted to adopt ALL of them.
Then I passed it along to my two oldest girls (they are 12 and 14) and they pretty much had the same reaction.
"These guys are just too cool and WHERE did she find ALL these girls, anyway?"
I mean, this book opened up conversations, you know, that I've been meaning to have. My girls and I appreciated the fact that the essays were written by teenagers - brutally honest, they were - each with very different backgrounds and, yet, all seemed to know their voices, very well. It was as if they lived right next door, really.
Still, I decided to try and come up with some really interesting questions for Woody and, well - since this is my FIRST interview - I thought it wise to consult the experts.
So, I called on two equally beautiful girls, who just happen to be some of MY best works - Thing One and Thing Two are joining in on the blog tour and I am deeply honored to present to you, 10 multi-generational questions for Ms. Woody Winfree:
Thing Two (she's 12) wants to know:
Q. What was your inspiration when working on We Are More Than Beautiful?
The book took over five years to complete - and over that time I was also watching my two daughters grow up. With every effort of my work, I was helping them become young women who are confident in their beauty and self-worth. They inspired me – and motivated me – to work hard and get the book published so that girls and young women everywhere would be supported by the belief that they are beautiful too.
Q. Who is your role model?
This is a hard question because, everywhere I look I see confident, bold, strong, happy women showing all of us that being “beautiful” is measured by kindness, intellect, compassion, curiosity and not just by our looks. I am surrounded by a wonderful mother and lots of girlfriends who serve as role models. They teach me that the real definition of beauty is display by women engaged with our families and in the world.
Q. What do you think is the most beautiful thing about yourself?
I am beautiful because I am constantly exploring the world, learning new things, believing that I can lean into a place of peace and joy even when things are hard in my life – and I have a fabulous head of hair that mostly cooperates with me!!
Thing One (she's 14) wants to know:
Q. Did you deal with any of the problems these girls had?
Yes, indeed. I was raised in a rather stifled culture in a pretty wealthy town in Kentucky. If you read about me in the back of We Are More Than Beautiful I tell a story about how I wasn’t always encouraged to think for myself, but rather to act like all the generations of women before me. For many years, I felt like I couldn’t be myself. As a result, I wasted my teen years trying to be someone else – and it took way too many years into my 20s to try to find my way back to myself.
Q. Did you ever have a close friend who, you knew, suffered from bulimia or anorexia?
No I didn’t – and do you know why? I think it is because I am old enough that my friends and I were not exposed to so much media coverage of models and actresses – most all of whom are super-thin and held up as the singular ideal of beauty. It is this overwhelming exposure to a “narrow” distorted definition of beauty – seen on TV, magazines, billboards, music videos, CD covers dolls, lunch boxes and the sides of buses – that negatively affects girls (and increasingly boys) and accelerates eating disorders.
Q. How would you best define beautiful?
Let’s not deny the truth – beauty is, and will always be, measured by physical characteristics to some extent. But it must NOT continue to be measured so completely by this singular standard. Beauty is the sum of all of our parts, including our hearts, minds and spirits.
Their Mom (that's me and I'm 43) wants to know:
Q. How difficult was this book to publish?
It was quite difficult, but I never gave up on it – I just kept “putting one foot in front of the other.” It was pitched and pitched to publishers many, many times. However, the most difficult aspect was that, in the end, I got it published without my best friend and writing partner at my side. She and I did the first book together, I Am Beautiful, but she got tired of the struggle trying to get the teen book published. I understand how she felt, but I really miss having her part of this book with me.
Q. What would you like your readers to know was the biggest challenge in creating the I Am Beautiful program?
What is challenging, is not creating the program – but holding the faith! We all need to recognize that claiming our beauty is a process. It is important to realize that “being beautiful” is a lifelong practice – even on bad hair days!!! It is about stepping up again and again, day after day, and recognizing that our worth is NOT equal to the size of our waists, but rather by the full substance of our lives.
Q. We Are More Than Beautiful gave my daughters and me a chance to talk about empowering their inner beauty; do you believe that media is getting the message?
Absolutely – when we demand it. The more of us who turn away from products and productions (TV, movie, etc.) that portray women in a narrow, one-dimensional manner –the more and the faster the media will change. So much of this problem is really rooted in commerce, basic business. The more of us who turn away from shows and advertisers who diminish women – the faster they will realign their messages.
Q. Do you have any advice for parents and teenagers?
For teenagers, enjoy your days of youth doing things that expand, not limit, your body, mind and spirit. For parents, encourage this expansion in every way, while expanding yourself as a role model of wisdom. Our children are watching our every move as they learn the lesson of a life well-lived.
Oh my gosh, can I just get a hand slap!?!?
Thank you, Ms. Winfree...I mean, Woody...I can't tell you (enough) how much I appreciate this opportunity to speak with you, here - you are always welcome at our house - your words are inspiring and really give me a feel for exactly why you believe yourself to be beautiful. Because you are!
We ALL are!
Since today is Valentine's Day, and This Full House is the last stop on her blog tour, I want to tell Woody a little something about me.
Garth (not his real name) and I have been together for nearly 18 years and this IS the first time that I did NOT run out and buy a gift for my husband...on Valentine's Day.
Garth, sweetie, I have fallen in love, with someone else.
No, NOT Woody - even though she is very, very pretty - it's ME, you big Doofus.
Don't worry - he knows, we're cool - because, I told him NOT to bother to buy me anything, either!
In fact, let's ALL make a commitment, to each other - my blogging friends - and remind ourselves that it's NEVER too late! Isn't it time we ALL started falling in love, with ourselves, again!
Yes, I am more than beautiful - this is my gift to you.
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