Global Fest: Fahren Johnson on Inner Beauty

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by Maya Arigala

My first thought when entering the seminar “Beauty Inside Out” during Tuesday’s Global Fest was oh no, not this again. Body positivity is now a trending topic, so presentations on inner beauty can feel tired and clichéd. I was completely unaware, however, that I had the pleasure of hearing this message from Fahren Johnson – author, model, musician, mother, and survivor.

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Johnson immediately captured her audience’s attention with her first instruction: take a selfie. Not the kind of selfie you post on Instagram, which is re-taken at least 20 times and has 3 different filters over it. Mrs. Johnson wanted us to try something different, a one-take selfie that hasn’t been touched up or modified, and presents a more accurate representation of our appearance. The audience’s response to this demand varied – looks of sheer horror crossed the faces of some, while others opted for nervous laughter and fiddling with clothes.

Nevertheless, we all complied, though barely managed to mask our collective disgust at the result. Immediately, complaints sprang up from the crowd about everything and anything possible –  hair, skin, lighting, angle, lack of makeup, etc. Mrs. Johnson showed no response to our negativity, and instead tried to redirect the energy. She asked us to look at the picture, find five things we liked about ourselves, and write them down. Some were gently finagled into going up front and sharing those things, a piece of the presentation that deeply touched me and opened my eyes to the glow that can surround a girl when she’s feeling confident.

After an opening like that, I thought the rest of Mrs. Johnson’s presentation might seem dim in comparison. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She immediately transitioned into her personal story, which, as it was narrated, nearly brought me to tears. What pulled me back from the brink each time was Mrs. Johnson’s positivity as she recounted the horrible things that had happened to her, and the constant promise that as tragic as her beginnings were, she never let them control the narrative of her life.

This message was further reinforced as she went on to talk about her professional and personal success. Mrs. Johnson’s life wasn’t so overly glamorous it left us starstruck, and that made her account all the more impactful. She was clearly happy, but happy in a very attainable way. Her situation felt real and within reach for anyone who wanted to work for it, which I think is a message that all seniors staring down the rest of their lives needed to hear.

Not only was the content of the presentation phenomenal, the delivery of the message was clear and effective. It’s sometimes difficult to find a speaking voice that is formal enough for a seminar, yet not so detached that it leaves the audience unable to connect. This was not a problem for Mrs. Johnson, who balanced the heavy nature of her subject matter with perfectly timed quips that left her audience full of smiles.

I left “Beauty Inside Out” feeling inspired, a little more confident, and maybe even beautiful. For me, this presentation was one of the most impactful moments of Global Fest, and I am sincerely grateful that I had the privilege of hearing Fahren Johnson’s story.