The Beauty Queens

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Today probably ranked in the Top 10 Days of My Life list.  It was that good.


Last year, a woman named Leslie decided to get in shape and run a half marathon.  She was browsing blogs when she stumbled across HTP and, subsequently, Operation Beautiful.  A guidance counselor at a South Carolina high school, Leslie knew right away that her students would love site’s concept.  Leslie teamed up with the school’s art teacher, recruited 12 students, and started an Operation Beautiful club, The Beauty Queens.


When Leslie emailed me to tell me what the girls were doing, I knew I had to come to Abbeville High School and meet the club members – now over 30 strong.  The girls meet once a week and either discuss a section of the Operation Beautiful book and how it relates to their own lives or do a community service project.  They’ve even had a float in a local parade!  And on the first day of school this year, they put notes in every freshman girl’s locker so the new girls wouldn’t be as nervous!  How sweet is that?


You see, I don’t feel like Operation Beautiful is ‘mine’ – I’m just the person who runs the site and wrote the book.  The site would be nothing… absolutely nothing… without the women and girls (and guys!) who post notes and email them to me every single day.  Operation Beautiful is 100% driven by the people who believe in random acts of kindness.  So to meet 30 incredibly smart, caring, and positive high school girls who took the site’s simple concept and made it something big – something entirely their own – was absolutely AWESOME. 


I gave a presentation to 125 of the school’s 500 students, and then The Beauty Queens threw a party.  I think some of them read this blog, too, because there was vegan cupcakes and Mmmm Sauce in the spread! Hah. I love it. 


It was just a really… surreal… and totally awesome experience.  I HATED so much of my high school experience – I wish I had gone to the same high school as The Beauty Queens!  I could tell the club crossed clique lines and included girls from different grades/interests. And that made me super happy.


A great day, indeed, that was totally worth six hours of driving time.


Car food included a PB sandwich and a banana:


Plus lots of goodies and chips at the party.


A Starbucks chocolate-banana smoothie.  So delicious.


And for dinner, gluten-free mac and cheese with asparagus, plus steamed greens and cucumbers.  Trying to squeeze in some veggies for BabyHTP!


Have you tried the gluten-free mac and cheese from Trader Joe’s?  It is REALLY tasty.  But truly – isn’t everything from TJ’s the best?


IMG_5010  IMG_5005

And now I am going to face-plant in bed.  Yawn!



  • Hillary December 6, 2011, 8:31 pm

    As a middle school teacher, reading this makes me so happy. Teenage girls can be AWFUL, so hearing stories about ones who are the complete opposite make me hopeful.

    • CaitlinHTP December 6, 2011, 8:32 pm

      @Hillary: Me too! They were so positive and kind to one another. Leslie said its really helping mean girl syndrome at the school.

  • Lauren December 6, 2011, 8:33 pm

    Caitlin, that is so awesome!!! You’ve changed so many lives with your inspiration and even though so many others have used it to do amazing things, you will always be the reason for that. 🙂 That is your legacy my dear.

  • Tamara December 6, 2011, 8:38 pm

    That’s great Caitlin.

    What are those starbucks smoothies like? I’m relunctant but also curious.

    • CaitlinHTP December 6, 2011, 8:39 pm

      @Tamara: Oh I love the banana chocolate one. Try it with soy milk though, it’s even better that way. Great snack in a pinch.

  • Amanda December 6, 2011, 8:40 pm

    This is awesome! I am a long time lurker- but I really appreciate the work you do and how you reach out to girls and women. I also work at a middle school, and I think that this message is very important!

  • Maria December 6, 2011, 8:41 pm

    That is so great. High school can be so hard, I am glad these girls have each other. I wish I would have had this in high school. Thank you for creating Operation Beautiful.

  • Sarah December 6, 2011, 8:43 pm

    Too fun! I went to college about 10 minutes away from Abbeville– isn’t it such a cute little town?? I hope you got the chance to drive through the town square. Little did you know, you went to the town where (supposedly) the Confederate gold is buried, because Abbeville is where the Confederacy started and ended in the Civil War. Neat, huh? (Nerd alert!)

  • Amanda December 6, 2011, 8:43 pm

    This is so awesome! I absolutely love that those girls started the Beauty Queens. I was fortunate in that I had a solid group of girlfriends in high school, but I think groups like this would benefit any school. And how awesome that they do community service at some of their meetings?! Amazing.

