When was the last time someone said those words to you? How often do you say them to others?
If you ask 17-year-old Kenadi Beacham, the answer to both questions can be summed up in two words: Not enough.
Beacham was on YouTube one day when she came across a video called “People react to being called beautiful.” The video depicted a social experiment at The Chicago High School for the Arts in 2015, in which Shea Glover told various fellow students they were beautiful and filmed their reactions.
Some people were embarrassed by the words. Others thanked Glover for telling them they were beautiful, or simply smiled. Still other students thought she was making fun of them, and didn’t believe she meant what she said.
Glover’s video has more than 19.75 million views to date and has inspired at least three similar experiments. One shows the reactions of people in Amarillo, Texas, as they’re told that they’re beautiful; another took place at Beaverton High School in Oregon; the third was filmed in Grantsville.
Beacham felt inspired to recreate Glover’s experiment at Grantsville High School after she saw the original video.
“I thought it was cool, so I wanted to do it myself,” she said.
At first, the thought of asking people she didn’t know to take part in her video was intimidating.
“I was kind of nervous because it’s kind of scary to go out and ask random people if they can be a part of your project,” Beacham said. “I never thought I’d actually do it, but my mom pushed me to do it.”
In the end, Beacham asked more than 50 teenagers and adults at Grantsville High School to participate in her video. She told each one that she was taking pictures of things she found beautiful for a project.
Similar to the students in the original social experiment in Chicago, their reactions ranged from shy embarrassment to flat disbelief.
“A lot of them hid their faces or were embarrassed,” Beacham said. “Very few said ‘Oh, thank you,’ and for a lot of them, it just made them smile. There were a variety of different reactions.”
Beacham was surprised by the reactions of some of the adults in her experiment.
“I thought it was crazy that even the adults were like, ‘Oh whatever,’” she said.
Doing the experiment taught Beacham several things. First, you have to learn to love yourself before you can really love others. Second, it’s OK to love yourself. Third, it doesn’t require much effort to show those around you that you love them.
“Everyone’s different and every single person has something different about them, but they’re all beautiful,” she said. “I wanted to show them the beauty in themselves.”
As Beacham reached repeatedly outside her comfort zone and told others they were beautiful, she noticed some interesting things happened. She noticed more people in the hallways of the school than ever before, and the way she saw herself changed.
“I really found doing this project that I really learned to love myself,” she said. “It’s been a long process for me to even think that about myself.”
Beacham began to see just how big an impact the people surrounding her had on how kind she was to herself. She also realized that not every person’s social environment was created equal.
“Surrounding yourself with good people makes it easier to love yourself and be more kind to yourself, but I think a lot of kids in that video don’t have that kind of support,” she said. “I think it’s hard, in high school especially, to think that about yourself, because … you’re portrayed as cocky, or that you’re full of yourself and think you’re better than everyone else; so I think a lot of people don’t think that.”
Hailey Elder was having a bad day when Beacham pulled her out of class to participate in the social experiment. When she heard Beacham say, “I think you’re beautiful,” Elder started to cry.
Elder grew up with a difficult home life, and as a result it’s hard for her to socialize with people she doesn’t know. She’d never really thought of herself as beautiful before.
“When she (Beacham) pulled me out of class and told me all that — I don’t know, I just felt it was something new,” Elder said. “I didn’t really know how to react other than cry.”
Before the social experiment, Elder didn’t even know Beacham was a student at GHS. However, although they’d never talked before, Beacham’s compliment helped Elder see herself in a little different light.
“I don’t know she knew my name, or how she knew I even existed,” Elder said. “It was just really, really touching and good for me to hear something like that. At the time I was going through something really hard with my mom, and it made my day better to hear that. I love Kenadi, and I’m glad she sees someone like me that way.”
She and Beacham talk often now. Elder agrees that people don’t hear that they’re beautiful often enough.
“I think especially with a lot of teenagers, it’s harder to see how other people see you than how you see yourself,” she said. “Everybody has such a negative image all the time, but this can help you see yourself in a different way.”
The experiment has changed the way Beacham walks around her high school.
“It really did (change me),” she said. “It got me out of my comfort zone, and it really makes me notice those people (from my video) a lot. A lot of them I didn’t know they went to my school. Now I notice them more. It’s crazy how when you start to look you notice more people. I know a lot more people now.”
In addition to watching the reactions of people in the social experiment video, Beacham has enjoyed seeing the responses of people who watch the experiment.
Beacham’s mother, Shawndi, helps with anti-bullying assemblies at various elementary and junior high schools. They have showed the video in one anti-bullying assembly so far, and plan to show it more in the future.
“A lot of people that watched the video after it was first made, a lot of them cried; they kind of got emotional,” Beacham said. “It’s hard seeing all those kids who don’t really think that about themselves, that they are beautiful.”
Beacham believes kindness is key to helping others see their own beauty.
“It (the experiment) really changed my life for the better, and I’ve gotten so much love on it, people saying ‘we need more of this,’” she said. “People need more kindness and if we do it, if we just say small things like you like their smile, it can make their day.”