Elementary girls to benefit from This Is Me fundraiserWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates is used to standing in front of a judge and speaking confidently to a courtroom. But standing in front of a camera to be photographed without makeup made even her feel a little vulnerable.
Bates is among the local women whose barefaced portraits will be featured at This is Me, an upcoming fundraiser to benefit Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Northwest Ohio.
“We as women do everything to stop the aging process, probably from the time we’re 20,” Bates said. “But this is who we are, this is what we look like, this is how we sleep, this is how we come out of the shower, this is how we come out of the swimming pool. Girls from the time they are young should know they can be loved for what’s inside. That’s what’s really important —what you stand for — and if you look good, that’s just frosting, really.”
This is Me is set for 7-11 p.m. Sept. 13 at The Blarney Event Center, 601 Monroe St. Tickets will be available soon at a cost to be determined.
The event will feature refreshments, music from local female artists and portraits of 12 women to be sold by silent auction. Among those featured will be Bates, WTOL11 news anchor Chrys Peterson, Toledo City Councilwoman Lindsay Webb, autism charity Project iAm founder Nicole Khoury, 101.5 The River morning radio host Mary Beth Zolik, The Josh Project founder Wanda Butts, blogger Brittany Gibbons and more.
“Everyone has a story and their own reason for doing it,” said organizer Jeremy Baumhower, a Toledo Free Press columnist. “The whole night will be a celebration.”
Baumhower come up with the idea after seeing “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke and singer/actress Demi Lovato post photos of themselves without makeup to social media sites, encouraging others to do the same.
“Ladies, be brave today.. take off your make-up and stop using those filters!! WE are beautiful!!!,” Lovato tweeted on April 3.
“I just woke up and saw in my head, ‘What if we did it locally with beautiful, powerful women?’” Baumhower said. “I had the vision before I had the charity.”
Soon after, Baumhower approached GOTR of Northwest Ohio.
“The message we’re teaching our girls is to be proud of yourself, respect yourself and you’re beautiful just the way you are, so to showcase some of the successes and awesome impacts adult women are having on the community that have nothing to do with their looks is great,” said Lindsay McKibben, council director of GOTR of Northwest Ohio. “We loved the idea and the message that he is trying to share.”
GOTR is a 10-week program that combines running with an interactive curriculum to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in preteen girls. It has locations in more than 200 cities in the United States and Canada. Northwest Ohio’s chapter started in 2012 and hosted 13 teams of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at 11 sites during its spring season. More local sites will be added this fall.
Webb said she was drawn to This is Me because it reinforces the example she’s trying to set for her stepdaughters.
“I believe combating the message that you have to be what society deems as perfect is crucial to their self-esteem and well-being,” Webb said in an email. “If women who are successful can demonstrate they are comfortable in their own skin without makeup, it may send the message to girls and other women that what really matters is how you feel about yourself. Your inner beauty and your other abilities are what matter most.
“If you personally feel better in makeup, by all means wear it, but if you are doing it because you feel it’s expected, it may be time to rethink things because all of the time spent on worrying about superficial looks could be better spent on what truly makes you happy,” Webb said.
Khoury, a criminal defense attorney and musician in local band Arctic Clam, said she is generally comfortable with herself, but still struggles with occasional insecurity.
“I’ve dealt with perfectionism issues my whole life,” Khoury said in an email. “Most people look at me and think I’ve got this extreme confidence and nothing bothers me. I do have a ton of confidence, but then I pick myself apart from head to toe.”
Zolik said her confidence to be herself can be traced to her all-girls Catholic high school.
“My husband and I have encouraged our daughter with the same philosophy, and whenever I have the opportunity to spread this message to other girls, I’m all in,” Zolik said in an email. “If the whole idea is to give these girls a positive sense of themselves, that what really counts is what is on the inside, not the outside, what better way to prove it than by taking it all off?”
Area women are encouraged to share photos of themselves without makeup via social media using the hashtag #thisismetoledo. A selection of the photos will be chosen for display at the event. Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor.
Bates said she hopes the event helps raise awareness among girls about self-image.
“My mother had this fabulous saying, ‘Pretty is as pretty does,’” Bates said. “It’s all about how you are, not how you look. Be who you are. Be great. You are great. The prettier you behave, the more you glow. That’s the truth. It’s all about what comes from the inside. I hope we can say that and we can make younger women, younger girls, really believe it.”
For more information, visit thisismetoledo.com.