As a senior at Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis, Pa Nhia Moua was asked to choose a theme for her work in visual arts class. She chose “feminism.”
For a while, that meant a lot of drawing and painting the female form, focusing on the gender expectations placed on women. But for a project she tackled this winter, she decided to get out of her “comfort zone.”
First, she sent a Facebook message to some of her male friends and asked them if they would do her a favor by being her models. They were game – even if they didn’t really know yet what they’d signed up for.
Then, over a series of photoshoots in her parents’ basement, Moua set out to capture the feminine sides of six of her male classmates. She asked them to bring nice clothes, but eventually asked them if they’d be okay going shirtless. A lot of the women she painted were, she reasoned.
She colored and powdered their faces using techniques absorbed from countless makeup tutorial videos. She made their eyelids sparkle, their cheekbones pop, their skin glow in a rainbow of tints and shades. She gave them flowers to hold and caress and place behind their ears. She called each and every one of them “beautiful.”
And then, one by one, each of them began to feel beautiful, too. Model Jonah Beck says he and his fellow models looked at one another and confessed, laughing: “Man, I would date you.”
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