Project Beauty part of Marietta exhibit

Photo contributed by Keri Seevers Amelia Median, 16, participated in Project Beauty, meant to show that girls and women are beautiful without makeup.

MARIETTA — The love-hate relationship between women and their cosmetics goes beyond the superficial.

The expectation that women should put their best faces forward is often at odds with the way they perceive themselves, and one consequence is revenues of $62 billion for the cosmetics industry.

Meanwhile, #nomakeup has more than 150,000 posts, mainly of women going unapologetically social without blush, mascara or lipstick.

Marietta photographer Keri Seevers used her Facebook and Instagram accounts to recruit 39 young women from the area for this year’s Project Beauty, a photo session intended to highlight their natural beauty without the addition of makeup. The exhibit of black-and-white portraits will open Friday night at 217 Second St., another attraction for the regular First Fridays event in downtown Marietta.

Seevers said she first learned about the idea last year through Facebook postings by Thomas Nguyen, a Cincinnati photographer who launched a project to show young women, she said, “beautifully free of makeup and unrestrained from the social media pressures of perceived perfection.”

At its root, the project is intended to enable young women to come to realizations about who they are, Seevers said.

“It’s all about empowerment,” she said.

Sophia Schultheis, a 16-year-old Fort Frye High School student, said she would not ordinarily be seen in public without the confidence-building help of makeup, but her involvement in Project Beauty has given her a different outlook and a boost in self-esteem. Makeup, she said, is a sort of defensive shield.

“I wanted to get out of my shell, get my confidence up,” she said. “I don’t like being without makeup, but now I feel more confident about going out without it.”

Seevers said makeup has become such a pervasive expectation that some find it disturbing to see a woman without it. That’s part of the reason Project Beauty is a shake-up.

“It makes you think. We used to get expressions of concern if we went out wearing no makeup, it was like, ‘Are you feeling OK? Is there anything wrong?’ There’s an awareness, it opens your eyes on how to treat others,” she said.

Olivia Schafer, 19 and a petroleum engineering student at Marietta College, was drawn to the project even though she seldom wears makeup. She is returning to Project Beauty for the second year.

“It was an awesome experience. I’m not really into makeup. I’ve got naturally rosy cheeks, but this project made me feel good about not wearing it,” she said. “That I can be naturally beautiful, no matter what other people think.

“It made me feel better overall, about myself and what I portray, that beauty comes from the inside.”

The 39 participants this year range in age from seventh grade to college sophomores, Seevers said. They were photographed during a two-day period in space donated by Healthy Start Nutrition. The brick-and-wood industrial setting adds texture to the black-and-white photos, she said.

The exhibit will be held from 7-10 p.m. Friday at 217 Second St. and is for one night only, she said. Tickets are $5 at the door, and a donation box will be set up inside. The proceeds go to iBelieve, an Ohio foundation dedicated to increasing education and leadership opportunities for young people in Appalachia.