Catholic News Service photo
Christina Parrilla, of Miami, poses for a photo to promote "Go Boldly." The initiative counteracts negative body image messages imparted by the media.
Catholic News Service photo
Christina Parrilla, of Miami, poses for a photo to promote "Go Boldly." The initiative counteracts negative body image messages imparted by the media.
MIAMI — In a society saturated with photo-edited images of models on magazine covers, not to mention billboards pushing plastic surgery, three young Catholic women from Miami are facing down the beauty industry — and not just figuratively.

During a recent visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Alanna Cuadra and Katherina and Christina Parrilla participated in a new campaign to promote positive body image.

The initiative, Go Boldly, was started this spring by a Grand Rapids photographer, Bri Luginbill, to counteract negative body image messages imparted by the media.

Driving on the highway, Luginbill spotted ads she found to be  contradictory: billboards promoting Botox and plastic surgery that urged women to "go confidently" by changing their appearance.

Luginbill's images are not Photoshopped and feature women of different ages and body types, including those with disabilities. The goal is to promote the natural beauty that is found in all women, as well as men, who also can suffer from body image issues.

Luginbill's portraits of Cuadra and the Parrilla sisters are now being sent to women's magazines, and plans are in the works to feature them on billboards. The goal is to offset the discouraging messages that abound.

The three young Florida women are featured in this PSA by Go Boldly: The website for the campaign is

Cuadra, 18, who is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and will start at Florida International University this fall as a nutrition and dietetics major, has noted the media's negative influence on her peers.

"(The media) says that the only way to look beautiful or love yourself is to become, or look like, something you're not," she told The Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami Archdiocese.

The images of celebrities and models presented in ads even had her second-guessing her own sense of self -- until she remembered the teachings of her faith.

"I know I should be thankful for what I have and that God made all of us in his image and likeness," she said.

Two years ago, when Christina Parrilla was struggling with her body image, she did not consider herself worthy of being photographed.

"I was unhappy with my body and hated looking at myself in the mirror," said the 21-year-old, who is now a college student in Michigan.

At the Go Boldly photo shoot, however, she was affirmed and encouraged to embrace who she is.

"I am not a model, and a lot of times I feel weird just standing there and having someone take a bunch of pictures. What I loved most about being photographed by Bri is how comfortable she made me feel," said Parrilla. She and her 16-year-old sister, Katherina, are from St. John Neumann Parish in Miami.

"We were reminded how we are all special and that we should love ourselves the way we are," added Cuadra.

Luginbill's type of photography, called photo therapy, helps those in front of the lens accept their image and appearance. Many photo-therapy photographers feature pre- and post-partum bodies, as well as people afflicted by medical conditions of various kinds.

Christina Parrilla said she was able to see the impact of her non-Photoshopped portrait when it was enlarged for a rally organized by Go Boldly supporters. Rally participants displayed the campaign's photographs near a Grand Rapids highway where cosmetic surgery billboards are located.

"I am still not used to seeing myself blown up on a poster, but it's always fun to see," Parrilla said. "I am so grateful to be a part of such a beautiful movement."

The young women say they now feel compelled to communicate the importance of positive body image with others, especially in a body-conscious city such as Miami.

"I think women should love their bodies because it's the only one they are going to get. Your eyes, nose, curves -- those are all things that make you, you," said Parrilla.

Cuadra said she will "constantly remind myself and others how truly special we each are."