Art exhibit breaks down unrealistic beauty standards


Photos of models, Jan. 23, in Texas Bold Beauty Project.
Photo By Ivy Sandoval

Ivy Sandoval

Society often upholds an unrealistic standard of beauty for women based on plastic surgery and extreme diets. However, one local art exhibit is defying those expectations.

The National Bold Beauty Project showcases women with varying disabilities along with their personal stories. The project seeks to raise awareness of women’s strength and spirit, and in the process, change perceptions of “typical” beauty.

The project began nationally in 2006 as Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty, a photography show that benefited the Center for Independent Living. Shelly Baer, a licensed clinical social worker and Vanessa Silberman, active in public relations, had a goal to create a story of women with disabilities that would shatter all preconceived beauty paradigms.

After the one show in 2006, the project was not launched again until 2015, with a new team and commitment to helping women embrace their inner and outer beauty. The show was displayed in Washington D.C. as a fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Additionally, the photos were displayed as exhibits in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before moving to Texas. The team seeks to find local models from each state the exhibit progresses to.

The exhibit is a series of photos displaying women with disabilities. The models chose their own poses, settings and ways of telling their stories. The photos present the idea that, outside of popular culture, there are real women who fight daily battles in living with various disabilities.

Bob Cook, project leader and photographer, said the photographs aim to assist the audience in developing an appreciation for what the models have lived through.

“As a man these (women) could be my sister, mother, wife, girlfriend or daughter,” Cook said. “The realities of these women is astonishing.”

Paige Lambert, model with TAR Syndrome for the Texas Bold Beauty Project, said she hopes to change others’ perspectives of beauty.

“I get to show other women what it’s like to embrace their differences and that identity is not based on how you look, what you do or how successful you are,” Lambert said. “My hope is that I can change one person’s perspective on their own differences or the differences of those around them until a whole generation is changed forever.”

Diana Stevens, member of the San Marcos Activity Center, attended the exhibit. She said the stories were beautiful and caused her to become emotional.

“I really enjoyed these photos and the stories,” Stevens said. “(The exhibit) is so amazing. These stories really brought me to tears.”

The project functions as a way to expand the perspective and standards of beauty. It aims to provide inspiration and courage and encourages people to embrace what society may deem as flaws. The exhibit will be on display in the San Marcos Activity Center until Feb. 15. It is open weekdays from 6 a.m.- 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. More information on the models’ stories and other locations of the project can be found at

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