Stunning Photos of Young Girls Prove 'Strong Is the New Pretty'

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Strong Is the New Pretty. (Photo by Kate Parker)

From birth, young girls are bombarded with the message that being pretty means wearing frilly dresses, loving princesses, and having perfectly coiffed hair. Atlanta-based photographer Kate Parker’s new series Strong is the New Pretty featuring her two young daughters Alice, 6 and Ella, 9, playing sports, running, and jumping in imperfect clothing is a welcome breath of fresh air.

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Parker tells Yahoo Parenting that the idea for the series sprang from wanting to capture two years of her daughters’ lives without forcing them into poses or clothing that was more for her own benefit. 

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Strong Is the New Pretty. (Photo by Kate Parker)

And her girls, then 7 and 4, were the perfect ages for it — studies show that fourth grade is the last year that many girls feel good about themselves. “I wanted to document the time in my girls’ lives when they did feel [that way] in a small hope to mitigate that loss of confidence when they reach their teen years,” says Parker.  

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Strong Is the New Pretty. (Photo by Kate Parker)

So over the course of the next 24 months, she sought to do just that. “I realized that the strongest photos were ones of my girls just being themselves — their freckled, emotional, sometimes dirty, messy selves,” Parker says.

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Strong Is the New Pretty. (Photo by Kate Parker)

And isn’t that what girlhood is supposed to be about? As the mother of two little girls who are 8 and 1, I am hyper-aware of all the gender-based messages they’re sent: Be pretty and kind. Never rock the boat. Always smile. Meanwhile, boys are taught to be tough and strong, to fight for what they want, to get dirty and be physical. It’s time we change the message.

Parker says her favorite photo of Ella was taken the night before a triathlon. Ella trained hard for the event, but the night before, she was a bundle of nerves. So Parker took out her camera and snapped some photos. 

The resulting images were not of a fearful little girl, but of a brave and fierce warrior. Parker used to photo to show her daughter what she could do. And the next day, “She killed it out there,” Parker says. “We were so proud. It really didn’t matter to us how she finished — just that she got herself to the starting line and went for it.”

Parker hopes that her photos will encourage parents to look beyond their daughters’ pretty faces and try to understand the strong, fierce, wild people inside. “Princesses, tomboys, scientists, athletes, readers — whatever it is, is good enough,” Parker says. “Celebrate it. Show your kids that you’re proud and that you value their talents and interests and they will too.”

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