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IN HER OWN WORDS: JA'LEIA

Ja'Leia's Essay

I have spent so much of my adolescent life thus far attempting to achieve beauty. I was never satisfied with being me because I was constantly attempting to fit into the mold that society has created for how a woman is supposed to look. Beauty is often narrowly perceived only in someone who has the Barbie doll or Victoria's Secret model image. That is the woman who is portrayed in the media, everywhere from television shows to commercials to magazines. Her face is fair and flawless, her eye color is intensified, her hair is out of this world shiny, and from head to toe everything about this woman is an ideal image of "perfect." This is an image that ruined my self-esteem and confidence growing up. I was bamboozled into thinking that to be worth something and feel good about myself, I had to attain this far-fetched idea of beauty that is completely falsified. The truth of the matter is I won't ever look like those women because those women don't even look like those women. Being flawless is not a realistic goal and the majority of the time what you're looking at in these women is fake. Fake hair, fake nose, fake eyes, air brushed skin, fake everything. But I want my beauty to be real, and through Athena's Warehouse, I have learned what it takes to be a woman with real beauty. 

Because of Athena's, the way I perceive beauty in woman has transformed from outward appearance to something much greater. The workshops at Athena's have taught me skills to be a better version of myself. I learned a plethora of lessons to take with me throughout life, including how to keep physically fit while having fun, and not taking myself too seriously through the dance workshop. I learned how to keep good posture, accept my height, walk upright and be confident. I learned how to keep myself protected in any situation by being introduced to all methods of contraception (not that I'll need them anytime soon). I also learned how to stay healthy by preparing foods that taste good and are also good for me. All of the workshops were not only fun, but they gave me great insights for having a positive future, and I am so thankful to Athena's for that. 

Athena's also taught me how to make efforts towards being the type of woman who is successful, powerful, and respected. Women have struggled to receive equal rights for too long, and are still struggling with being treated as equals to men. Athena's let me know that I don't have to take that. That women should never be treated as if they aren't as significant as men and I have been further prepared to stand up strong, proud, and prepared to be an independent woman in the future. I was given one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had in my life by Athena's, which was to interview with prestigious women working in careers that I aspire to be in. I talked to a woman who worked for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a woman who worked for the Brookhaven newspaper who were so influential and gave great advice for entering a career in journalism, which is my dream. They gave me interviewing pointers and their contact information, which was a form of networking and potentially opening doors in my future. 

Athena's gave me an intangible form of beauty that didn't include wearing makeup or conforming to society's views of beauty and being practically plastic. This program added substance to my life and made me more confidant, helping me to overcome an obstacle I have struggled with so long — being insecure. I am now aware of my self worth, the importance of powerful woman, and how to be a powerful woman myself. That is what I consider to be real beauty, and I am proud to say that Athena's helped me to be more beautifully prepared for my future. 

 Ja'Leia (far right) with fellow participants after cleaning the BeltLine with MINT Gallery

Ja'Leia (far right) with fellow participants after cleaning the BeltLine with MINT Gallery

Because Athena's has made such an impact in my life, I make it a point to try to give back to others even a little of what Athena's has given to me. I now educate my 13-year-old sister and her friends about the importance of self acceptance and the great ways that women can make an impact on this world. One of my long term goals is to continue the legacy of Athena's by creating an organization that provides an opportunity for all teens to educate themselves on helpful life topics, rebuild any damaged spirits they may have, and help prepare them to live a productive life like Athena's did for me. It will be meant to teach, empower, inspire, and educate teen girls even in middle school and continue throughout high school. Athena's has truly inspired me, and I wish that every teen girl could experience something like what Athena's provides. 

Because of Athena’s, I no longer wish to fit in the mold that society creates for women. I believe every woman is special, unique and amazing in her own way and should not be made into thinking that we should all be the same. I now know that I have beauty that is important because it lies on the inside of me. I feel much more prepared to be awesome, be aware, and be ready for life. 

Athena’s gave me an intangible form of beauty that didn’t include wearing makeup or conforming to society’s views of beauty and being practically plastic. This program added substance to my life and made me more confidant, helping me to overcome an obstacle I have struggled with so long — being insecure.