New York City has unveiled a new public health drive to improve girls' self-esteem and body image. The $330,000 campaign, called the NYC Girls Project, kicked off Monday with bus and subway ads starring 21 amateur models of different races and sizes (some are the daughters of city workers) giggling, beaming, playing the violin, palming a basketball, or flexing their arms. "I'm a leader, adventurous, outgoing, sporty, unique, smart and strong," say the signs. Or: "I'm funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring." Or: "I'm clever, adventurous, outgoing, unique, smart and strong."
The initiative, tagged with the slogan, "I'm Beautiful the Way I Am," comes from Mayor Michael Bloomberg by way of his deputy press secretary Samantha Levine, who told the New York Times that she'd been inspired to tackle pop representations of female beauty after hearing about little girls donning shapewear and getting plastic surgery. (She also called out a Dear Sugar advice column in which Cheryl Strayed bemoaned women's obsession with their bejeaned butts as a feminist failure.) And campaign organizers have cited painful statistics: that "more than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat" and that "girls' self-esteem drops at age 12 and does not improve until 20." Hopefully bombarding kids with uplifting signs in the subway will help counteract the body image pressures that lead to these depressing factoids.