Before there was #SheBelieves, Kate Parker began her project at home, simply photographing her daughters for a year-long project and trying to teach them to be true to themselves.
As a former college athlete, Parker tries to instill in her daughters a sense of confidence that will follow them through to adulthood, and to celebrate who they are: athletic, strong, dirty and loud.
Inspiration hit when she was going through those images and realized that the best ones were of her daughters and their friends being completely true to themselves, at home, on the soccer field, in the pool, wherever, simply living life to the fullest.
The hashtag #StrongIsTheNewPretty was born, capturing the attention of national outlets like Huffington Post, CNN, Oxygen and The Today Show, among others. Parker is currently working on a book project so she can continue to show the world that being a girl means being true to yourself.
Megan Rapinoe: How did you start your project? What was it born out of really? Initial inspiration?
Kate Parker: I was shooting the girls. I was shooting my girls all the time as a 365 project. I know they were saying you like photography, too.
MR: (laughs) Amateur hour.
KP: I mean, that's how I started. I was just shooting them, and I would shoot them every day. I was getting ready to do a show, a gallery show. I pulled the strongest images of the girls, and the strongest ones where they were fierce and gritty and filthy, didn't care what their hair looked like. That's how they are, so I was like ...
MR: (looks over at Kate’s daughters and their friends) They look like it.
KP: Something clicked that I was like, we don't see enough of this. We don't see girls being portrayed that this is beautiful, and this is being strong, being who you are is important. I was like, let me try to focus on that. It snowballed and it got a lot of really good attention. Now I'm working on a book because the girls that I started with, are these girls who are really very athletic, so I'm trying to showcase all kinds of girls.
MR: That's really cool. I feel like if I was a parent of young girls, it would be frustrating because the message is not that. I think now people are saying that more, but it's really not that.
KP: It's still Kim Kardashian.
MR: Totally. If you look at top athlete photo shoots with males and females, guys are always this lion figure. Ours are like, how can we look perfect and still look beautiful?
KP: Still be feminine rather than just be, who are you? That's what I'm trying to show. I think that as young girls, what you read and what you see becomes part of who you are, so trying to make that something you have in your house. Hopefully this book will be part of that.
MR: I think that's really amazing. I think it's the culture view of what women should be is very pervasive in young girls and in young boys as well, definitely, and what they think a woman should be and what they think that those stereotypes are. Even if it's wrong, if that's all they're seeing, then you can't help really but be that.
KP: The whole point is not to be like, you shouldn't like to dance or be a princess. It's just to celebrate who you are. This is me. I'm awesome.
MR: No, that's really cool. I've seen some of the photos. I stalked you a little bit. No, they're so cool. They're so cool and so beautiful. It totally brought me back to my childhood because I was a total ratty kid and just getting out there and getting amongst it. That's just really cool to see because that's just kids in general. They don't know that they haven't showered in five days and have dirt under their fingernails.
KP: There's enough time to worry about how you look and to find the importance of it; it doesn't really matter as a young girl.
"It doesn't really matter how you look. It really matters just who you are and what you do, and how kind you are is more important than whether or not your hair is done." - Kate Parker
MR: It's really cool.
KP: I think you guys are, and #SheBelieves is perfect. The fact that they (my daughters and friends) wanted to see you guys instead of (Taylor Swift), not that there's anything wrong with Taylor Swift, but it's just like, I'm doing a good job.
MR: I'm winning.
KP: It was awesome.
MR: I think that we're in a unique spot and have a unique understanding of our cultural impact within the sport and with young girls and young boys. I don't think that sports athletes (Parker: And their parents)…yeah, and old girls and old boys. I think sometimes there's a disconnect between that, but we have such an intimate relationship. I think our team is so accessible in so many ways. That's part of our goal and our mission to be that way, to affect these young girls. I think we just have a unique understanding of the impact that we really do have, which is cool.
KP: There comes a responsibility, and I think you guys take it on very beautifully and really well. I want my girls to look at you guys as role models, and you put yourself out there as that. You accept it, and you do all you can to embrace it and be there, which is great.
MR: We talk about this. What other company or group would you be in that has 23, 30, whatever, amazing strong women, and that's your whole ... That's your whole life. I think sometimes we take for granted almost how unique that is. Usually if you're at the very highest level in whatever your field is, maybe there's a couple women, or maybe there's one woman boss. Here it's so unique to have that perspective and to be around that all the time. I think that that's part of what just emulates from us and why probably parents are drawn to us as role models for their kids is we really do have, I don't know, just a feeling that we're owning this space, and that we're taking charge of that and really promoting. It's not just about promoting the game or promoting ourselves. We understand that we have this girl power thing on our shoulders. It's cool. We love that. We're in a position that we can be really impactful doing that.
KP: I think that when we grew up, we didn't really have it. It's so nice that we can give them someone to look at and be like, I want to do that. I want to be that when I’m older.
MR: Definitely. Growing up, all my sports models or a lot of them, were male athletes. Around maybe some big world cups or Olympics you would see women's sports but other than that, you didn't.
KP: Not that often. Thank you.
MR: We're doing it.
KP: Thank you, guys.
MR: You're doing it. You're welcome.