Strong is the New Pretty

by Kate T. Parker | I am a mom of little girls….which is alternately the most amazing and the hardest job in the world.

Society gives young girls and women a lot of ideas about what is acceptable for how they act, look and even feel.

I want to make sure my girls know that who they are is enough.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

They don’t need to have their hair done, clothes matching, or even have clean fingernails to be loved and accepted.

That being a soccer player or bug collector is just as good as being a dancer or a princess.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

Their father and I love them just as they are.

Loud, dirty, athletic, competitive…just as my parents loved me for being the um, exactly the same way. Growing up, I was a total tomboy. I refused dresses, pink, or anything remotely feminine. I was only interested in soccer and being exactly like my big brothers, and this was 100 percent encouraged by my parents. I was never made to feel like I needed to be more “girlie” to be loved or accepted. As a former collegiate soccer player, I was lucky enough to grow up with some amazingly strong females that all felt the same way.

As a mother and a photographer, I wanted to show this strength. I wanted to show it, the best way I knew how, through my photography.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

Initially, this project started as a desire to record my daughters and the memories of their childhood, as well as practice with my camera and different lighting situations, environments, times of day, etc.

After about a year or so, it organically grew into something different. The images changed. I started to see patterns and recognize that the images where the girls were authentically captured were the strongest images. The images that showed the girls as they genuinely are were my favorites. After seeing this, I started to shoot with that in mind.

The project became about capturing my girls and their friends as they truly are and how that is OK. Not only OK, but worthy of celebration. There’s a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way or act in a certain manner, and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

The message that I’d like people to take away from my project is to encourage little girls to celebrate who they are — whoever they are! If your daughter is obsessed with pink, princesses, and ballet, amazing! Or if she is a soccer playing, tough-as-nails bookworm, great! Allow your girls to be who they are, whatever that is. Create an environment for them to feel secure and confident in their own selves. Let them know that whatever it is, whoever they are, that’s OK. And not only is it OK, it’s great.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

I wanted to continue that feeling of “You are OK just as you are” with my girls. Being a mother of little girls only cemented my belief even more. Encouraging strength, confidence, kindness, as well as toughness was the path we decided upon when we started raising our girls. This feeling and sentiment bled over into my photography where oftentimes everything is beautiful or photoshopped to look perfect. I wanted to show the beauty, uniqueness, and strength of my girls (and their friends) in the imperfect. Messy hair, dirty faces, brave, angry, joyous, whatever is was… I wanted to capture it. All these emotions make up childhood.

Strong is the New Pretty - by Kate Parker

I think that great things are happening with how women are seen these days. The Lean In movement has been a boon for professional women. Books turned movies like Divergent and The Hunger Games show younger women as heroes, but I’d love something for younger girls to have as their own. Maybe these images can spark that conversation.

All Photos © Kate T. Parker

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Kate ParkerKATE T. PARKER is a mother, wife, photographer, former collegiate soccer player, Ironman, and is currently obsessed with tennis and boxing class. As a professional photographer, she shoots both fine art and commercial work around Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not capturing beautiful images, she can be found coaching the soccer teams of her two young girls — with a whistle and a camera around her neck. Get to know Kate at, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


April 19, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Well said and incredible photography!

Andrew Mooers

April 19, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Parenthood is the most sacred, rewarding, challenging honor bar none… I was a single full time Dad of four kids, two of each flavor, model. They teach us much in raising them and making sure they get the best we have to offer. To survive, prosper, love. And do the same with their kids.

Meghan L

April 21, 2014 at 10:08 am

Those are great photos!

The third one & the fifth one remind me of when I was a girl. My mother called me her little water baby.


April 22, 2014 at 5:19 am

What a great post and truly inspiring. You’re daughters are beautiful and I can see their confidence. Well done as a Mom! The whole question “Am I enough?” goes so deeply into a woman’s soul and we as women can encourage each other and accept each as we are.


