UT Real Beauty Campaign promotes positive self image

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Marketing and Plan II senior Unnati Shukla is the president of UT Real Beauty campaign that promotes positive self image. The campaign opened up to all students this year after receiving positive feedback last year.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Taking to social media, one campus campaign is encouraging students to be comfortable #InMyOwnSkin by redefining beauty standards. 

Two years ago, Texas Spirits began the UT Real Beauty Campaign alongside fellow spirit group Texas Sweethearts to promote positive self image among men and women within the UT community.

“Real beauty is often equated with just a physical thing,” said Unnati Shukla, president of UT Real Beauty and a marketing and Plan II senior. “We want to get the conversation going on what real beauty really entails to other people.”

The campaign is organized by a 12-person committee and 50-person impact team who promote and hold events such as a documentary screening and self-care night from Oct. 10-21. Though UT Real Beauty started as a program exclusive to members within spirit groups, it opened up to all students this year due to the positive feedback it received last year.

Michelle Lu, a Business Honors Program, marketing and psychology junior, said attending last year’s campaign events and being a part of the committee this year has given her guidance on her own road to
self-acceptance. 

“Self esteem has always been something very important to me and personally impactful,” Lu said. “I used to reflect on what I wanted others to think of me and never had time to find who I am. I’ve since learned to value my own opinions, and I hope to pass this message along by participating in Real Beauty.”

Some of the campaign’s big events include an open mic night, where anyone can read or submit work to be read aloud, and a lecture from a keynote speaker, Elise Banks, a former Miss Texas International and current mental health advocate.

“I’m interested to hear Ms. Banks’ perspective on being a woman of color in the pageant community and how mental health has played a role in her career,” Shukla said. “We can’t talk about real beauty if the people we’re portraying aren’t diverse.”

One of the campaign’s main priorities is to make this year’s and future efforts more comprehensive, such as discussing colorism and how men are affected by self-image, as opposed to being strictly female-oriented. 

John Paul Napleton, an international relations and public relations senior, serves as the only male on the committee. He said men are often neglected in the discussion on positive body image and self-love. 

“Personally, and as a gay Latino male especially, it’s hard sometimes to have a positive image based on what society’s standards of beauty are,” Napleton said. “It’s important that issues like sexuality, race and beauty — both inward and outward — are not thought of as exclusive to just one gender.”

Though the campaign is currently still managed by Texas Spirits, its organizers plan on becoming a separate and independent organization by next year with a similar two-week event and profit shares throughout the year to continue spreading their message.

Despite the growing number of popular self-acceptance campaigns, Shukla said self-love is much easier said than done. 

“A lot of people have been saying, ‘You have to love yourself before anyone else loves you,’ but that isn’t always true,” Shukla said. “It makes it seem like you’re not allowed positivity or good things unless you love yourself first. Real Beauty is about being okay with not being okay and realizing that even though that you’re not there yet, you’re still worthy of love.”