ASST. NEWS EDITOR
A child’s concept of them self can have lasting effects on their self-esteem and future relationships with platonic and romantic partners. On Oct. 1, Kristi Eddy read her children’s book, Beauty Is, and had a Q & A session with several Whittier College students in Villalobos. The event was created by the Assistant Professor of Education & Child Development Professor Amina Humphrey, who is currently teaching a class on children’s literature. Eddy is an Assistant Principal in the Watts, Los Angeles school district and is the CEO of the nonprofit, Women’s Ovarian & Medical Education Network (WOMEN Inc.), which focuses on women’s reproductive rights.
Eddy was crowned Mrs. California 2017, and is a self-proclaimed unconventional beauty queen. She decided to run for Mrs. California to help spread awareness for WOMEN Inc.. After earning the crown, Eddy knew she had to use her platform to reach more people, hence the birth of her book, Beauty Is. The process to prepare for a beauty pageant as important as Mrs. California caused Eddy to have self-doubt, since she had never competed in such a pageant before. She said she learned that, “you are as great as you allow yourself to think that you are.” Believing in herself and investing the time for her to grow her platform taught Eddy just how resilient she is.
Beauty Is was published in April 2018 and focuses on a young child’s journey to discover what defines beauty. The main character is a dark-skinned little girl who searches in different places to find beauty. She searches in the desert, in her backyard, and then she decides to ask her mother. Her mother tells her beauty is found within her, but when she looks at the television, the girl does not see people who represent what she looks like. Without seeing representation, she begins to doubt her beauty. By the end of the story, the little girl meets other children who also look different, and it helps her realize that true beauty is in everything you cannot see in a person.
This journey is similar to Eddy’s personal story of growing her self-esteem. Eddy spoke about never seeing people of color in the media she was exposed to as a child. Throughout college, she tried to figure out her identity and how she would choose to define herself. Eddy says she finds beauty in the way people treat others and in the content of an individual’s character.
The word “beauty” is on the national vocabulary list for second graders. Eddy is currently working on developing a classroom curriculum for her book. The book has a rhyming scheme throughout, which is helpful for students still working on their vocabulary skills. Rhyming helps people with special needs and other disabilities work on their reading skills — it is one of the reasons why music therapy can be so impactful. The book includes strong artistic illustrations to articulate its meaning to people who are illiterate.
To help show intersectionality within the story, Eddy includes a girl with facial discoloration, a boy in a wheelchair, and a character whose gender is ambiguous. These important choices to include a diverse peer group for the protagonist help bridge a dialogue between a child reader and the real world. Children are drawn to things that look different than what they are used to. Exposing them to different individuals will allow them to grow up to be more socially aware.
As an assistant principal, Eddy sees the daily struggles her students have with self-image. She commented how her ninth graders began to fight and bully one another, and when trying to get down to the root of the issue, she learned it was about their lack of self-confidence. As an educator, Eddy works to foster relationships with students outside of the office and find out who they are as individuals and how they developed their own ideas of beauty.
Eddy has big plans for her future. She is currently working on a children’s self-guided coloring book that deals with issues of immigration and different nationalities, essentially fusing politics and culture. The topics are understated because Eddy’s audience is elementary-aged students, but her book begins a dialogue that is typically not begun until much later, when these issues affect all people.
Eddy ended the talk by bringing up the last page of her book, which includes three different pictures of her, each image featuring a different hairstyle. The first image showed her hair completely natural, taken care of as best a three-year-old could manage. The next image was her as a teenager who had just discovered how a straightener could transform her natural curls into straight hair, not realizing the permanent damage that would be done. The final image captured the moment she was crowned Mrs. California. Her hair has suffered significant damage from the seven years of straightening everyday, but she now adds product to her hair daily to regain the curls she used to hate. Eddy has used her story of self-love and acceptance to create a book for people of all ages and backgrounds.