The beYOUtiful Project: Gender Identification and Body Image Acceptance

December 10, 2018
Posted in Fall 2018
December 10, 2018 Babee Garcia

People interpret beauty in their own unique way. For some, it can bring advantages such as fame and wealth. It is something society craves, especially in the current digital age. Some social media users criticize others with body-shaming, leading to eating disorders, mental illness, addiction and tragedy.

Criticism towards one’s appearance, gender, and life-style choices can negatively impact a person. However, some people choose to overcome those judgments and adversity by breaking societal expectations of what it means to be beautiful.

For Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as gold medalist and reality television star Bruce Jenner, she struggled throughout her transition as a transgender woman. According to Vanity Fair, Jenner was afraid of how the world and her family would react so she had her gender identification process put on halt. In July 2015, she graced the front cover, earning a new kind of gold- her self-identity.

Issues involving body image and gender identity have evolved significantly throughout the years. In history, women were unable to perform in theater and men had to play as their characters. Over time, the world became inclusive and accepting for the drag community, allowing them to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, appeared on the July 2015 front cover of Vanity Fair as a transgender woman. Photo by Annie Leibovitz, Image from Rob Stowell via Creative Commons

MONTCLAIR, NJ 10/09/2018 MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY’S LGBTQ CENTER HOSTS DRAG EXTRAVAGANZA: Montclair State senior communication and media arts major Justin Vallejo strikes a pose as his drag character “Justyn Bearlover.” Photo by Babee Garcia

As part of Montclair State’s “Coming Out Week,” the LGBTQ center presented the second annual Drag Extravaganza this October. Students, including freshman visual arts major Nick “Gii Mii Moore” Ducusin, competed and was crowned as the school’s newest drag superstar.

Drag Extravaganza host and Montclair State alum Fred “Olivia Lux” Carlton, entertained the audience. Justin “Justyn Bearlover” Vallejo, who competed in the drag competition, spoke to Carlton on his campus radio show “Scattered Plot” on 90.3FM WMSC a few days later. Carlton expressed how he was inspired to become a drag performer.

MONTCLAIR, NJ 10/13/18 WMSC SCATTERED PLOT: Justin “Justyn Bearlover” Vallejo discusses LGBTQ-related topics, pop culture and entertainment on his WMSC radio show segment “Scattered Plot.” Photo by Babee Garcia

For more information, click the hyperlink to the article “‘You Better Work’ to Become Montclair State’s Next Drag Superstar” published within The Montclarion. 

More Than a Man in a Dress

According to an article published on, Dr. Jennifer O’Brien defines drag queens as “female impersonators who dress in stereotypical feminine clothing with elaborate makeup and wigs.” Drag performances can include comedy, lip-syncing and dancing to popular music, she explains.

“They usually adopt an eccentric persona or a character, which might act as a means of self-expression of their own personalities, or allow them to characterize various personality attributes in order to entertain,” O’Brien says.

At the Power in Pink Fashion Show held at the Legendary Republic in Brooklyn, NY, breast cancer survivors are turning their negative experiences into something positive. According to their website, Power in Pink is a non-profit organization that operates as a source of hope, insight and reassurance throughout women’s diverse journeys.

Through events like the fashion show, Power In Pink is dedicated to raise awareness for and sustain women’s emotional, physical and mental health.

Power in Pink II Fashion Show Photo Gallery

Ana Tyson Charles, 63, has been the first in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Charles is also an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and is a retired surgical nurse from Brooklyn, NY. She attended the fashion show as one of the recipients of the survivor award, presented by Power in Pink Founder Dafina Morris.

The cancer was detected on Charles’ left breast and she had to have surgery- a bilateral lumpectomy with axillary node dissection. Despite losing her breast tissue, Charles continues to feel beautiful and “is ready to kick ass.” She has now been cancer-free for over a year. 

"One thing women have in common is having breasts. So when women lose that to cancer, it becomes very personal for women. My advice to all women is that early detection is key, no matter what age."
-Ana Tyson Charles, 63, Retired Surgical Nurse and Army veteran

BROOKLYN, NY 06/29/17 COMING HOME: Ana Tyson Charles, 63, returned home from bilateral lumpectomy surgery done on her left breast after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Photo provided by Ana Tyson Charles

Whether it is through illness, sexuality, identity or other factors, “The beYOUtiful Project” show people embracing their unique qualities in order to gain self-confidence, feel a sense of empowerment, and comfort within their own skin.

Babee Garcia

Montclair State alum ’19

Babee Garcia is an award-winning multimedia journalist and Marine Corps veteran from Elmwood Park, NJ. During her experience at Montclair State University, Babee has been actively involved within campus media organizations, such as the Montclarion student newspaper and 90.3FM WMSC, as well as the SALUTE national military honor society. She had also been one of the Executive Producers of Montclair News Lab and a School of Communication and Media ambassador. She had also reported in Puerto Rico with student and faculty journalists in spring 2017, for which she produced a mini-documentary called “Meals with Love” about celebrity chef Ventura Vivoni and World Central Kitchen. Their mission was to provide food to the people in need post-Hurricane Maria. As she starts her professional journalism career, she plans to use the three core values that the Marine Corps has taught her- honor, courage, and commitment.