Pretty Girls Work is a brand of feminism for the post-modern businesswoman encouraging her to embrace all aspects of womanhood including the freedom to feel pretty and express that any way she chooses.
Elle Mejia is a successful Toronto retail leasing executive and the torchbearer of the Pretty Girls Work movement, which she developed after finding herself in a male dominated industry and uncertain of how to present herself in order to be taken seriously. As a young agent, she read numerous self-help books but was unable to identify with the archetypes that were being presented of what a businesswoman should aim to look and sound like. Much of the advice encouraged her to abandon certain parts of her femininity that she valued, which were not seen as appropriate for a successful businesswoman in her field.
Elle Mejia, torchbearer of #PrettyGirlsWork
“I’m dressed up like a businesswoman and I’m going to alter my voice sound like a businesswoman and then all of a sudden everything becomes an act and you’re not sure where you stand anymore. And I got tired of feeling like I needed to play a role in order to showcase my abilities and I found that I was a lot more confident when I was just myself,” say Elle.
Elle realized that there were examples of women like her, who were choosing to embrace certain aspects of their womanhood and were also successful businesswomen — but the majority of the existing narratives were outdated and there wasn’t a conversation about these changes happening.
So, Elle decided to start the conversation. She hosts a podcast with cohost Sherri “Dymond” Sanjurjo, where they interview women from across the globe on what pretty means to them and the implications of their brand of pretty based on societal standards. She also discusses the projects women are doing to empower and inspire each other and the overall progress that’s being made towards equality.
There has been an outpouring of support for Pretty Girls Work, but some are cautious to embrace what they feel might be a movement that is counterproductive to certain pillars of the feminist movement.
To that Elle says, “I think my brand of feminism has very much to do with equality and choice. It’s not my responsibility to confine myself to the new version of what you think a woman should be. I don’t like defining roles for women, or gender roles or shaming women for what their choices are.”
Elle references women like Kim Kardashian, though she may not agree with how she got her start, she feels it shouldn’t be ignored that she’s still running an empire.
“In order for women to have value they don’t need to erase certain parts of themselves. They don’t need to. They are multilayered. There can be layers that you don’t agree with and layers that you can learn from. There’s so much that goes into being a woman and people want it to be one-dimensional,” says Elle.
There’s undoubtedly a lot of progress that’s been made in the women’s movement. But, there seems to be a mainstream acceptance in society of the debasement, by both men and women, for women who choose to express their femininity using what would be defined as more archaic representations; or the perspective that different types of femininity cannot coexist at the same time for the same woman.
“You can’t be a business woman and care about make-up and eyelashes and hair and all that? But why not? Why can’t you be a mother and care about all those things? I don’t understand why certain parts of womanhood exclude you from experiencing other parts of womanhood. I don’t understand why that conversation is still happening in 2016,” says Elle.
Elle feels strongly that it’s become more normalized for society to discredit another women’s worth if it doesn’t fit into the current dominant brand of feminism, or to constrict her to the label she’s chosen or in some cases that’s been chosen for her. She hopes Pretty Girls Work will bring the much needed attention to this issue and effect real and lasting change for women and their freedom in every sense of the word.