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Breaking beauty stereotypes for teens.

After fifteen years of working in the marketing industry, Angela Barnett describes herself as a "professional brand storyteller". She is also passionate about breaking beauty stereotypes, promoting positive body image, and teaching young girls to be pretty smart about the beauty industry.

Through her Pretty Smart Talks, Angela equips teens age 11 – 13 with critical thinking around the endless media and advertising about beauty and how it’s defined.

"Many girls start to lose their confidence at around 12. They start worrying more about how they look than how they’re doing in subjects like maths or science. And with 24/7 access to the internet, thousands are asking Google every month if they're pretty enough. Google is not kind with its answers," says Angela.

"Studies show that if teens are taught how the media and advertising works, they are less affected it. Pretty Smart Talks teaches them beauty is far more powerful as a feeling than an adjective. And while it's fine to feel pretty and beautiful, it's important not to be hoodwinked by the industry."

Presenting at schools across Auckland, Angela recently spoke to a group of young girls she describes as "50 brilliant young minds" at Hobsonville Point School:

They were super sharp and funny. At the end of the talk, I always give the girls some homework - to write down three things they like about their own bodies. It could be their strong legs or singing lungs or bright eyes. And I tell them to stash the three things in their back pocket for those moments when someone makes a negative comment about how they look.

A young Indian girl came up to me. She was very slight and shy with big brown eyes and a beautiful smile. "I don't like anything about the way I look," she said.

My heart skipped a beat. After my whole talk, telling her all about how beauty is a construct and what we see is so often not real, and here was a young girl who couldn't think of anything.

I asked her what she was into. "Nothing!" she said.

I kept digging. Did she like dancing (she could like how her legs helped her dance)? No. Climbing trees (arms help you climb)? No. Art (fingers help you create)? No. No. No.

She then said she liked playing on the keyboards so I suggested her hands. They helped her play songs. They helped get the music out of her head and onto the keyboards. She liked that one.

"They help you be you," I told her.

"And my ears," she said. "They help me listen to music!" "Yes!" I said to her, "Now you’re getting the hang of this! You don’t have to choose three things because you think they look good, but just have your three things you like about your own being… that help make you more you. Because that’s all you can be."

And she gave me that beautiful smile.