A modern revolution

Alumni challenge traditional perceptions of female beauty, confidence, and self-worth with their company, the prettygirl revolution

By Brigid Hamilton, '06  |  Photos courtesy of the prettygirl revolution

Not many companies are founded in a restroom.

But that’s exactly where the co-founders of the prettygirl revolution, Mary Theresa Genetti, ’10, and Elizabeth Trabert Piper, ’12, decided they should partner to revolutionize the female perception of beauty, confidence, and self-worth.

“Elizabeth asked me if I wanted to be her business partner,” Genetti said. “She didn’t even know what the business was yet, just that it would have something to do with empowering women to see themselves as beautiful, as worthy, so that they are able to reach their full potential and be the people they are meant to be.”

At the time, Piper was a junior at Loyola attending the Women’s Retreat. She had followed one of the retreat leaders, Genetti, into the women’s room to tell her how much she had identified with the talk Genetti had given on resilience and self-discovery that afternoon—and to ask her a question.

Genetti, who at that time was working as a graduate assistant at Loyola’s Women’s Center while she pursued a master’s degree in teaching, said, “It was one of those crazy moments in life when you realized something big was going to happen. I remember thinking to myself that I’d been waiting for someone to ask me the right question, and Elizabeth had just asked it.”

Giving light

In the coming weeks, Genetti and Piper met in Piper’s residence hall and told each other their life stories, their ambitions, and their growing passion for a cause that was still taking shape in their minds. In getting to know each other, they learned that while they had struggled with very different things through adolescence and college, from body image and sexual assault to addiction and the tragic loss of a loved one, many of the obstacles they had faced or were still working through were the same.

“Both of us have been through a lot of darkness. Both of us have been on the other side of feeling like we’re not good enough, like we didn’t have self-worth, and to very extreme points,” Genetti said. “When you realize by overcoming that, and by being able to tell people your story, that you can give hope and light to them in their own darkness… I wish someone had walked with me through those times in my life.”

In part, this is why the prettygirl revolution was founded: because two young women feel called to make a difference in the lives of other women.

“We realized we could be there for people who are hurting, who are going through darkness, to listen and give them a sense that they’re not alone,” Genetti said.

Elizabeth Trabert Piper, '12, and Mary Theresa Genetti, '10, co-founders of the prettygirl revolution, in downtown Baltimore, where they live and run their business.

Mary Theresa Genetti, '10, and Elizabeth Trabert Piper, '12, co-founders of the prettygirl revolution, in Baltimore, where they live and run their business.

They also realized that most of the issues facing women throughout their lives, and particularly in high school and college, are founded in the perpetual struggle for young women to be “pretty,” to fulfill an ideal image of beauty the world is peddling.

“Globally, girls are feeling really badly about themselves. They feel like they never measure up, and no matter what they do and no matter how they look, they feel like it’s never going to be ‘enough,’” Piper said.

“But if we can teach girls at a young age to question these ideals, to shatter and redefine them—if we can teach you to see the things that make you YOU and celebrate your authentic beauty—well, I think that that can really change the world.”

Genetti and Piper mapped out their ideas of how they could start a business that would offer services so that others could navigate the issues, challenges, and cultural pressures society presents to females.

“When I was a teenager at an all-girls school in Baltimore, I was surrounded by all these girls with so much potential. They were smart, they were funny, they had ambitions for their lives. But so often, they were paralyzed by this idea that they weren’t enough. And mostly it came back to beauty: ‘I’m not pretty enough,’ ‘I’m not skinny enough,’ or they would measure their self-worth in the context of boys: ‘He doesn’t like me,’” Piper explained.

“No matter how many other things these girls could offer the world, it always seemed like they would take these other beliefs as truth. They came to really believe that they don’t have worth, that they’re not enough, and that nothing they had to offer was enough. The conversations that Mary and I have had challenge this whole notion: That’s not true, you are enough. And we’re going to talk about why.”

The prettygirl revolution was born.

What defines a “prettygirl”?

Today their business offers a variety of services, from empowerment seminars to one-on-one coaching to book clubs, with the shared goal of providing a context for women to engage with one another and to decide for themselves what defines a “prettygirl.”

Through their services, Genetti and Piper address topics about body image, self-worth and self-respect, sexual pressure, the representation of femininity and beauty in the media, gender roles, feminism, and the effects of social media, competition, and comparison, as well as self-discovery and learning to live what they call “your authentic life.”

“These issues are facing girls from the day they’re born—if not before, if not the day their parents’ find out their gender,” Genetti said.

“But I don’t think people realize these societal pressures, how things are affecting them and why, until they are in a place of self-actualization and self-exploration. And that happens more in college than at any other time before.”

The growing revolution

Genetti and Piper give presentations to sororities and retreat groups, at assemblies for all-girl high schools, and at university wellness fairs and women’s centers. Their reach has expanded to include events at yoga studios and other local businesses in Baltimore, where they facilitate conversations about the challenges young female professionals face in their transition after college. And they organize discussion groups for mothers of adolescent and college-aged females who seek resources to help them connect with and build confidence within their daughters.

“It’s incredible to see young women lining up after to tell us that our presentation gave them hope, that these things have been weighing on them, and that they feel a connection to us, knowing that we care about these issues and that we too have struggled with them,” Piper said.

Genetti and Piper hope to create clubs on high school and college campuses to continue these conversations. Their intention is to build organizations with the girls that hear and relate to their message in order to foster self-exploration and female empowerment and add more voices to their revolution.

They are currently working on a book about their own journeys to defining beauty and self-worth, as well as a series of YouTube videos to reach a larger audience of girls beyond those who attend the seminars at Baltimore-area high schools and colleges.

“By sharing our stories, our experiences, and our journeys of how we got to a place where we do feel like we have worth, where we do feel like we deserve all the love the universe can hold—to be able to say that to someone, give them that story, and let them know that they’re not alone is such a gift,” Genetti said.

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To learn more about the prettygirl revolution and its services, visit www.theprettygirlrevolution.com. For information on upcoming seminars, workshops, and community events in the Baltimore area, follow the prettygirl revolution on Facebook.

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