Embracing True Beauty and the Beauty of Giving Back

by Sonja on April 8, 2009

Embracing Beauty Workshop

Photos by Ivy Rashid Mulholland

Did anyone ever sit down with you when you were growing up and teach you about the ins and outs of skin care and makeup or talk to you about how true beauty emanates from within? That definitely didn’t happen with me. But I know I’m not alone. I would imagine a well-rounded (or even a not-so-well-rounded) intro to beauty is pretty uncommon.

“When we train ourselves to look for beauty rather than imperfection, our lives shift.”

I was fortunate to get a good education at various cosmetics counters on beauty outings with my mom when I was a teen. And I absorbed whatever I could in fashion and beauty magazines. But those makeup counters and magazines promoted a feminine ideal of the “perfect” skin and body. I felt self-conscious and kept trying to “fix” my oily skin and endless pimples. I felt defective when I found some cellulite (imperceptible to anyone but me) or when I learned that some girls were a size 0 and knew I would never fit into such teeny clothes (never mind that I was a half foot taller than those girls).

A Meaningful Opportunity

Remembering what it was like to be a teen, I jumped at the chance to organize a beauty workshop for some teens here in San Francisco. My friend Judy asked if I could teach some teens she works with about basic makeup and skin care stuff. The idea got even more exciting when I found a makeup artist who gives seminars that focus on embracing inner beauty.

The workshop became something much more meaningful than a basic beauty class – something that could help the girls think about beauty in a new way, to help boost their self esteem and confidence. It became a workshop I would love to have participated in when I was a teen. It was also an opportunity to “give back,” to lend my own beauty expertise and my ability to pull together talented individuals and fun beauty donations for the girls.

So today I’m sharing what happened at the workshop with tips on how to embrace your inner beauty every day. And, if you’d also like to do something charitable, I have some tips on how to easily give back to your community even if you’re on a tight budget.

A glimpse into our day…

A Beautiful Success

Everyone involved in our workshop seemed to have a really good time. I think the girls got a lot out of it. We worked with seven teens, most of them are from Chinatown and participate in the Lion Dance and Martial Arts Clubs of the Marina Middle School Expanded Learning Program, which is an after-school program that provides enrichment activities and academic support. My friend Judy has worked with these young women as a volunteer for a couple years. She wanted them to learn about skin care and how to apply makeup for lion dance performances. Most of them had never applied a drop of makeup before the workshop. I thought it would be fun to do a photo shoot as well.

A Generous Team

Everything came together beautifully. A friend referred me to Kathleena Gorga (middle, below), a successful Bay Area makeup artist who gives seminars about embracing what she calls “deep beauty.” As a makeup artist, Kathleena has worked with people like Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and even Steve Martin. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, and Elle.  The Coveted’s lovely Jennine enlisted the help of Ivy Rashid Mulholland (left, below), the founder of BeautyHype and Grooveeffect and a talented photographer who documented the event and took all the gorgeous photos here (well, except the one of herself). I also received generous donations from Neutrogena and The Body Shop so each girl got a goodie bag chock full of makeup and skin care products. Judy (second from right, below) got delicious treats for everyone so we wouldn’t be famished on our day of beauty.

Inner Beauty Workshop Team

A Unique Look at Beauty

“It is so easy to forget that we are each have gifts and talents that are our own expression of beauty.”

Kathleena led the workshop. She says she wanted to create “a fun, validating experience where the girls could feel special” and “help them understand that true beauty is so much more than lipstick and blush and their outer appearance but rather who they are as unique individuals with their own gifts, talents and perceptions.”

Kathleena points out, “It is so easy to forget that we are each have gifts and talents that are our own expression of beauty. We each have our own magic and medicine that we contribute to the world. Our original, true beauty goes beyond the superficial exterior…  In my work as a makeup artist I have made up supermodels who were ugly people and I have also worked with disfigured individuals who were some of the most beautiful people I have ever met.”

What Do You Think is Beautiful?

Everyone chatted about what they think is beautiful. It varied a lot from person to person. One girl said that an “A” on a test is beautiful. Another talked about a beautiful sunset, while another brought up a vintage, burgundy sports car.

Test Driving Beauty Products and a Photo Shoot

The girls tested out their new face wash. Then Kathleena demonstrated how to do makeup on me. She and I also did each girls makeup, and Ivy took photos of all the girls, Kathleena, and me; and Kathleena snapped some shots of Ivy. Everyone got to see that getting photos taken for a photo shoot is fun but a bit daunting. Unfortunately, I can’t show you pics with the girls’ faces, because they’re under 18 so we needed releases signed by the parents, which is a big challenge when the parents don’t speak English.

Embracing Your Beauty

“We feel more beautiful when we love what we do.”

Want to get in touch with your inner beauty? Kathleena has created what she calls “The Daily Embrace” to help anyone nurture their inner beauty on a daily basis. She recommends things like watching our thoughts and self talk for an entire day to become more aware of “negative speak,” which can help us shift toward more positive thoughts; getting off the couch and being active so we can connect with our breathing; and unleashing our passion and creativity, because we feel more beautiful when we love what we do. You can learn more about “The Daily Embrace” at her Conscious Beauty website.

She says, “When we train ourselves to look for beauty rather than imperfection, our lives shift. I do believe that what we focus on we create more of.”

Fashionable Donation

Coveted Inner Beauty TeaTo further help the girls, Jennine created a design for our beauty event and set up a Café Press shop. Pick up a super cute shirt, tote, or mug to celebrate your inner beauty and help a good case. We’ll donate every dollar of the profits to the Lion Dance and Martial Arts Clubs to help them buy things like uniforms and equipment.

