Real beauty shines on No Makeup Day at Cannon School

Joelle Parkin, of Charlotte, class of 2015, places an empowering sticky note on another students photo as part of the Selfie Project, part of Cannon School’s No Makeup Day events.
Joelle Parkin, of Charlotte, class of 2015, places an empowering sticky note on another students photo as part of the Selfie Project, part of Cannon School’s No Makeup Day events. CANNON SCHOOL

For most teenagers, feeling out of place and trying to find ways to fit in is completely natural.

It is part of growing up, but three girls at Cannon School want their classmates to realize that their beauty and talents are beyond layers of skin, and feeling out of place doesn’t have to feel normal.

What started as a Girl Scout project among friends, Cannon School’s No Makeup Day, now in its fourth year, aims to empower young girls by emphasizing their inner beauty and help them understand that every person is beautiful.

Senior students Victoria Bliss, Johanna Bloomquist, and Sydney Frankenburg came up with the No Makeup Day idea as freshmen for a Girl Scout project in an effort to redefine beauty and increase self-esteem.

They presented the idea in a video and held a forum to discuss the pressures of society and school and to express their feelings about beauty and trying to fit in. Each year the project has grown.

The school kicked off this year’s event with the Selfie Project on April 15, when girls in Cannon’s Upper School were asked to send in a photograph of themselves in which they feel beautiful.

Each photo is then enlarged and printed in black and white and hung in a gallery outside the school’s theater. Students then viewed each other’s photos and added empowering messages on sticky notes to them.

On April 17, students came to school makeup-free and dressed in relaxed style, a step away from the usual required school uniform.

Frankenburg, of Charlotte, said she and her friends wanted their classmates to know that everyone feels insecure at times, and they are not alone.

“I could see the impact on our community because girls are starting to feel more comfortable,” she said.

Not only was it the students, but for the first time, teachers took part in the event this year by not wearing makeup.

Frankenburg said many of the teachers were excited to be included and thanked her for the project.

“It is really important for girls to feel comfortable in their learning environments. They are under a lot of pressure from society,” Frankenburg said.

“The way to feel comfortable is to feel good in your own skin and know that you don’t need makeup to be beautiful.”

Though Frankenburg, Bliss and Bloomquist will graduate from Cannon School this year, they have worked hard to see the project continue for years to come, Frankenburg said.

She said the girls put out a call for anyone interested in continuing the project, and they got a lot of responses.

“We really hope our mentoring and leadership will help them with the project,” Frankenburg said.

While there are no plans yet to expand the project beyond Cannon School, Frankenburg said she is happy to help and would be on board with helping any other school begin their own No Makeup Day events.

Amy Reiss, marketing and communications manager at Cannon School, said that, although all girls feel like they go through an awkward phase, these events are meant to encourage one another, and they did just that by sharing and understanding each other’s insecurities.

“A movement gains momentum from working together. I’m impressed with the courage it takes,” Reiss said.

“They had the understanding to bring girls together in a community aspect. They are wise beyond their years in the very best way.”

Rachel Daniels is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Rachel? Email her at