Comm Students' Video Project Explores Inner Beauty

Cassidy Kotyla and Andrea Peicott

When juniors Cassidy Kotyla ’18, a double major in Communication and Journalism, and Andrea Peicott ’18, a Communication major, began their final project with Professor Kevin Anderson, Ph.D., they had no idea that they were creating something much bigger. For the end-of-the-year assignment, Kotyla and Peicott created a short video titled “You Are Beautiful: A Social Experiment.”

The video is aimed at exploring people’s understanding of inner beauty, and, more specifically, is a response to the narrow conceptions of beauty that are shaped by media and advertising.

“You see so much product placement in the media, in advertising”, said Kotyla. “The message is always ‘If you wear this makeup or this type of clothing, your life will be better.’ It really affects people’s self-esteem.”

“We wanted to do something that was uplifting, that was proactive”, Peicott added, “especially after this really dark, depressing election season.”

Both students are members of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega, which is dedicated to ending domestic violence and educating peers to spread love and happiness. This is where Kotyla and Peicott got the idea to include the words “inner beauty.”

In early December, the duo set up in the Integrative Learning Center (ILC) with a video camera and began interviewing students passing by. They would ask students to pose for a picture for an art project. They would tell the students that the reason they were approached in the first place was because they were so beautiful.

Kotyla and Peicott approached nearly 100 students in total, with around 60 agreeing to participate. In the final video, 24 are featured. It was hard to narrow it down to just 24, they said, “because there were just so many great reactions from people.”

Responses from students were varied, from smiling and laughter, to gratitude and blushing, but all seemed to appreciate the compliments nonetheless.

That appreciation was not limited to the students interviewed. Shortly after posting their project on YouTube, as well as a site for UMass Students and another for the University of Connecticut, the video had nearly 5,000 views in over 30 countries. The video drew so much attention, that Kotyla and Peicott got their own feature in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“We had no idea it was going to blow up like this”, Peicott said.

Looking forward, Peicott says she wants to pursue a career in advertising. Kotyla, who is a blogger and photographer, hopes to pursue a career in social media marketing and editorial work.

Watch “You Are Beautiful” on Youtube.

-- Stephanie George '17