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Chilliwack high school student leading self-esteem campaign

G.W. Graham S.S. student Brittany Clough is leading a week of no makeup and no hair products for girls Grades 7-12, during Feb. 16-23.
Brittany Clough

Fed up with girls putting themselves down over their image, one local teenager is spearheading an innovative campaign to emphasize what  true beauty is.

17-year-old Brittany Clough, a Grade 12 student at G.W. Graham Secondary School, is calling on all high school girls in Chilliwack to bravely remove their makeup and hair products for one week, Feb. 16–23. All proceeds of pledges go to the Dove Foundation, which campaigns to clean up Hollywood movies. About 80 girls have already requested pledge forms, from at least five different schools.

Brittany was motivated to run an event emphasizing inner beauty because she has noticed girls struggling with low self-esteem.

"There's Grade 7s coming to school wearing loads of making, because that's what they believe beauty is. There's a lot of eating disorders, self-harm, from people who don' t believe that they're good enough, and it's just sad to watch that increase," says Brittany.

The challenge week includes daily self-esteem exercises, such as listing 30 positive things about oneself.

And to demonstrate that everyone goes through self-doubt – whether it be the smart girl, or the beautiful one – Brittany is wrapping the week with a celebrity-packed speaker night and sleepover party on Friday, Feb. 22, at G.W. school. Chilliwack's mayor Sharon Gaetz, professional singer Marika Siewert, and Miss World Canada 2012 Tara Teng will step up to the podium, all inspired to take part by Brittany's initiative.

"I imagine that these young women, if they're used to wearing makeup and hair product – if they have hair like mine, which is extremely curly without the hair straightener – will feel a little bit vulnerable, because I think we do. I think (Brittany) is teaching everyone what true value is," says Gaetz, who will share lessons from her sisters and her favourite women role models at the event. "The whole part of being self-assured has to come from within."

Siewert, on her part, tries to dispel myths about beauty in the entertainment industry through her work.

"Everyone's always focusing on the anti-bullying side, but if people actually focused on the value of girls and guys alike, you would get rid of the bullying issue because when these kids know how they're valued, and what their identity is, you get less of the other conflict that causes the bullying," says Siewert. The singer is also donating half of the proceeds from the sale of her album at the speaker event to the Dove Foundation.

A yoga instructor, Christie Weightman from Off the Mat Yoga, will also lead a class for the girls, and speak about the practice's health benefits on the mind and body. And local teachers and students will share their thoughts on how to make it through teenage-hood with head held high. Afterward, Brittany will guide the participating girls through a series of fun activities, such as making a video about what beauty means to them.

Brittany, backed up by her similarly hard-working mom Jenny Clough, organized all this herself. In addition to the beauty campaign, the energetic go-getter is on various school clubs, including dance, drama, vocal jazz, and musical theatre. She's an assistant instructor at the Chilliwack School of Performing Arts, and volunteers for community fundraisers. Come September, Brittany is hoping to enter UBC for a B.A. in psychology and writing, or maybe go to Toronto's Sheridan College for musical theatre.

"I love it," she says of her busy life. "I get it from my mom."

Last Sunday, she competed in the Miss Teen Canada World provincials. Beauty pageants are a new activity for her, and she threw herself into the ring because of the inner beauty that she believes the pageant promotes.

"I don't call it a beauty pageant, I just call it Miss Teen Canada World. Because it's not Miss Beautiful, it's just Miss Teen Canada: someone who will represent the girls in Canada well, a leader," says Brittany.

Grades 7-12 girls who wish to take part in the weeklong event and Dove Foundation fundraiser can contact Brittany through Girls who wish to keep their hair and makeup products on, but sill want to attend the speaker night on Feb. 22, can do so with a $25 fee, donated to the Dove Foundation.