April 22, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Very well said… When I was younger I was also a tomboy. I was interested in soccer and playing in the mud, but I was also interested in cars (my dad was a mechanic). As I got older, this interest in cars grew and I pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. I love my job, but the road to where I am was not a fun one. I wish society would encourage girls to follow all of their strengths and not just the ones that are deemed appropriate.


April 24, 2014 at 11:33 am

Love this! As a mom to an 8 year old and older sister to a 16 year old, it becomes more apparent every day the importance of being okay with yourself and your body-even if it means you aren’t a “typical” girl. I am not one for hair and make up and am proud to pass that on and prevent the “pretty princess” image as “typical womanhood”. As I tell my daughter and sister “Sure, that girl looks pretty, but what can she do?” Your body and brain were meant to be used and challenged!!! Long live the athletic sisterhood and women like you who perpetuate these wonderful images.


May 08, 2014 at 10:29 am

Tis is awesome. My name is Lori Greco and I am the mother of 2 boys and a 9 year old girl and I’m amazed how different society sees them. My daughter is strong and confident I want to make sure she stays that way. I have a design and lifestyle blog and tomorrow I’m posting a “favorite finds from the web” post. I was hoping I could include a photo of your work and a quick line about how much I like this project. Would that be ok? Thanks for your inspiration!

Kate T. Parker

May 08, 2014 at 11:30 am

Hi Lori!

That would be totally fine with me! Thanks so much! Kate Parker

cathy erickson

May 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Kate… your Aunt, I am totally proud of you as a young woman, young mother and an incredible photographer. Congratulations on your photos…love to Mike, Ella and Allice. Aunt Ca


May 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

At 55, looking back how my sis and I were raised to know that there were no boundaries, that we could play football in the street with the boys in the neighborhood and to have my own Matchbox car collection in the dirt, made me who I am today. I scoop horse manure in the morning, water the cattle before work and dress up like a lady to make a living. It’s great to have the freedom so young to be who we are and to grow up with that background. Great story and pictures! We’ll done!


August 06, 2014 at 7:44 am

Hi! I am in a leader group for helping girls/women to create a movement that will help them be more secure and confident in themselves and know that they are beautiful just being genuinely themselves. I loved reading this and was hoping I could share this post on my page? You are an amazing momma! XOXO

Team Athleta

August 06, 2014 at 10:03 am

Autumn, share away! There are social sharing icons at the top of the page to make it easy for you. Thanks for spreading the message of empowerment!


August 13, 2014 at 8:39 am

Great post Kate T. Parker. Love the pic’s and the message to our girls. Thank you for your work in this area. How freeing it is for girls developing to not grow up with the anxiety of trying to BE something other than who they are. I am very passionate enriching the lives of girls. You are an honorary itgirl4life! and so are all these beautiful girls in your photos. Bravo!

Donna Wienckowski

August 27, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Loved your past. I have two boys and a daughter in that order. My sons were in baseball , soccer and on a swim team. My daughter played softball, soccer, basketball and was on the same swim team. One night, my now x- husband of 22years, said he did not want our daughter to play sports as he was afraid she would get hurt and wanted her to start a Catholic school as she was entering 6th grade. She was in tears. I told him, what was good enough for her brothers is good enough for her. No changes were made, except him. I am 68 years old, was a tom boy, could beat my guy friends at everything. Only boys has sports in my high school. In my town there was a men’s baseball team and their wives or friends had a women’s softball team . The men asked my dad to play but he said no never playing anything. The women asked my mom who could really hit but couldn’t run so she said no . She then as, ” can my 16 year old daughter play?” I played one year and the second year I got one of my girlfriends on the team. Only thing for girls. I have 7 grandchildren. Oldest is my only granddaughter and rest are boys. You can bet none have been treated differently. My older son started coaching her soccer team when she was 5 and finished when she went to college. He has also been with his two sons. My youngest coaches his sons in their sports and my daughters husband coached their son in his sports. And you can bet grandma is at every game that does not overlap even with working five days a week and with her video camera.

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