Here’s the thing: I’m no fan of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His crusade against cigarettes, super-sized sodas and fatty oils in restaurant food notwithstanding, I can’t stand that he insists on using his government-sanctioned racial profiling program, Stop and Frisk, to terrorize black and brown boys, and I’m definitely not here for the ridiculous, dehumanizing ad campaign he launched to discourage teen pregnancy. But I begrudgingly give his administration a MyBrownBaby salute for #ImAGirl, a public health campaign aimed at improving girls’ self-esteem by telling them they’re beautiful just the way they are.
The $330,000 program, called NYC Girls Project, launched into action on Monday, with a series of deliciously upbeat, affirming bus and subway ads aimed at girls ages 7 to 12 years old—a group that studies show is at risk of eating disorders, dangerous sexual habits, drinking, bullying and suicide as they grapple with the effects of negative body images. Indeed, in a New York Times story, city officials, anxious to show the importance of the program, cited stats that show more than 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat, and that by age 12, girls’ self-esteem plummets and doesn’t improve again until age 20.
NYC Girls Project counters that narrative with a series of infectious messages: “I’m a girl. I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring,” reads one ad, which joins a series of posters showing girls of different races and sizes playing sports. One girl is even in a wheelchair. Each ad ends with the campaign’s slogan:
“I am beautiful the way I am.”
My personal favorite is the ad featuring a lovely set of giggly brown girls, one with her natural hair fashioned in a beautiful twist out, with all this incredible chocolate skin and a smile as bright and clear as a thousand stars on a clear country night. Yes. Just… hell yes.
The campaign also includes a 30-second PSA featured on the NYC Girls Project website, as well as YouTube and on those little TVs in the yellow cabs. The NYC Girls Project website also offers a plethora of studies, resources and info for parents and their daughters, while program leaders are coordinating a pilot program that addresses self-esteem issues for girls. Physical fitness classes for girls also will be offered through the parks department.
The campaign is the brainchild of Samantha Levine, the mayor’s deputy press secretary, who is doubling as the campaign’s project director. We vote Ms. Levine get a raise, two snaps up and a twist for loving our girls—our babies—enough to build such a powerful program with a purpose. Here’s to hoping other big cities—*cough* Atlanta *cough*—are taking notes.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.