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Tracy Frank, Published November 19 2011

New look of beauty: ‘Beautiful Women’ project sets out to prove that beauty really is more than skin-deep

Onlinehttp://beautifulwomenof.areavoices.com/

On TV

What: The announcement’s of this month’s “Beautiful Woman”

When: 10 p.m. newscast

Channel: WDAY (Ch. 6 in F-M)

FARGO – The “Beautiful Women of” project is more than a blog and it’s more than a book.

It’s a social movement.

Forum Publisher Bill Marcil, Jr. and his wife, Chris Linnares, a best-selling author and psychotherapist, set out to change how society thinks of beauty.

Their journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been life-changing, Linnares said.

In working on their book, “Beautiful Women of North Dakota,” which they created in 2009, they came across women who couldn’t recognize their own beauty, no matter how amazing their personal stories were.

Marcil and Linnares wanted to use their book to showcase women as the Greeks consider beauty – as being “in one’s finest hour.”

But the women they wanted to interview tried pointing them toward other women they considered more physically beautiful. Two women even backed out of the project, saying they couldn’t be in a book called “Beautiful Women” because they’re not beautiful.

“It’s almost like our society stole the word beauty and just uses it to define outside beauty,” Linnares says.

Women are constantly bombarded with touched-up, digitally-revised media images of what a beautiful woman looks like.

The “Beautiful Women of” project is countering that, using the mediums of internet, television, radio and newspaper to celebrate a woman’s inner beauty.

“Social change needs to be done and we need the help of the media,” Linnares says. “If the media is part of the problem, it’s going to be part of the solution.”

Starting in August, more than 100 women were nominted on the Area Voices “Beautiful Women of” blog at: http://beautifulwomenof.areavoices.com.

Tracy Briggs, Forum Communications Company Digital Content Development Director, is part of the project and writes the blog. She says she’s been astounded by the nominations.

“We see Kim Kardashian and people like her elevated to a certain level. I want women who are living their lives and going about their business and caring for others and working hard, I want them to feel special, and wonderful, and appreciated,” Briggs says. “If we can get people to see all these amazing women, maybe we’ll get people to start to understand and realize who should be famous and who should be receiving all the accolades.”

In September, a panel of women read the nominations to find which stories resonated most with them. They narrowed the nominations down to Jean Arnberg, Debbie Fowler and Karen Carlson.

Arnberg is a 91-year-old West Fargo woman who plays piano, stays up on technology and gives all she can, despite a failing body.

Carlson has worked serving and empowering others for 17 years at YWCA Cass Clay.

Fowler, of Walcott, N.D., is a professional clown who has performed at nursing homes, charity functions, and other events, including hospitals and orphanages throughout India.

Nearly 5,000 votes were cast to decide which woman voters wanted to learn more about. That person will be featured on WDAY TV tonight, in the Forum tomorrow and on WDAY Radio. She will also receive a prize package worth $715 from Catalyst Medical Center.

All nominees are featured on the Area Voices website.

Kerstin Kealy, WDAY Television news anchor/producer is part of the “Beautiful Women of” project and is doing a television story with the woman who received the most votes.

Kealy says she was eager to be part of the project and to tell the amazing stories of the incredible women in our community.

“I really would like people to realize that every person has a story and true beauty lies on the inside and it’s what people do with their lives and how they live and how they treat others that should define beauty,” Kealy says. “True beauty isn’t photo-shopped women on the cover of magazines, but true beauty is the women we see all around us doing amazing things every day.”

Over the next several months, the “Beautiful Women of” team will continue to pull up names and ask readers to vote for the woman they would like to learn more about. For now, the project has enough nominations for at least the next several months, but will eventually take more, Briggs says.

Linnares says she hopes other communications companies around the country and world are inspired by the project and bring it to their companies. She says, “I feel God’s hand because I never imagined it would be this big.”