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Reflections: Expanding the Definition of Beauty

  Dr. Faysal Saab

The author’s daughter Joy Hepburn, who has a form of cerebral palsy called hemiparesis, is featured among Bold Beauty Project photographs at the 2016 Art Palm Beach (Florida) and Art Boca (Florida) exhibitions. Bold Beauty Project will have a stand-alone show in Miami, Florida, later this year, as well as additional shows around the country in 2017.
Photo: Robert Zuckerman Reflections: Expanding the Definition of Beauty For more information about the Bold Beauty Project, visit: boldbeautyproject.com 32

Eva Ritvo, MD ’79, is a dual-UCLA-degree holder. She graduated in 1983 with a BA in psychobiology and earned her MD four years later. She did an internship in psychiatry at UCLA and completed her residency training at Cornell University in 1991. Dr. Ritvo then joined the faculty at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, where she rose to vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. For the past five years, Dr. Ritvo has been in private practice in Miami Beach, Florida. She is an internationally known speaker, executive coach, psychiatrist and author. She is a longtime member of the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation (UCP) Board of Directors. In 2015, she was selected as the UCP Ethel Hausman Volunteer of the Year. Dr. Ritvo is co-director of the Bold Beauty Project, a nationwide project that is working to expand the definition of beauty.

The mainstream definition of beauty excludes those who do not fit the stereotype. In my career, I have had two opportunities to challenge the status quo and empower others to look at themselves through a lens of acceptance. In 2008, I co-authored The Beauty Prescription with another UCLA alumna (and staff dermatologist at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center) Debra Luftman, MD (RES ’90, ’96). In our book, we talk about the difference between innate and evolving beauty receptors. Innate receptors are the ones we are born with. Yes, we are born knowing what is beautiful. Babies just a few hours old stare longer at attractive faces, and by the age of 1, they cooperate better with attractive sitters. As we move through life, we evolve new beauty receptors based on what we are exposed to.

Currently, I’m involved in the Bold Beauty Project (BBP), an innovative visual-arts project that showcases 20 women living with disabilities. Through the photographers’ creative lens, the audience gets a glimpse into the lives of these incredible women, such as Marilee Adamski-Smith, and recognizes their beauty, strength and sensuality — their boldness. Marilee is 39 and lives in Virginia. She was born with a disability called tetra-amelia and has no arms or legs. She attributes her great success in life to her parents, who always pushed her to be strong and provided the love and support she needed to thrive. She completed college and now runs her own business, Adamski-Smith Multimedia Solutions. In 2002, Marilee found her soulmate, Joseph, and married him in 2008. Marilee wears her wedding ring on a necklace around her neck. She has a wonderful, outgoing and upbeat personality.



Bold Beauty Project

View exhibition online.



The first Bold Beauty Project event was held in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2015, and was an enormous success. The leadership of BBP would like the event to expand to sites across the country to more broadly affect the definition of beauty on a national scale.

I am inspired by the courage and vulnerability of the BBP models, as was my sister Anne Bielamowicz, MD ’90, who participated in the project as a photographer and found the experience very moving and enriching. I stand with these women as they stand up for a new definition of beauty. It is my great privilege to know and work with them. Through overcoming seemingly insurmountable barriers and obstacles, they have achieved so much personally and professionally.

Often, passions grow out of personal experiences. This is certainly true for me and my enthusiasm for BBP. My daughter, who was born during my psychiatry residency, has a form of cerebral palsy called hemiparesis. I am delighted that she will be a model in a future event.


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