Beautiful focuses on body image and loving oneself

By Catherine Ferris

(Courtesy of  Beautiful)
(Courtesy of Beautiful)

When Adrienne Gagne, a psychology and public health major, was a freshman, she spoke with friends about a club that would focus on body image. She later discovered that Beautiful, a relatively new club, was just that.

One year later, the sophomore Gagne is now the president, with one friend the vice president and the other an active member.

“I went to the first meeting, and just felt very safe. It was nice to talk about these things and not feel like you’re in a class discussion where some kid in the back is rolling his eyes at what you’re saying,” she said.

Founded in the fall of 2013, Beautiful is a club focusing on young people accepting themselves and their bodies.

“The point of this club is to encourage open discussion about body image in the media and in our society, particularly in college,” Gagne explained.

Gagne said she has noticed subtle changes since the club’s founding. While the message of body image continues to be heavily discussed, she said the club also encourages members to love themselves for who they are physically, mentally and emotionally.

“I think that’s one of the things I like being part of a club that’s new. We’re still testing the waters,” she said.

The first semester of the club’s existence did not have as many events as it had meetings and discussions. However, Gagne said last semester, Beautiful became involved in more events.

For the Nearly Naked Mile the club made and held up posters. The club also held a masquerade ball. Gagne said she saw those events as “come one, come all” affairs.

“When you get into a college environment I feel like people are less likely to want to come to those events unless there’s more of a purpose. It’s no longer like middle school where it’s like ‘Let’s sit here and make arts and crafts and talk about our feelings,’” she said.

As opposed to throwing large events, the club is trying to hold more condensed ones, focusing on a variety of topics including an anti-tanning campaign, a No Makeup Day and setting aside a warm day to smash scales to empower body image.

Gagne said the club has roughly between 30-45 members.

“It changes from time to time,” she said. “It’s hard because a lot of people will come for half the semester and then they’ll drop out, but come back the next semester.”

Although the club talks about body image, she said males are welcome to come to meetings, and there are about four males in the club now.

“One of the struggles is trying not to feminize it too much,” Gagne said. She explained the discussions are not totally focused on the way women are portrayed in the media and that there are meetings that talk about men’s roles and image in the media.

“With eating disorders, that can be a very big topic geared only toward women, and a lot of men may feel they aren’t allowed to say they have an eating disorder,” Gagne said. However, she said the club is not geared specifically for women, but for anyone who wants to participate in discussions.

Beautiful has teamed up with the Belly Dancing club in the past, and Gagne mentioned she would like to see the club collaborate with other social groups on campus in the future.

“I see it progressing forward much more quickly than it did last spring semester. We had a good three semesters to get our foot in the door and see what did and didn’t work. I have a feeling it will grow,” she said.

Gagne’s involvement with the club and her majors complement each other as she thinks about her goals for the future.

“I would like to work with young females who struggle with eating disorders when I’m older. I knew a fair amount of people who had eating disorders,” she said.

But for now, she remains focused on the club and where it is going.

“I think it’s a really great organization we started, especially in college. It’s important to remember that there are things more important than how nice your body is,” she said.

Gagne said meetings tend to be every other week. The first one is coming up on Monday in a location that has yet to be decided.

Catherine Ferris can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @Ca_Ferris2.