I live in Los Angeles. The one place in the entire world, where some people are considered flawless… perfect. Maybe that’s why they call it the city of Angels. Some of the men and women here are considered to be heavenly, however what Hollywood doesn’t want to remind you is that celebrities are just paid workers with strong jawlines and the ability to remember long phrases for short periods (some with much more skill than others) and Hollywood is just the name of an industry. It’s a job.
Some people blow glass into magnificent pieces of art, others teach pre-school, a brave few become firemen or astronauts. Here in Hollywood we make movies, and create television series. Our craft is entertaining, but that’s not always our result. For far too many years the entertainment industry has promoted the idea that all women should look like barbies. That we should all have big breasts, a little waist, highlights, and never be caught dead without lip gloss.
Ladies, I hate to tell you but no matter how hard you try, you will never wake up in the morning looking like Jennifer Aniston… I’m sure when she wakes up she doesn’t even look like Jennifer Aniston. The industry uses a multitude of lights, camera lenses, photo shopping softwares, tweaks and tricks to manipulate the outcome of the shots or photos. We make things magical. That’s what the entertainment industry is, a “heightened, more exciting version of real life” to quote model, Jennie Runk.
But over the last few years, something new has begun taking place. Social Media has put more and more power back into the hands of the exceptionally real and unique woman. It has allowed us more exposure to cultural variety, a lot of which is still raw and unfiltered.
Producer Sharon Liese found a way to harness this power, and remind us all of something incredible along the way. I got to catch up with her after her trip to Sundance to learn a little more about her recent project.
Tennessee Martin: Your short film Selfie made it into Sundance this year. That’s so exciting! Can you tell me about the project?
Sharon Liese: I was asked to submit a proposal to produce a 3-7 minute documentary short that captured how women have traditionally defined beauty and how women of this generation are in a unique position to redefine beauty because of social media. The modern day self-portrait seemed to be the obvious storytelling vehicle. So, the pitch was to follow a group of teenage girls and their moms as they embraced a new type of Selfie. Sixty filmmakers were invited to apply and Selfie was chosen! The award was a partnership between The Sundance Institute and Dove – part of Sundance’s Women Filmmakers Initiative. Dove is using the film to launch their new #BeautyIs campaign.
TM: You also produced two season’s of High School Confidential, a show depicting the lives of an entire group of young women over their four-year high school experience. I can definitely see where your passions lie. What has motivated you to do these kinds of projects?
SL: I ask myself this question all the time! There is something about the transformative time between 14 and 18 years old for young women that intrigues me. There is something so magical about evolving from that awkward time into a space of confidence and empowerment. Of course I recall my own challenges as a teen and hope I can make it easier for women to emerge from the turbulent teen years with strength.
TM: Your efforts are honorable and appreciated. I think a lot of young women still believe the self in self-mage is silent. How can we encourage them to accept themselves the way that they are? How do we spread a movement like #Selfie?
SL: This was exactly the challenge documented in Selfie, Once we realize that what we perceive to be flaws are really the features that make us unique and beautiful we are on the road to accepting ourselves. Social media now allows us to have the power in our hands. There is also an opportunity for moms to learn a lesson here too. We found that moms who are self-critical teach their daughters to be less accepting of themselves. By embracing our uniqueness we can give ourselves and our daughters a more positive message.
TM: In large, the entertainment and fashion industries have negatively influenced our ideas of what being beautiful is defined by. Most women will never look like runway models or celebrities, yet that is what we as a society strive for. What advice do you have for young women who are battling this mentality?
SL: Through this project, I learned a lot about the research done by Dove that indicates that women are beginning to define beauty differently. Today, women can see all types of women on the Internet so we are not confined to one standard for beauty any more. Women are also broadening the definition of beauty to include “inner” beauty – characteristics like courage and confidence. My advice is for young women to look beyond “looks” and take stock in their intangible features.
TM: I couldn’t agree more! Well, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. You have many young lives to mold! What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
SL: I am working on several new projects. I’m sure its not surprising that I am working on a pilot (with the Jon Kroll) in the teenage space that deals with a very interesting and dramatic transformation process – wish I could tell you more J
TM: Ahhh the fantastic Jon Kroll. Some of my readers might remember him as the Producer who recruited me on Twitter almost a year and a half ago and now write's all of my paychecks. It's hard to believe it's been that long! Whatever the two of you are working on has to be life changing. Speaking of life changing... have you ever seen Push Girls (the Sundance Channel Series?) I'm interviewing Tiphany Adams later this week. What are your thoughts on the show and how these incredible women are breaking stereotypes and boundaries?
SL: I absolutely LOVE Push Girls. When I first saw it, I thought, “why didn’t I think of that?” It’s a show that definitely shatters stereotypes in a very bold and compelling manner. The women are real and empowered and every young (and older) woman can learn something from them!
TM: I’m sure they’ll be happy to learn they have such an inspiring fan. I love the show too! Thank you again, Sharon. I can’t wait to hear more about that upcoming project! Until then, everyone follow @SharonLiese on twitter and DON'T FORGET to check out “Selfies” on YouTube.
Send it to your mom, post it on your best friends page, tweet it to every woman you know… Because we are all beautiful.
Beauty is ours, and we have every right to take it back. Start with #Selfies.