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Opinion

Seventeen magazine's vow to celebrate all body types: It's about time.

Seventeen magazine vows to never change the shape of girls' faces or bodies in photos. If we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, and in magazines, even smart teens will believe the media lie that their worth is in fastidious attention to the superficial.

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In the all-girl groups I led, I tried to steer the talk about body image to leadership and empowerment. But the girls consistently re-directed. “Guys are only into really skinny girls, like Lady Gaga” one teen admitted, “so I’m always on a diet.” The group eagerly echoed, “I KNOW!” and “ME TOO!”

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So much for no pressure in high school.

On the flip side, Lady Gaga tries to empower youth with her new Born This Way Foundation. But I believe female youth need to look elsewhere for a leader in the next body-image revolution. After all, like the high school girls I met suggested, Lady Gaga’s strutting on stage in a bra and panties like a stripper has not helped them one bit on campus. High school boys watch her suggestive videos and expect their girlfriends to perform the same role.

As long as we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, on billboards, in fashion magazines, and in music videos, even our smartest teenagers will continue to believe the media lie that all their worth is in their fastidious attention to the superficial and transitory.

Michelle Obama is working hard to cultivate nutrition and healthy living awareness. We need more female leaders like writer Lisa Bloom, author of the book, “Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World,” and documentary maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom. They can help create a new generation of empowered females around the topic of healthy female body image.

Various youths are finding their own way to combat the media canard that a woman can only be attractive and happy if she is skinny.

Julia Bluhm, a teen from Maine, created a Change.org petition demanding that Seventeen print one unaltered photo spread per month. With fellow activists, she handed the petition – with more than 84,000 signatures –  to the executive editor of Seventeen. The magazine listened, and has committed to “celebrate every kind of beauty.”

These efforts are vital if we are to prevent the next media and beauty obsessed mother from giving her preteen daughter vouchers to grow up and become another human Barbie.

Chelsea Carmona is the West Coast regional manager of The OpEd Project, which aims to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas in public discourse. Joe Loya, an essayist, playwright, and author of the memoir, "The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber," contributed to this commentary.

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