Written by Lauren Lerner Tuesday, September 04 2012
Snapshot: Nicole Clark, Director, “Cover Girl Culture”
Former Elite fashion model turned champion for girls’ self-esteem, Nicole Clark takes on the media in her eye-opening documentary “Cover Girl Culture.” With commentary from top agents, designers, models and advertisers, the film explores how the worlds of fashion, modeling, advertising and celebrity impact our teens and young women. Clark boldly takes on critical issues – from unrealistic body ideals and constant pressure to be beautiful to the sexualization of girls in the media – and then offers realistic solutions to parents, women and the media.
Based on the popularity of her film, Clark has become a sought-after presenter for youth-serving organizations. She now offers workshops to girls in middle and high school on media literacy and self-esteem to help immunize them against the media’s pressures to conform to unrealistic ideals.
Her message to you, “Be angry and let every ridiculous, insulting ad see fuel your desire to prevent your daughter from falling prey to the matrix of the media. Speak up, and she will too.”
Womenetics: As a former International Elite fashion model, did you personally struggle with any pressures and ideals about women during your career?
Nicole Clark: No. My parents instilled strong values and self-esteem, so I was able to avoid the pitfalls and snares of the industry. I just wish I had the courage to leave the industry earlier than I had.
Womenetics: What is your definition of a true “Cover Girl”?
Clark: How odd, I just realized something about that name; the word cover means to conceal…. We’ve been a society that conceals our girls and women, hides the truth. It’s time for us to reveal the truth of girls and women. It has nothing to do with make-up, hairstyles, wardrobes and purses. A truth has to be universal. Simply look throughout history and cultures, and you’ll see that not every culture has upheld women for being thin, pretty or having nice hair. The men in some cultures are the ones who must be pretty, made-up with paints and decked out to attract women. So any who say that women are supposed to wear make-up, fancy clothes and preen are not speaking a universal truth, and therefore it is false. The question then is why have we been covering up girls? What are we afraid of? I think most of us have a pretty good idea. My mission is to create a Clever Girl Culture, a Compassionate Girl Culture and a Creative Girl Culture.
Womenetics: When you began producing “Cover Girl Culture” did you think you would not be taken seriously because of your transition from modeling to filmmaker?
Clark: No. Although mainstream media has yet to air my film. When I realized why, I had to laugh at myself for not thinking of this giant obstacle before I started. Perhaps I may not have made the film had I know most media wouldn’t touch the topic for fear of upsetting their advertisers. But I have a rebellious streak in me, so I probably would have anyway!
Womenetics: What is the agenda of advertisers today, and what messages are young girls receiving from them?
Clark: The messages advertisers send girls today are counterintuitive to what society should be telling its children: be pretty, be thin, be sexy, be misbehaved and shop, shop, shop. We should be telling our children: be courageous, be smart, be creative, be kind and learn, learn, learn.
Womenetics: How can we help shape how the next generation of men and boys view women in society?
Clark: Women have to stop buying into the belief that our primary mission is to be beautiful, thin, sexy and that other qualities like intelligence, compassion, humor and courage are secondary. Our society currently instructs boys to believe thin, sexy girls are what grown men deserve and need to be successful. We need true examples of healthy relationships, starting with our own.
Womenetics: What advice would you give to help young girls make educated choices about healthy beauty, self-worth and their value in society?
Clark: In a nutshell: Don’t believe the hype. Corporations want your money and prey upon your insecurities to get it. They know all little girls want to fit in, be loved and accepted, so they tell you lies to trick you into believing their products hold the key to your happiness. If you find yourself not liking your body, feeling unworthy then the media’s spell has worked. You need to break the spell. Ask for help; look to women who’ve successfully blocked out advertisers’ agenda. Do a media detox: unplug from the media. Watch my film “Cover Girl Culture.” Read Audrey Brashich’s book “All Made-Up.” Sign up for New Moon Magazine.
Womenetics: What ways women can teach girls to discern between imagery and reality?
Clark: Children are unable to discern the difference between imagery and reality until they about seven-years-old. Advertisers know this and have been using it against children for very long time. You will have to tell your daughter repeatedly when she is young, and it would wise if you didn’t expose her to media until she was older. Resist using the TV or video games as a babysitter.
Another important way to help girls learn to discern between imagery and reality, when they are old enough to do this on their own, is to ask them questions while watching media. What do they think the ad is selling? What is the ad trying to trick you into believing will happen with their product? How does the ad portray girls versus boys, etc?
Also, point out ways media manipulates our desire to fit in and be loved by showing us false promises in ads, in relationships on TV and through upholding girls/women for contributing nothing of value to society. Be angry and let every ridiculous, insulting ad see fuel your desire to prevent your daughter from falling prey to the matrix of the media. Speak up, and she will too.
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Tired of the unbridled misogynism against both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election, Amy Siskind founded The New Agenda, a non-partisan organization focused on women's advancement.
"Lose the flab!" and "Get a Bikini Body!" were the type of headline commonly found on the cover of women's magazines that implored Pilar Gerasimo to start her own publication, which provides a holistic guide to healthy living.
After working in industries of sales, fashion and journalism, Lauren Lerner still finds a passion in writing. She holds both a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Georgia State University and an associate's degree in fashion design from American Intercontinental University. An internship with Atlanta Woman magazine during college led to an assistant to the editor position. She later joined the staff of PINK magazine as marketing coordinator and contributing writer.