The UT Real Beauty campaign is a two-week movement that empowers people to feel beautiful by celebrating their uniqueness. “Our mission statement is to promote positive self-image among men and women in the UT Austin and greater Austin community,” Unnu Shukla, UT Real Beauty Director, says. Open Mic Night is one of the various events the campaign hosts during the month of October.
Story by Allyson Waller
Photos by Sarah Holdeman
On a tranquil afternoon in the Main Mall at University of Texas at Austin, students gathered for the UT Real Beauty campaign’s Open Mic Night, where students were free to read narratives, recite poetry, or perform spoken words on beauty. People gathered earnestly to hear students tell stories about how they deal with the perception of being beautiful.
At the beginning of the evening, personal narratives were read from anonymous submissions students sent in for the campaign. The powerful stories shared people’s encounters with questioning their own beauty, and learning to love themselves despite others’ misconceptions. The audience sat engaged as they listened about the struggles people faced when it comes to dealing with physical appearances.
Audience members also courageously told their stories as well about how they have dealt with their own standards of beauty. Two students, including social work senior Brook Chambers, spoke of their experience doing “Brave the Shave,” an event in which people shave their heads in order to raise awareness to the changes in appearance cancer patients face. “The beauty of a woman comes from her unique self-expression,” Chambers says.
An emotional spoken-word titled, “Self-Love” was performed by Karla Rivera left the crowd engrossed. “I am no longer that girl,” Rivera says, “A girl in a fragile state, I became a woman with a higher fate.”
The Real Beauty campaign is far from exclusive;it is geared towards everyone, regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality. A representative from the Texas Blazers, an all-male honor society on the UT campus, touched on how men play a big role in categorizing beauty and emphasized the importance of loving your body and ignoring a culture in which body-shaming is prevalent.
Campus Outreach Chair, John Paul Napleton shared his story on joining the campaign his freshman year. “My first year on campus Real Beauty had started and I went to Tejas Coffee where they hosted a panel and discussed different topics about female beauty,” Napleton says. “The moderator asked about the men in the room and touched on the fact that men suffer from this idea on the expectation of what a man should be.” He shed light on the reality men go through when it comes to judging their own look and how others perceive their masculinity.
Although the UT Real Beauty campaign began two years ago, it’s message on authentic beauty and positive self-image is being heard. By taking part in the campaign, students are able to discover how they are both inwardly and outwardly beautiful, despite the standards of the media or those around them. “Real beauty is accepting and loving every part of yourself,” Chambers says, “Whether that be your mind, your spirit, your body, loving every party of yourself so you can go out and love others and be confident in your ability to serve the world.”