When I first saw Kate T. Parker's book on the store shelf, I nearly leapt out of my skin. First, there was the title: Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves. Then, there was the cover: a non-smiling, athletic girl in swim gear. Next, there were all the inspiring images inside the book: photos of girls playing football, wrestling, skateboarding, fencing, using a bow and arrow, rolling in the grass, navigating wheelchairs. And the pages were filled with quotations taken directly from the girls. One of my favorite quotations was this one by 6-year-old Sabrina, who is shown playing water polo:
"I love water polo and I can lift just one eyebrow and I speak Farsi and play tennis and I can make people laugh by making funny faces. And I taught my little sister, Penny, to read when she was 3."
And take note of this: Strong is the New Pretty led Kate to start a philanthropic offshoot, partnering with organizations such as Girls Inc., Glam4Good and Girls on the Run.
I was delighted when Kate agreed to let Creative Times readers know more about the woman and the process behind the book.
Q: What were some personal highlights for you during the process of creating Strong is the New Pretty? What did you learn about yourself and your relationship to the subject matter during the process?
A: It was a huge learning experience for me. I had zero knowledge about how the publishing world worked or how to put a book together. I learned as I went and it was really amazing and eye-opening. I loved the experience of starting something new and having the opportunity to create something from scratch.
Q: What might surprise people to learn about what it was like for you to put this book together?
A: When I traveled around the country, I found so many different kinds of strength.
It presented itself in a million different ways, ways that were specific to each person.
I met and shot musicians, athletes, pilots, and valedictorians. They were all so so different from one another, but strength was the thread that ran through all of them.
I also noticed this truth: that talent is such a small part of success. Anyone succeeding and excelling at anything is digging in. Working. Learning. Putting the time in. Not taking a no as a sign for them to quit. Believing in themselves and going forward with the hard work of whatever their passion is. You know what that is? GRIT. Those girls had grit.
Q: What kinds of feedback, and from whom, have you received in response to the book? What were some of the themes from the feedback? Do you have a sense of the kinds of ways the book has influenced people?
A: By and large, the feedback has been really positive. I’ve gotten emails and messages saying that the girls who are reading this book really love it, relate to it, see themselves in it, and would like to be part of the next book.
A: The idea and concept behind Strong is the New Pretty isn’t new. Strong has always been beautiful. However, as a mother with two young girls, I see them growing up in an age of filters, Snapchat, Instagram, and lots of photoshopping. The pressure that young women feel these days is new. The internet brings it to an entirely new level. In this world, the message that strong is beautiful needs to be heard more than ever. I wanted to provide a place, a message and images that celebrated girls for who they really are. I wanted girls to know that who they are was enough. That their real, authentic, true selves were enough.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on three books in this same vein. I am so excited about these follow ups! The first book is a Strong is the New Pretty: A Guided Journal for Girls. It really takes the concepts and ideas behind the original book and puts them into action for girls with daily prompts to get out and be active and confident. The next book is called Boy Strong and it is about celebrating boyhood, however that looks and feels. And the last book is about courage in girls and women.
Q: What do you like to do for fun, to blow off steam?
A: I love spending time with my family. is hands-down my favorite thing to do. Joking around and hanging with them is hands-down my favorite thing to do. I also like to run, play soccer, and take pictures. I love taking and creating images!
Q: What's next for you as an artist?
A: I’d love to continue to spread this message of acceptance and confidence to the next generation, in different mediums, however that might look.
For more information about Kate and this book: https://katetparker.com/