A dear sister-in-the-Lord recently shared her enthusiasm with me in regards to 6 pounds she had shed. I smiled and congratulated her and gave her a big hug. Six pounds — an awesome accomplishment, indeed! Of course she looked exactly the same to me as she did before she lost the 6 pounds but I kept that little realization to myself. In other words, I thought she was perfect. Her physical beauty and her spiritual beauty were so interconnected, from my perspective, that had she gained weight I would not have noticed either. But those few pounds made a difference in how she viewed herself and how she believed the world viewed her.
My own self-perception is just as fragile. I have never been known to purchase clothes that actually fit. I view myself as needing clothes that are always at least one size larger than the “real” me. My own body image still suffers as a result of comments made to me while I was a young teenager.
Body image is something that affects almost all women — even Catholic women. Never mind that we understand that we’ve been created in His image and that we are perfect just the way we are — assuming we haven’t been told by a medical professional of a need to change a diet due to diabetes, heart disease, etc. — we still find ourselves questioning our shape, our weight, our appearance.
Something, or someone, has probably affected us in a way that has had a very significant impact on how we see ourselves. In her book Newsflash, best-selling Catholic author and speaker Teresa Tomeo names and explains how a certain 1970’s television icon influenced her to a point of anorexia. Teresa never blames but, instead, uses her experience to make passionate points about the culture’s affect on body image. Teresa relies on her years in the secular media to speak to women and girls around the country about its influences and ways in which these negative messages can be overcome. “Imagine,” Teresa wisely tells her audiences, “if the media could have such an impact in the ‘70’s, with a fairly limited platform, how much more of an impact the media has now!”
It was at one such event, put on by the non-profit apostolate Runway to Reality, that Teresa met and began the writing partnership with Molly Miller and Monica Cops that resulted in the popular All Things Girl book series for Catholic tween girls.
Runway to Reality has its roots in fashion and body image. It was started in 2003 by Molly Miller and Monica Cops as they bemoaned the way young girls were being influenced by immodest fashion trends worn by celebrities who were neither chaste nor worthy “role model” material.
Molly, with a degree in fashion design, knew that looking fashionable and being modest did not need to be mutually exclusive — and her message has been a welcome one among mothers and daughters who often find themselves at odds with how to reconcile the two. Molly describes her first meeting with Monica and how Runway to Reality came about:
We met about 6 years ago at a party of a mutual friend. I was immediately drawn to Monica and her smile. There was something about her that made me want to get to know her more. Of course, that something was her love of Jesus. I found out that she did talks for women once a month about spiritual things such as virtues and gospel reflections. Soon, I started making it a point to call and visit with her and then I began doing her hair and even gave her a complete makeover, clothing and all!
At one of Monica’s women’s groups, several of us mothers were complaining about the fashions for tweens and teens. This was the beginning for the two of us, and a couple of helpers at the time, looking for a program to offer girls in schools and church groups. We found nothing available to use so pooled our talents and came up with Runway to Reality.
Our conferences are tailored to a group’s needs. We can do an hour presentation, a half a day event, or an entire day conference. When we do conferences for the day, we bring in media specialist Teresa Tomeo. She is also our co-author for the “All Things Girl” book series as well as “All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters.”
Runway’s presentations focus on teaching the dignity of the person through image related topics such as fashion. We have a variety of options to fit with any group’s budget.
Molly and Monica are quite delighted with the way in which Runway’s message has taken hold and how the non-profit apostolate has continued to grow. Their upcoming fall conference is proving to be a crowd pleaser and will be held on November 21st in Wisconsin. It is called “Cultured Pearls of Wisdom: Finding the Pearl of Great Wisdom through our Catholic Faith” and will feature Teresa Tomeo as the keynote speaker. Bishop David Ricken, of the Diocese of Green Bay, will be presiding over the Mass as well as speaking at the conference. Bishop Ricken’s topic will be “Feminine Genius.” Molly and Monica will also be presenting a segment called “Foundations of Body and Soul.”
It is no coincidence that Molly has quickly become a popular Todays’ Catholic Woman columnist writing such frank articles as Why Don’t Women Play Nice in the Sandbox, Women on the Fringe, and Marriage: A Need for Discernment. Molly writes on topics such as body image and fashion and speaks right to the hearts of women. I asked her to give a brief summary of her work — and the goals of Runway to Reality — to share with Catholic Exchange readers.
Body image refers to the way a person views her own body and how she feels about herself. Runway strives to teach all women to have a positive body image based upon the truth of who they are as daughters of the King. They are much more than a body and certainly much more than what they often think of their own body. They are made up of a body and a soul; they are made in the image and likeness of God and they are His Daughters.
My fashion degree has helped in the development of Runway’s program because I know how the industry operates and I can share that with the girls. My working experience as a fashion consultant and a hair stylist has helped to give practical advice on things such as dressing to make the most of your body type, what colors a person should choose, and what kinds of hairstyles are most flattering to a person’s face shape. By helping girls and women to look their very best, they feel good about themselves and find it easier to show the world the dignity of being a daughter of the King.
Molly and Monica are incredibly kind and caring women who have experienced great joys and tremendous heartaches in their personal lives and bring the depths of those experiences to their apostolate. Much of Molly’s experiences are written about in her TCW columns where she candidly discusses ADD, NFP, and the loss of many babies.
Monica’s work is the theological foundation of the apostolate. She helps girls and grown women understand how to develop and follow a “plan for life” as well as writing on virtues and behaviors that help embrace holiness through everyday living. Monica is the “quiet” one of the two but is the force behind the solid teachings that are in the book series and are in the Runway programs.
Together, Molly and Monica are clearly driven with an enthusiasm to teach all females to live joyously in the world as a daughter of the King.
For more information on the November, 2009 “Cultured Pearls” woman’s conference, or to invite Molly and Monica to your parish, visit their website www.RunwaytoReality.org.