KOTZEBUE, Alaska -- Last year, Kotzebue student Savannah Kramer decided she wasn't going to wear makeup on Mondays any more. The meticulously groomed 16-year-old had just left a "kind of" relationship and was doing some soul searching when she remembered a similar event at a school she attended in Chugiak.
She said she wanted to stop thinking about herself, focus on her faith and being her true self. So off came the foundation and eyeliner. She called it No Makeup Mondays.
But here's the surprise. Rather than feeling ostracized by her classmates for her nonconformity, Kramer's peers embraced the idea. Her mother Corina said initially her daughter was hoping the idea would catch on to a handful of her friends.
"She was hoping to inspire them to feel better about themselves," Corina said.
But a video, filmed by her sister Melissa, a blog with weekly posts written by Savannah and her mother, Facebook and more started spreading the word.
In no time, hundreds of people all over the state and beyond were tuning in to the No Makeup Mondays movement. Other schools were doing similar events from Barrow to Southeast Alaska. Boys were supportive of the effort, too. There's even word that a video posted on YouTube titled "Alaska's No Makeup Mondays," featuring images of youth participating in the movement from around the state and a faith-based message has caught the interest of the Governor's office.
On the movement's blog, nomakeupmondays.wordpress.com, the mother-daughter team writes about everything from how to deal with interest from boys to more serious issues like domestic violence.
"Last week, I witnessed a domestic violence assault," Savannah writes. "It was surreal, as my friend had no idea that her boyfriend was even capable of hurting her. He had played the part of a sweet, caring friend, who was 'always there for her no matter what'. Until one night the inevitable happened. He could no longer contain his rage and ended up beating her. She was terrified and full of unbelief, but it was enough for her to open her eyes and see all the clues he left behind in their 6-month relationship."
Savannah and her friends say taking the makeup off once a week is a reminder that you don't need that much stuff on your face to be comfortable with yourself.
"It gives me a warning," she said. "You don't need that much."
When a call-out for participants in the No Makeup Mondays movement was given during lunch at Kotzebue High School this past week, dozens of kids jumped up to have their picture taken in support of the effort, including a handful of young men.
"It's a unifying thing," said Savannah.
The overwhelmingly positive response has been inspiring, Savannah said, and a lesson in what you can do if you follow your heart. "It was pretty awesome," she said. "It feels like I have a voice in something."
This story first appeared in The Arctic Sounder.