For the winner of a beauty pageant — and someone who is beautiful by most, if not all, standards — Kirsten Haglund is pretty down on beauty. She won the Miss America crown in 2008, but in a great Q&A on Forbes.com, Kirsten encourages women to “banish the beauty ideal.”
This blog has meant a lot to me in the few brief months it has been in existence. I expected to be inspired and to meet dozens of amazing women. But I didn't expect to have so many of my preconceived notions completely discounted in such a short period of time. I didn't think of myself as a terribly judgmental person, but when many of the Miss America hopefuls parading around Atlantic City last month were found to have backgrounds in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, I was pleasantly surprised. And when I warmed to a 32-year-old porn star at an adult industry convention earlier this month, I was stunned.
Please try not to judge me too harshly. At least I'm learning.
Kirsten, who recently graduated from Emory University, doesn't seem to have any obvious connections to New Jersey, but I think her thoughts on the beauty industry are important for any woman to read.
Kirsten suffered from anorexia for six years, from the age of 12 to 18, and says that it ruined her chances of pursuing her first dream and becoming a professional ballet dancer.
"When women get trapped in the cycle of body hatred, all sorts of distortions occur in both behavior and thought patterns that lead to the disintegration of physical health, destroy relationships and leave a woman fractured and broken," Kirsten says.
"The diet and beauty industries share responsibility for these issues by perpetuating one very Western form of beauty/body type as acceptable and ideal," she continues. "They make billions of dollars making women feel inadequate and fat so that they'll buy their products as the solution to their insecurities. Women need to be empowered to ignore that message and accept their bodies and their own unique beauty. When they do, they can embrace their other skills and abilities, develop innate confidence and set an example to the next generation of young women: that being a 'woman' in the West isn't defined by hating your body and always being on a diet."
Kirsten asks parents to be aware of how they talk about their bodies and their health in front of their kids so that bad habits and body images aren't perpetuated. And she tells female students to start a revolution among their friends, bringing an end to "fat talk."
"Each of us has been given a struggle or a challenge for a reason," she says. "It is not simply for our own growth — in the way that we have been healed, we can help heal others."
Kudos to writer Denise Restauri, founder and CEO of GirlQuake, for the original post on Forbes.
And for more information about Kirsten's work with eating disorders, visit the website of her foundation, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation.