JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

Sundance film ‘Selfie,’ produced by KC filmmaker, helps redefine beauty

Updated: 2014-01-25T23:47:53Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

Beauty, as celebrated by Hollywood, is makeup, Photoshop and teeny-tiny waistlines.

It’s hard to fight against the unrealistic beauty standards, but a powerful punch comes from an unexpected source: selfies.

It used to be we were scared to take pictures sans makeup or perfect hair. With selfies, that’s changed, says Sharon Liese of Overland Park, the producer behind “ Selfie,” a seven-minute documentary that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, this week. It’s been on YouTube since Sunday and already has more than 400,000 views.

The gist? Redefining beauty through selfies — the popular self-portraits we take and share.

More than half of women believe that social media holds more impact than print, film and music, according to research by Dove. The company once known only for soap celebrates the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking Campaign for Real Beauty, which showcases everyday women rather than Photoshopped models.

To mark the occasion, Dove and the Sundance Institute invited 60 women filmmakers to pitch a short film exploring how women define beauty and how social media has changed that definition. Liese and her team, including Academy Award-winning director Cynthia Wade, won.

At a Massachusetts high school, the challenge was to get girls to take selfies of the things they didn’t like about themselves. Their hair. Their braces. A round, baby face. Even harder, their mamas were encouraged to do the same.

The goal, Liese says, was to get them to embrace what makes them different and celebrate that uniqueness in others, too.

Liese, the filmmaker of TV’s “High School Confidential” fame, has long been fascinated with the changing seasons of adolescence.

“I am so in love with the transformation that happens during the teenage years,” she says. “What is really eye-opening is the way that moms and daughters are intertwined on our growth journey. Daughters are really influenced by their mothers. They notice their moms’ insecurities, and it has an impact.”

But the learning goes both ways. In the film, one mother comes from the makeup generation, when women just didn’t leave home with bare faces. But her daughter is comfortable in her own skin, no extras.

Liese, a mother herself, says if women take a step back, their daughters can teach them a thing or two.

“Moms can be more critical of themselves than their daughters who are taking selfies and posting pictures and OK with how they look,” she says.

“Our daughters can teach us a lot. So many times we focus on what we need to impart on our daughters, but if we sit back and listen and watch, there is so much we can learn. Even in their youth, there is some wisdom.”

Dove aims to inspire women to redefine beauty, to be empowered by social media. Online, it’s inviting women to post their pics and videos with the hashtag #beautyis.

Through social media, we can take the power from the magazines and the movie screens and send the images we want to see in the world. We can celebrate ourselves. No filter.

By the way

Sharon Liese is producing “Birthing Pains,” a live, hour-long special on fertility issues at 7 p.m. Thursday on KCPT’s “The Local Show.” The program will examine the issues through the eyes of three couples.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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