Pretty Smart Talks To Teens

Talk to me about teaching media literacy to your teens at school. 


Why Pretty Smart?

10,000 girls are asking Google every month if they’re pretty enough and Google is not kind with its answers.

Many girls around twelve lose their confidence. They start worrying about how they look more than how they’re doing in maths. Girls start to self select themselves out of sports, activities, or even raising their hand in class because they don’t want to draw attention to the way they look. And there are higher rates of depression, anxiety, cutting and poor body image than ever before.

And while we can’t blame this all on the media, messages seen online, at home, in the mall and on social media, reinforce the notion that as a female, being pretty is an important thing to be.

The 1.3 trillion dollar beauty industry spends energy telling girls to look thinner, older, sexier, whiter, more sophisticated, more tanned! And then once they’re older it will tell them to look younger, less wrinkled, still slimmer, but less tanned! Once a woman hits 30 she’ll mostly see ads with models under 20. She’ll never look like them because it’s biologically impossible. It’s called the beauty gap. And it achieves ugly results. Be Real Campaign recently surveyed 1000 young people and 69% were worried about going to school because of their appearance – skin, body shape, or being overweight. That’s a lot of worry! That’s taking up precious mind space, not leaving room to think about getting over the high jump, or whether Hermione and Ron will be prefects, trialling out for Kapahaka, or whether mum will eventually be replaced by a robot.

Our daughters can’t change the industry. Even I can’t change the industry and I’ve worked in marketing for years, but we can change what girls know about it,

Pretty Smart is a talk to equip teens, age 11 – 13, with critical thinking. It will teach them how to navigate the hundreds of messages they will see every day and understand what’s real and what’s not. It will teach them beauty is more powerful as a feeling than an adjective. And it will teach them that while it’s fine to want to feel pretty and beautiful, it’s important to not be hoodwinked by the industry coming after them. Because they’ll never win.

Studies show that if teens are taught how the media and advertising work they are less affected by it.

“Media is the only business industry when we can literally paint a picture of the world the way we want it to be,” says Madeline Di Nonno, chief executive of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “One 30-second spot can make a lifetime impression.”

Unilever conducted a two-year worldwide global survey and reported that only 2% of ads show women as being intelligent, 3% in managerial positions and only 1% show women as being funny. The rest show women as something to look at. That’s not funny.

I want to help teens navigate this world and raise a generation who feel Pretty Smart about what they see all around them.

Let’s raise a generation of warriors not worriers!


Here’s what others say about Pretty Smart:

Breaking down the beauty myths and exposing the tricks of the beauty industry is important work, and Pretty Smart provides a valuable service to empower young women with the tools to combat the destructive side of this industry. It is a hard battle maintaining self-esteem in the face of such opposition but Pretty Smart is fighting the good fight.

Kat Saunders, Girls Rock! School, Auckland. 

“A wonderful informative talk! Our girls were challenged to think differently. Angela’s talk opened an honest conversation about the pressures of social media, media and peer pressure. “

Rachel Maitland-Smith, Ponsonby Intermediate, Auckland. 

“As a former marketer, a current mental health worker and a father of 12 and 10-year-old daughters I could not speak highly enough of the quality of the content and delivery of Angela’s talk on body image.  The topic feels like a minefield but Angela’s empathic, down to earth delivery, and fearlessness in taking on what has become a culture of marketing by deception, without any consideration for the well-being of our girls and young women, is a true gift  our family is extremely grateful for.”

Nick Brown-Hansom, Parent, Auckland.

Angela is an effective communicator who engages well with young people, respecting their wonderful uniqueness and at the same time enlightening them about issues in society which could affect them. With her background in advertising and marketing, she is able to explain the importance of being aware of images and messages, and how these may be constructed rather than real. She is passionate about addressing issues in society which affect our younger generation.

Marianne Duston, Assistant Principal, Saint Kentigern Middle College, Auckland.

“I think that the presentation was really inspiring because it tells us young women and young men that looks aren’t everything. You don’t have to change who you are to be accepted. This slideshow was AMAZING and I want every girl to know that they are beautiful, and don’t believe what they see in magazines like Seventeen magazine because that does NOT define beauty.”

Mya McGraw, 14-year-old student, San Francisco.

 “I learned about Angela through an 8th-grade student who had attended her presentation and was so moved that she asked me to bring Angela to speak to the girls at our school. Her presentation was poignant and powerful. The girls attending left with a better understanding of how the media influences girls’ body image and manipulates people into wanting to spend money on their products to try to obtain the image of beauty they portray. This understanding was very empowering for these students.”

Barri Aji, Middle School Counselor, French American International School.

“Totally inspirational… on point and delivered in a way that the girls understood and listened and related.”

Jane Blakey, parent to 12-year old Izzy, Auckland

As a teacher and a parent I was aware of some of the issues raised in the presentation, what I was fascinated with is the way in which companies market their products completing the cycle of making people feel that they are imperfect. This presentation highlights this in a way that is easy to understand. I would have no hesitation in recommending the presentation to other schools, it was brilliant! I made the comment to Angela that I thought it would also be great for boys to see.

100% recommend the presentation (Dave Wileman, Teacher, Green Bay)


Talk to me about coming to visit your school (in Auckland) or get a group together at home. Or visit the Pretty Smart and follow what we’re up to.

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