What does it mean to feel beautiful?
If the lovely new collabortion between professional photographers Alison Luntz and Viola Gaskell and eBay Fashion is any indication, the answer has little to do with physical appearance.
The photographers asked more than 80 strangers throughout New York City and Seattle what makes them feel beautiful as part of their aptly titled photo series, "What Makes Me Feel Beautiful." While many subjects mentioned things like makeup and clothing, others interpreted beauty as the feeling they got when singing, dancing, hanging out with friends or simply sitting outside on a sunny day.
Ebay Project Manager Chibuzo Okoro told Mic:
From the responses we learned that, for most of us, the feeling of being beautiful is derived from many of the same places, and it's more than skin deep. We feel most beautiful when we are able to connect with others, when we're outside in the sun, when we exercise, when we look good, when we accomplish something. Fundamentally, we feel most beautiful when we feel good internally.
Beauty has long been a form of social currency (especially for women), yet visible attempts to make oneself more beautiful (i.e., the use of makeup or certain items of clothing) may be met with disdain. Some argue that women look better without all that gunk on their faces (thereby assuming that such an act is done solely for their benefit), while others insist that eyeliner and high heels are actually a form of self-oppression that plays into patriarchal expectations of beauty.
But as this project shows, appearance can also be an invaluable tool for self-expression. "What Makes Me Feel Beautiful" transcends the patronizing affirmations of (typically female) beauty that can be found in so many recent male pop stars' hits: By highlighting how inherently subjective interpretations of beauty are, the project empowers individuals to reclaim the term and define beauty for themselves.
Most importantly, it reminds everyone that you don't need to fit into anyone else's mold in order to feel good about yourself.
Take a look at some of the project's — dare I say, beautiful? — photos below.
All images credit Alison Luntz and Viola Gaskell and used with permission. See even more images at the project's website, and share what makes you feel beautiful on Twitter with #makesmefeelbeautiful.