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WM Spotlight: Irvina Kanarek (Part One)

by Rachel Johnson

Growing up with a mother who ran a non-profit organization made Irvina Kanarek believe that she would never pursue the same role herself. Her mother was a strong woman whom she admired, but Irvina simply had other aspirations. It wasn’t until her world was turned upside-down by an eating disorder that Irvina realized that God had a different story for her life—and that it would, indeed, include launching a non-profit of her own. Read on to learn about Irvina’s work with Rewrite Beautiful, an organization that uses street art to reaffirm womens’ beauty and worth.

Q: Thank you for joining us, Irvina! Tell us about the non-profit organization that you founded, Rewrite Beautiful.

Thank you for having me! I love the work being done by Wonderfully Made and it’s an honor to be featured here!

Rewrite Beautiful uses street art to change how people see beauty in themselves. Our programs are based off of a thought I had, which has now become our vision: “Street artists believe just because their art doesn’t sit in a gallery, doesn’t mean it isn’t art. Equally, just because society claims beautiful is found in your appearance, doesn’t mean it is.”

Rewrite Beautiful is a revolution to redefine beauty as an action. Beauty actually has nothing to do with the way you look; it has to do with the way you act. Beauty is found in the creativity, kindness, and strength you display in your community. You can either go along with what everyone else thinks is beautiful, or you can be revolutionary and redefine the term beauty. Rewrite Beautiful supports this vision through Art Shows, Beautiful Action Clubs, School Programs, and Street Art Workshops.

Our vision is to build a nation of revolutionary girls who don’t focus beauty as it relates to body image. Instead, these girls focus on beauty as it emanates from the gifts and talents they have been blessed with and figure out how to share those gifts with others.

Q: You travel to middle schools, high schools, and colleges to share the mission of the organization as well as your personal story. Can you tell us a little bit about your testimony?

Oh, yes – I thoroughly enjoy exploiting the years of my life in which I was one hot mess! ☺ No, really, my story is that I desperately wanted to be loved. The best ways I found to achieve that were by being attractive, smart, and funny. The problem with that is that sometimes I didn’t look very cute. Sometimes I did ridiculously, stupid things. Sometimes people didn’t get my jokes (cue tears). When that happened, I got really scared and tried to earn love all over again by changing my body, either by attempting to get thinner or by numbing my insecurities through overeating food. Confusing, isn’t it?

The wonderful thing is that my eating disorder taught me that you can’t control how other people love you. If I define my worth by whether or not someone loves me, I’m going to go crazy. I can’t control if other people love me, but I can control how I love me.

In eating disorder recovery, I learned that when I demonstrated actions full of creativity, kindness, and strength, I felt beautiful. Now when I have a rough day and feel like changing myself or hurting my body, I ask myself, “Was I creative today through my writing? Was I kind today by reaching out to lend a hand to someone? Was I strong today by sticking up for myself?” When I act beautiful, I feel beautiful. The rad thing is that I no longer need anyone else’s permission in order to know that I am beautiful.

Q: Street Art is a focal point of Rewrite Beautiful’s work. Can you tell us more about this aspect of the organization?

Street art has a very rebellious edge to it. If you were an artist and wanted to have your art hung at a prestigious gallery or museum, you would have to have gone to right schools, studied under renowned professors, and exhibited perfect form and techniques in your works. Street artists say, “Forget that! I’m an artist and I’m putting my art out there for others to see.” Street artists don’t wait to be accepted as artists; they just create their work, allowing everyone to have access to it.

This is the same concept we communicate in our School Programs and Street Art Workshops. Rewrite Beautiful stresses that we’re no longer waiting for someone to tell us we’re beautiful – we’re going to “rewrite” beautiful into what we say it is, which is an action of creativity, kindness and strength.

Q: Your website says that Rewrite Beautiful hosts Street Art workshops, which sound like so much fun! Fill our readers in on what participants do at these events.

Yes, the Street Art Workshops are pretty unique! Six times a year, we come up with a new street art concept in order to share the Rewrite Beautiful message with the public. I share the Rewrite Beautiful vision and show our Photo Documentary that tells the stories of five women in eating disorder recovery. One woman then follows up the video by sharing her own recovery story at the event. Later, we have an art professor lead the participants through creative exercises to help them find their own unique creativity, kindness, and strength, which are then incorporated into the street art.

We try our best to use recycled materials in the street art. Again, we reiterate the message that sometimes we don’t see things accurately and need to creatively change them. I have a belief that there is no such thing as trash (neither in material form or human form), so using it in art pieces further demonstrates that we are capable of creating our own definition of beauty. When the street art is finished, we put it up in public for others to see it and understand our message.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow! Until then, check out the Rewrite Beautiful Photo Documentary trailer below:

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