Teen Columnist Lily Zweig Helps Teach Important Women’s Empowerment Lesson

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Riva Cooper is a high school student residing in Los Angeles (and just so happens to be my best friend too). Passionate about Woman’s rights and dance, Riva has set out on a mission to spread the word of Internal Beauty to all struggling their way through the rocky teenage years. Be sure to check out Riva’s truly moving video and leave a comment (or some responding words of inspiration) if you were as touched as we were.

Read on for our interview with the movement’s creator, herself- Riva Cooper!

What was the inspiration behind your social action project?
I was asked to choose a topic of passion for a long-term school project and in response to the injustice of our choice create a video. Without hesitation, my mind instantly jumped towards Body Image and Women’s Portrayal in the Media.

What was your personal connection to this topic?
I had recently immersed myself in a book titled: Wintergirls by Laurie Anderson. The inspiration I collected after concluding this novel, was unparalleled to anything I had ever experienced. I decided to further research Eating Disorders, and was shocked at the statistics I faced. I walked away feeling a moral obligation to spread the word about this relevant and modern issue, exploring the effects the “ideal of beauty” has on girls our age today.

Do you feel being raised in Los Angeles, you are vulnerable to these fabricated standards of perfection?
Living in Los Angeles, I am exposed to beautiful women who are in a constant battle of degrading themselves. It is a heart wrenching reality to sit back and witness, knowing the prime source of this pain roots from the media.The modern notion of “beauty” has become this unattainable goal, that we strive to achieve. And so, taking that same medium of advertisement and being given the opportunity to effect a positive change with it, was such a powerful experience in it of itself.

Have you ever been personally effected by this demoralization of women in the media?
As a teenage girl, being raised in the 21st century, I am in contact with this issue our society faces daily. Even if not expressed through an extreme or “visible” extent- I will admit to wishing I appeared similarly to the women advertised in the media. In attending a private West Los Angeles high school, I interact with people in my community who feel working out excessively or watching what they eat will result in a form of perfection. What I hope the women of my generation come to realize is that, this desirable image they wish to achieve is often one heavily influenced by photoshop and the power of technology.

Moving forward, how do you hope to see ideals of beauty alter in terms of the medias influence?
My hope is that Photoshop will become a tool utilized rarely. As a society, we will then be offered realistic images of genuine beauty. I expect photoshop education to be taught to children from a young age- so they can further comprehend the extent to which the photos they strive to embody are altered. I truly anticipate the rise of more realistic models, representing a larger majority of the American population.

Have you seen any changes in present day, that make you hopeful we are moving in the right direction?
Speaking on the brighter side, I have already started to notice more practical models gracing commercials of highly regarded companies such as Dove- who has initiated “Real Beauty” campaigns to inspire young girls, adolescents and women to love themselves for who they are and understand that “you” is just enough.

Riva, do you have any final words of advice for young women and teenagers highly influenced by these idealistic images presently?
Oh goodness this is a lot of pressure!

Be natural. Be you. Genuinely, no pressure, it’s not like the entirety of the teenage population depending on you to give an incredibly prolific answer right now.
The bottom line is that you need to love yourself. Encompass your life by positive and supportive people who accept you just for being “you”. Appreciate all you have and what you were given. Never fear risk. Stand up against what you believe in. Never fail to find a strong and powerful voice. And always believe in yourself. You are beautiful and have achieved perfection, just the way you are.

Thank you so much Riva! I am so proud of all you have accomplished- this truly is such an influential and valuable lesson for us all to learn. Keep on this strong path you have built for yourself. You have every girl in the world supporting you in this venture. Every. Single. One.

Be sure to watch the video below for more on this important lesson for young girls everywhere!

Teen Columnist on All Things Love