From finding the perfect shoes to perfecting winged eyeliner, most of us spend a considerable amount of time dwelling on our outer style, often thanks to our culture's obsession with appearance — but how often do we focus on the status of our inner selves? As part of the #InnerStyle series, an innovative and important new video campaign, InStyle and I Am That Girl are asking every day girls to discuss the difficulties they've faced and how enduring those has shaped their "inner style." The resulting moments captured on camera prove heartrending and empowering in equal measure.
The series was born from a venture between InStyle and I Am That Girl's co-founder, Emily Greener, by which they encouraged celebrities like Lea Michele, Mindy Kaling, Amanda Seyfried and more to open up about issues that negatively impact young women's self-esteem. Hearing the stars' candid confessions of anxiety and self-doubt was so inspiring, the collaborators felt compelled to take the series to the streets, so to speak, by tapping everyday young women to share their own stories. As each girl opens up, an artist captures her words and transforms them into a drawing that represents (and celebrates) her unique inner style. "What we are inspiring with this initiative is a way to talk through pop culture about the things that everyone goes through but rarely says out loud — the struggle, the fear, the success, and everything in between," Greener told InStyle. "The point of talking about your #innerstyle is for girls to be able to celebrate themselves and each other, and to bring an expanded definition of 'style' to the forefront."
And how great is that, right? At a time in our society when the narrative of girl culture is often viewed through the negative lens of "mean girl" behavior, it's moving and relevant — and much-needed! — to find a reminder that, while our struggles are our own, we all do struggle. Just as we all do overcome. It's powerfully unifying to know we're all in this place together, regardless of how different our journeys to get here may be. Like, for example, King's journey.
Sitting down in front of the camera, King reveals the meaning behind her name, explaining it was inspired by a line in a poem: "What makes men into kings is not what they can hold onto, but rather what they can let go of." And what King has let go of in her life is nothing short of heartbreaking. Growing up, she says, emotions like anger and sadness were not allowed to be expressed. Eventually, her outlet for expressing those feelings became self-harm through cutting. Later, hoping to anesthetize her fractured psyche with a distraction, she got drunk at a party and started making out with a boy — one who would interpret her intoxication as an open invitation and sexually assault her. The fragility that followed soon segued into suicidal thoughts.
But it was in performing poetry that she found peace. "I just felt like I was slow dancing with every ghost, and I could just let everything go and nobody judged me," she says. And as she performs an original piece, "They Say," it's impossible not to be affected by King's presence and proud to be in the company of girls like her ... courageous girls who are "night crawling toward morning" and "kiterunners against [the] deafening wind."
So, please, watch the videos. You'll learn about amazing young women like King, yes, but you'll likely walk away with an empowered desire for self-discovery too. In which case, start drawing — InStyle and I Am That Girl want to see your "inner style," so share your portrait on social media using the hashtag #innerstyle and be part of the conversation.
Check out King's story below, and head on over to InStyle to see four more.
Images: Courtesy of InStyle & I Am That Girl