Usually I write reviews about picture books I’ve read and analyzed, but today I want to talk about a picture book that I haven’t read yet, Becoming Beautiful by Tarang Rawat. I haven’t read the book, because it isn’t available yet, but the Kickstarter begins today.
The reason I’m talking about it is because this book is important. This book is a mother’s fight for her daughter, so that her daughter, and daughters everywhere, can grow up to be strong, happy, and confident.
Here’s the Synopsis: Alena is turning eight, her mom has planned a wonderful party, but even on her special day, Alena is not happy. Her friends aren’t happy either. Popular girls are teasing them in school because their bodies are different. They wish they could change the way they look and become someone else.
Alena’s mom hears them talk about it and she has just the magical solution for them: to give them a glimpse of how they will be in future. With this view they see themselves anew, and instead of wanting to be someone else, they now understand their own inherent beauty and potential.
In her initial email to me Tarang described her book as, “a beautifully crafted picture book that has an empowering message for young girls to develop positive body-image and self-confidence. I wrote this book for my daughter originally, but felt the need to share this message with other parents and adults, so we can together raise a generation of strong, independent girls who see their true beauty!“
Her picture book made me curious and she was kind enough to answer my questions.
When does your Kickstarter begin?
Kickstarter for my book is set to launch on February 20th, 2019, it will run for a month to get funds for the printing and production of the book.
What made you want to write this story?
It’s a very personal story- I have always been conscious about the way I look, over the years the feeling of not good looking enough was replaced by being a mom who didn’t have time to look at the mirror, and so those feelings got buried over time.
When my daughter was young I felt that she was also being measured by these unfair standards of beauty by people around. And all of a sudden those old feelings surfaced and the need to protect my daughter from every having to go through what I did.
I wanted my daughter to feel beautiful inside and out and know that she’s precious just the way she is, so I consciously started to look for tools to introduce the concept of self-worth and of self-acceptance but did not find anything.
My daughter is very fond of books so I thought what if I created a picture book to creatively teach her this concept and thus the book was conceptualized.
I’m curious why you focused on beauty – and not something like intelligence or bravery.
I think the biggest challenge women in general face today is that we are so wrapped up with this concept of beauty that everything else (meaningful) comes second and this narrative is fed to us from childhood.
So “Becoming Beautiful” means realizing the inherent beauty within and knowing that we are endowed with whatever it is that we need (courage, kindness, intelligence) and then with that self assured knowledge just manifesting it in our lives in the forms of our dreams/ aspirations.
Have you looked at the market to see what other books are out there about girls and body image?
I was disappointed to find that there was not a single book about this issue out there! Our children are severely exposed to fake and unrealistic standards of physical beauty. They are influenced by popular television shows, celebrity culture, and social media dominance, our young girls often embrace an unnatural image of beauty from a very young age. As a result, we run the risk of leaving behind a generation of girls that are completely unaware of their true value and self-worth.
Not anymore- I wanted to do something about this. Becoming Beautiful challenges these stereotypical standards of beauty and empowers young girls to develop positive body image and self-confidence in themselves and I know it’ll be a valuable tool for the parents in raising strong and confident girls!
So please go learn about it! I’m very excited that someone has created a picture book tackling this topic.
I’ve never met Tarang. She sent me an email and asked me if I would share about her Kickstarter. I have no affiliation with her other than through email. Like I said, I haven’t even read the book yet.
But Tarang’s book and her answers to my questions sparked even more questions in me. So I started doing some research and what I found floored me.
Again, I don’t usually do this, but I wanted to share what I found with you, because I would never have learned any of this if it hadn’t been for Tarang writing her book and emailing me. What I’ve learned has changed my views on beauty and expectations in ways I never anticipated. It’s already changed how I parent my sons and how I approach myself. I was not expecting any of this.
I affectionately joke, but am completely serious, when I say, “Becoming Beautiful is the most influential and profound picture book I haven’t read yet.”
Because I completely agree with Tarang – girls and women are fed this idea that beauty is the first and most important accomplishment and that anything else comes second.
This made me wonder about beauty in general and how much money do we spend on it?
So I first asked: How much money do we spend on cosmetics?
According to Reuter, the Global Cosmetics Products Market is going to reach USD 805.61 BILLION by 2023.
And what about fashion? The clothes we wear, how much do we spend on that?
[Of that, Harpers Bazaar Australia gives us the top 10 fashion and luxury brands from Forbes’ list which adds up to USD 142.8 billion. Also, interestingly enough, every single CEO from this top list 10 is male. Women aren’t running the top 10 fashion and luxury companies. I have always naively assumed women were.]
And what about weight loss? How much do we spend on losing weight?
This CNBC article Top 10 Best Performing Weight-Loss Stocks from 2010, may be years old, but it seems like these companies are still quite popular – Schiff was purchased by Bayer in 2012 – is the biggest difference I can find. BUT what’s interesting here, is that there is only one female CEO, Dawn Zier, of NutriSystem out of all of these weight loss companies.
Almost every single woman thinks about weight loss at some point in time – if not all the time – and from I found it seems we only have one female CEO of the top grossing weight-loss companies.
So if what I have is right, by 2023, we’re going to have $805.61 billion in cosmetics + $385.7 billion in fashion + $66 billion in weight loss = $1.257 TRILLION for these three industries alone. And between the fashion and the weight loss top 10 industries, we have one CEO that’s female. Hopefully by 2023, maybe we’ll have more than one female CEO here.
For reference, according to Business Insider, we currently have about $1.5 TRILLION USD in circulating notes and coins in the United States and $5 TRILLION USD in circulating notes and coins world wide.
So from my crude numbers and number crunching, by 2023, we will have almost as much money going into the global cosmetics, fashion, and US weight loss industries as we currently have in circulation for the entire United States. Is this really right? It can’t be. Can it?
