Project Beauty

Lancaster County photographer Regina Gutierrez has teamed up with local high school seniors to organize a series of events, including "Project Beauty," an event designed to encourage teen girls to embrace their natural beauty. 

Seniors from five area high schools have joined forces for a project that aims to bolster girls’ confidence and buck societal pressures to conform to beauty standards.

“Project Beauty” will offer photo shoots to local female high school students in grades nine through 12 on Sunday, Dec. 12, in the Orangery Room of Conestoga House and Gardens, 1608 Marietta Ave. No. 2450, Lancaster. Students must register online prior to the event to book a 15-minute time slot between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Participants are asked to make a $25 donation to Girls on the Run. Register online at lanc.news/ProjectBeauty.

Paige Laurence

Paige Laurence, a Manheim Township High School senior who is part of the group organizing "Project Beauty" and other events with Lancaster County photographer Regina Gutierrez. 

Participants will receive a digital file of their favorite image, as well as an 8-by-10-inch print. Photos from Sunday’s event will be unveiled in a gallery reveal tentatively planned for spring 2022.

The event was organized by a group called the Class of 2022 Senior Team, comprising area high school seniors who organize events with Lancaster County photographer Regina Gutierrez, who specializes in senior portraits. Their projects have varied from styled and creative photo shoots to community service efforts.

Gutierrez will donate her time at the event, which will raise funds for Girls on the Run of Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

Sunday’s event is part of a larger national campaign. “Project Beauty” was founded by Cincinnati High School senior photographer Thomas Nguyen. According to a description on Gutierrez’s website, the project began “with the goal of redefining what true beauty really is, and how beauty is portrayed on social media.”

Paige Laurence, a Manheim Township High School senior, is one of the students organizing the event.

“It is important to bring attention to the fact that teens do not need to look a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ or be accepted by society,” Laurence said in an email. “We want to break the cycle of filtered beauty and instead bring natural, true beauty to the forefront of everyone’s social media.”

She says she and several other students organizing the event have participated in Girls on the Run before, making the fundraising element meaningful.

“We wanted to give back to this organization that helped us to embrace our inner strength,” Laurence said.

In addition to Laurence, other participating seniors include: Evelyn Doody, Brynn Magrini, Arielys Ortiz, Savanna Petersheim, Kylie Robinson, and Cecelia Walker, all of Manheim Township High School; Ava Wolf of Ephrata High School; Lillian Buckwalter of Conestoga Valley High School; Ava Bond of Hempfield High School; and Katie Pilsner of Manheim Central High School.

Laurence says there’s immense pressure on teens to conform to certain beauty standards.

“Teens are constantly surrounded with scenes of filtered perfection,” Laurence said. “Modern beauty standards bring the feelings of not being ‘worthy’ or ‘enough’ to the surface. Teens put a huge amount of pressure on themselves to live up to these unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards, and this can cause a lot of harm in a young girl’s self-image and self-esteem. Instead of focusing on our positive attributes, it is often easy to dwell on our ‘flaws’ that we feel do not fit in with today’s beauty standards.”

Laurence says she and her fellow organizers hope attendees leave Sunday’s “Project Beauty” shoot with their heads held high.

“We want participants to walk away feeling confident and to free themselves of the idea of perfection by celebrating their natural beauty,” said Laurence, who plans to major in a STEM-related field at a four-year college after graduation. For more information, visit reginagutierrezphotography.com.

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