The teenage girls in the film are beautiful, with bright, expressive eyes, long lashes, and joyful smiles.
They laugh as the camera focuses on their defining features.
Yet these young minority women speak of self-doubt fueled by a beauty ideal that doesn’t acknowledge them.
“Women who are considered beautiful are more white, with straight hair, blue eyes. That’s what society sees as beautiful,” says one of the girls, Yasmin Megahed.
“I have spent a lot of my life striving to be like a white girl, having the long hair, being skinny, pretty nose, pretty face, smaller features. It’s what beauty is, but it’s not what I could ever be,” says Winnie Nyakaru.
Champlin Park High School filmmaker Annalise Lamberty captured her friends’ and classmates’ vulnerability and their beauty in her short film “Variegated.”
“I wanted to show that dichotomy,” said Lamberty, 17, of Champlin.
Her film was one of six finalists in the 2014 Girls Impact the World Film Festival, presented by the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaborative and ConnectHer.org. Lamberty beat out about 200 entries nationwide. Many of the entries tackled large global issues, including sex trafficking and refugees.
Lamberty chose to focus on an issue that women confront every day in the mirror — unattainable beauty ideals. She said she relishes telling stories about “everyday life we often overlook.”
Her film has been posted online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTSKo7XBGkg.
She has created short promotional and educational films for the nonprofit Council on American-Islamic Relations.
On Wednesday, Lamberty will premiere a 30-minute documentary titled “The Misunderstood: Muslims in America” as part of her final project for the high school’s International Baccalaureate program. She interviewed a wide range of people for the documentary, including Muslim community members and religious leaders and Muslim classmates.
She described interviewing one classmate who treated his faith as a closely guarded secret. “He talked a lot about his experience covering it up at school,” Lamberty said.
The senior hopes to study film at Boston University or Macalester College. She has been accepted to both.
‘I was just inspired’
Why is the Iowa-born strawberry blonde with blue eyes focusing her lens on issues faced by young minority women?
The issue of beauty ideals came up in her honors English class and in talking with friends. She said she has a diverse group of friends but didn’t really know their stories.
“It’s a personal growth thing. I didn’t know a lot about that experience,” Lamberty said. “I know so many great young women of color at my school and through other activities I am involved in. I decided to get them involved and interview them.”
Lamberty also said she has some insight into falling outside society’s narrow beauty standard, pointing out that she wears a clothing size larger than society’s ideal.
She held two casting sessions interviewing girls on film. In the film, as the girls talk, the camera wanders, focusing on one girl’s long, curly hair and another’s dark brown eyes.
“I wanted to stay away from the talking-head shots,” she said.
After shooting, she pondered the concept for weeks.
Finally, an idea coalesced. She sat down at her computer late on Christmas Day, working through the night.
“I was just inspired, and I got it all together,” she said. “That is pretty much my style.”
Lamberty, who plays cello, chose a cello piece for the film’s score.
“The best part of it was there was no narration on her part. It was all the girls and their personal opinions. I thought it was absolutely marvelous. It was truly a work of art,” said her mother, Janette Lamberty.
At a young age, Annalise Lamberty knew she wanted to tell stories, but the idea of how she would do so evolved over time. “I always wanted to be a storyteller when I was little,” she said. “I wanted to be an author; then I wanted to be a journalist.”
Then she discovered the power of film.
“She has always been very creative and very introspective,” Janette Lamberty said. “I am not surprised this has come out — this art form in her.”
Her interests range from social justice to comedy.
“She has the ability to tell stories in a captivating way that focuses on the things that matter,” said friend and classmate Cameron Belaney. “She is one of the smartest people I know. … I love bragging about her.”