Ideas on How to Do Some Good

Perhaps our day of beauty has inspired you. If you’d like to do some good and “give back,” it’s pretty easy. Even if you’ve been laid off or are counting all your pennies in this nutty economy, you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to help others. Just a few of the things you can do: donate your time, share your expertise, and donate stuff you don’t need any more. These things can make a huge difference in the lives of others and remind us that we have a lot to be grateful for.

If you’d like to volunteer, I suggest doing an Internet search to see what volunteer organizations are in your area. In San Francisco, Hands On Bay Area is amazing at hooking up busy people with volunteer opportunities. New York Cares does the same. Idealist.org is also a valuable resource to link you to charitable opportunities and like-minded individuals no matter where you live. They also just came out with a great book The Idealist.org Handbook to Building a Better World that’s an incredibly helpful resource with many tips and inspiring ideas to get you started or to take your charitable work to the next level. Here are just a few simple things you can do to help others:

  • Got old but nice clothes that are just taking up space in your closet? Donate to the Dress for Success program. Even better, organize a clothing drive among your friends or at your office. If your clothes won’t exactly dress someone for success, then drop them off at Goodwill.
  • Got towels and blankets you don’t need? Drop them off at your local animal shelter.
  • Getting a new do? Donate your snipped locks to Locks of Love and help financially disadvantaged kids who’ve lost their hair due to a medical condition.
  • Got a knack for knitting? Knit something for poverty-stricken kids through the Warm Woolies program.
  • Got some airline miles that will never amount to a hill of beans? Donate those miles that are collecting dust and will never add up to a free ticket. Check out Mile Donor that will help you get those miles to someone in need.
  • Got five bucks? Just a single dollar donated to the UNICEF Tap Project buys a kid clean drinking water, something most of us take for granted, for 40 days. Donations can be as little as $5 – less than a lunch out.

There are so many things you can do to help build a better world. Thank you so much to Kathleena, Ivy, Neutrogena, and The Body Shop for their generosity, for helping build a better world.

Do Tell

Have you volunteered lately or donated to a charitable organization? Are you thinking about it more these days in this economy? Wish someone had taught you about beauty basics and inner beauty when you were younger? Do you embrace your beauty inside and out?

P.S. Check out our regularly updated Beauty Resources page for some amazing beauty deals from companies like Benefit, beauty.com, and spalook.com.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 K-Line April 8, 2009 at 7:25 am

Sonja: What a fabulous experience this would have been! I’m trying to reinforce the idea of natural beauty with my daughter - recently went out and bought her a bunch of fun things from the health food store (all natural and in support of natural beauty): shea butter nail cream, grapefruit shampoo/conditioner, gentle tea tree face wash, a face mask that’s literally edible.


2 Sonja April 8, 2009 at 8:20 am

❤ K-Line, that’s very cool that you’re introducing her to safe beauty products and showing her the ropes. Beauty can be a wonderful bonding experience, whether it’s with a mom and daughter or among friends. We had such a wonderful time!


3 Patti Lee April 8, 2009 at 10:01 am

OMG - what an absolute fun afternoon to spend learning about make-up and how to find your beauty within! This would even be fun for a mature audience! I didn’t get this type of education when I was a teen - definitely spent alot of money with exeprimenting all types of “beauty” products - most of it went into the trash! This is a great program. Thanks for sharing this fun time.


4 meligrosa April 8, 2009 at 10:06 am

this is such a great post. My mom never talked to me about anything beauty/fashion. anyhow, growing up with all brothers and their friends you rely heavily on your Gfriends and yes magazines!! until adulthood where you can seek your own answers and research deeper. this is great. any of these workshops happening in SF, keep me posted please. what a great way to reach out to the beautiful community <3 xoxo


5 Sal April 8, 2009 at 10:17 am

Sonja this is simply fantastic. And Kathleena’s quote about training ourselves to see beauty is SO moving! I’ll definitely be exploring her site more. And kudos to you for participating in this wonderful workshop.


6 Sonja April 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm

❤ Patti, thank you! Kathleena would like to do more of these kinds of workshops in the future. I mentioned how my crafting friends would probably enjoy it as a fun learning and bonding experience. Will definitely let you know if she ends up doing more of these for all age groups!
❤ meligrosa, thank you! I am literally SCARRED by my dad’s stab at beauty advice! He brought me into the bathroom and showed me how to squeeze pimples. So bad! But, fortunately, I was eventually steered in the proper direction (although I’m still very tempted to squeeze). Kathleena would like to do more of these workshops. I will definitely keep you posted!
❤ Sal, thanks so much! I feel the same way about the things Kathleena conveyed. I’ve been thinking about them a lot the past few days – very touching and inspiring! She’s doing wonderful work. We were so lucky to have her participate.


7 Kayla April 10, 2009 at 7:52 am

Another great post! I posted on my blog about your video if you’d like to check it out! :)


8 Sonja April 10, 2009 at 10:27 am

❤ Kayla, thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed the post and video. I love that I’ve become more aware of loving all aspects of myself through this. Kathleena is so talented and inspiring!


9 Melanie Baillie April 13, 2009 at 1:05 pm

What a wonderful workshop. I have been trying to find something like this for my soon to be thirteen year old. She and a few of her friends are very interested in makeup and fashion at this age. I wish there were more clinics and workshop for them. It wouyld be nice to see a combination of fashion, makeup and hair for our young girls. Please keep me posted on events for the early teens.
Thank You


10 Sonja April 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

❤ What a lucky girl! I will let you know if Kathleena decides to do more of these kinds of workshops.


11 Linda Bennett November 5, 2009 at 4:55 am

Hope you like our site!


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