If this is true, what would happen if women all around the world just stopped feeling insecure? If we were like, yeah, I’m not wearing make up anymore. I’m already beautiful, I don’t need it. I’m going to wear my hair so that it’s easy to maintain. ‘Cause, I’m beautiful enough. I’m going to wear totally normal clothes that I feel good about myself in… and I’m going to weigh what I weigh and everyone else can deal with it. I’m great just the way I am. You know, like the vast majority of men do every single day. What would happen to the economy?
It’s not that I have anything against looking nice, or fashion, or make up, or losing weight – but I do struggle with this massive profiting off of women’s insecurity about their already amazing bodies, faces, and hair. And I wonder, when are women going “to be allowed” to feel good about the way they look as they are? How much money are we going to have to spend before we get to be self-confident? Because we’re spending billions already and the vast majority of women I know do not even like the way they look.
And it’s not just the money that is a struggle, it’s the time and mental space we’re spending.
Women’s Health Magazine says women spend 55 minutes a day on how we look. Which means between the ages of 20 and 46 – dedicates ONE YEAR of her life just to how she looks. By the time she’s 65 – she’ll have dedicated almost 1.7 YEARS of her FREE TIME to getting ready in the morning. If she starts at age 15 – that’s 1.9 years.
I don’t know about you, but there are so many ways I’d rather spend a year of my free time than getting ready in the morning.
Then in addition to the time we spend to making ourselves look how we’re told we should, how much time do we spend watching very thin people on screens and in magazines?
I couldn’t find an exact number, but on Netflix ALONE in 2017 we spent 1 BILLION HOURS PER WEEK watching them.
And how thin are they?
I couldn’t find a good article on the average actresses’ BMI, but I could on runway models. And this is interesting!
According to The Guardian, the average BMI (not a perfect measurement, I realize, but still something) of a model is 16.
For reference, a 5’3″ woman would have to weigh 91 lbs to have a BMI of 16.
But the average American woman isn’t 91 pounds, the average American woman is 5’3″ and 168 pounds and the average French woman is 5’3″ and 137.6 lbs and the average Chinese woman is 5’1″ and 126 pounds and the average Mexican woman is 5’2″ and 151 pounds and the average Australian woman is 5’3 and 156 pounds.
Yeah, something’s wrong here. And it’s not the women. We’re all coming in fairly close to each other in height with the lowest average weight being 124 for South Korea. But the average model is 5’9″ and 110 lbs.
I think there’s a problem with the products and how they’re advertised.
Because if models have to be a size zero, and they have to be a teenager, and some company has to Photoshop the images – just to make the clothes look good and for people to want to buy them – I have to wonder – maybe it’s the clothes that are the problem?
And I have to wonder – why isn’t the fashion industry overwhelmingly making clothes for and using accurate models of women in their ads across the board? Because if the clothes don’t make the average woman feel good about themselves, and the average woman is buying the clothes, then it’s a bad product.
And this is important.
Because when we go to the store and we try on some inaccurately advertised product – be it cosmetics or fashion – and we don’t look like what we saw on the page. Instead of blaming the product and the advertisers – we blame ourselves and feel bad about our glorious bodies – because we’re not 5’11” and a size zero and a teenager.
But it gets worse – because these companies don’t stop at you – they’re coming for your children. (I’m not being dramatic, cosmetic-business.com has an article titled Cosmetics for Kids: The Young Market of the Future.
And you realize that your daughters are going to grow up with this same weird and distorted sense of insecurity that you’ve been battling your whole life – because they don’t look like what they saw in the ad or magazine or on tv either.
And the idea that your children are going to doubt themselves over their perfectly wonderful, perfectly amazing bodies, and naturally gorgeous, glorious faces is heartbreaking and enraging. That even if they’re great people, who are doing wonderful things, and doing their best, if they’re not super thin and look like some computer-altered model – they’re going to feel like less.
So you feel compelled to do something about it. These companies have already taken your time, your money, and how you see yourself. You don’t want them to have your kids, too. That’s asking too much.
But then, what do you do? Because you’re raised in this crazy system, feeding this crazy system, measuring your own worth against this system, and the odds are so terribly stacked against you anyway.
You start to fight anyway you can. Tarang’s fighting it. She wrote a picture book. You may wonder or be cynical because what can a self-published picture book do against literally a TRILLION dollars?
But the fact that Tarang even wrote and is Kickstarting Becoming Beautiful has me asking questions about the fashion industry, cosmetics industry, and weight loss industry. Looking up and paying attention to CEOs, money, and how many women designers are in a fashion house.
Her book has me researching advertising, self-esteem, and future influence on children and writing this article to share with you. It has me talking to my sons and husband and other women about beauty and expectations and what it’s like to be a woman – things I’ve never talked about before.
And I had no idea that even though African-American women on average make only 61 cents to a white male’s one dollar – they’re spending Nine Times the amount than non-Black consumers on hair and beauty products – because the pressure to look beautiful is harder on black women.
And then it seems, that if women everywhere are spending their money on products from companies with predominately male executives – then we’re contributing to our own pay gaps.
Tarang simply writing her book has also showed me that every moment that I’m not worried about how I look is another moment I have to think about and do the things I really want or need to do.
And I don’t know, but suddenly that trillion dollars isn’t looking so impossible to overcome. Crazy hard, yes. Impossible, no.
I am so impressed and proud of Tarang for fighting this battle. Clearly she has already made a big impact on me. I am rooting for her, her daughter, and for all daughters, to feel good about themselves, and to have the courage and an unshakable sense of self-worth to go after what they want in life.
Thank you for reading. You’re beautiful as you are. Really.