    And thank YOU for starting the Operation Beautiful movement. 🙂

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb December 6, 2011, 8:46 pm

    yummy that mac n cheese looks delicious!!

    what a fun and rewarding day 🙂 you are such an inspiration, caitlin.

  • AmandaonMaui December 6, 2011, 8:48 pm

    I bought a box of TJ’s gluten free mac and cheese when I was in Bellevue, WA. It WAS delicious. I was totally shocked.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) December 6, 2011, 9:00 pm

    I absolutely love this and everything that you do Caitlin! I’m so glad that even young girls are getting involved in such a great thing…for themselves! I have two boys and I do everything I can to make sure they grow up knowing they are great just being them. Individuality and acceptance of yourself, as well as others, is such an important thing for young people to learn! I’m glad you had such a great day!

  • Laura @ She Eats Well December 6, 2011, 9:02 pm

    This is SUCH an amazing and inspiring example of what can be done in schools. I think it is especially relevant and important right now, with all the stories we hear about bullying. I just really think what you’ve done is amazing.

  • katie @ KatieDid December 6, 2011, 9:02 pm

    Wow AWESOME club right there. Wish my high school had done the same thing. That must have been an incredible afternoon with them!

  • Katie December 6, 2011, 9:02 pm

    How awesome is this?! I am doing a student teaching internship at a middle school next semester and would love to start something like this!

    • CaitlinHTP December 6, 2011, 9:04 pm

      @Katie: I am in the process of developing a curriculum right now for middle and high schoolers… It’s going to be a long way coming because I still need to do a pilot program locally. But if you try something out, I would LOVE to know what you do an how it goes!

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon December 6, 2011, 9:05 pm

    Wow how inspiring! SO great to hear that a club like this exists in the often self-esteem bashing zone that is high school!

  • Kristen @ The Concrete Runner December 6, 2011, 9:07 pm

    That is so cool! I might have to rip off their idea once I get a real teaching job!

  • Maren December 6, 2011, 9:08 pm

    This is such an awesome club you’re in!! So great of those girls!! When you’re Tween book comes out, I hope lots of middle schools develop clubs like this. Middle school is SO hard for everyone!! I was super duper awkward in middle school…and my freshman year of hs. This definitely would have been nice back then!

  • Maria December 6, 2011, 9:09 pm

    That’s awesome! I wish they would’ve had something like this when I was in school. And thanks for the trader joe’s tip on the gluten-free macaroni. I’ll have to look out for it and give it a try.

  • Mary Nell December 6, 2011, 9:11 pm

    I know it is weird, but I’m one of those people who feel like I know you because I read your blog…and Abbeville is my home town…and one of my dear friends works there…and you probably drove through Anderson to get there…where we just had the Girls on the Run banquet last night…crazy the little connections life brings. I heard that with the Net the six degrees of separation is down to four…starting to believe it!

    • CaitlinHTP December 6, 2011, 9:18 pm

      @Mary Nell: Wow! How many fun connections we share 🙂 Thank you for working with GOTR!

  • Katie @ Healthy Heddleston December 6, 2011, 9:26 pm

    What a wonderful day for you!

  • Ashley @ Cooking for John December 6, 2011, 9:29 pm

    That counselor is incredible- I work at a 5/6 school, and would love to start up a club like this. The thing is, I don’t feel like many 5th grade girls have thoughts of being inadequate or not “good enough,” and I wouldn’t want the club to somehow, unintentionally, spark that type of thinking.

    What do you think?

  • Erin @ Big Girl Feats December 6, 2011, 9:35 pm

    This makes me teary, so I can only imagine how it made you feel to actually go and be there and hear from these awesome girls. So, so, so amazing. I love when people are kind to one another, especially in a place as crazy as high school!

    I’m getting my master’s in education and hope to work in a middle or high school, so if you need help writing some curriculum, call me! 😉

  • Food Babe December 6, 2011, 9:37 pm

    I wonder what the ingredients in that gluten free mac and cheese are…. does it have Natural Flavor?

  • Rebecca December 6, 2011, 9:38 pm

    Wow! I would LOVE to be in a club like this!

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats December 6, 2011, 9:41 pm

    I wish that club existed when I was in HS too! So amazing!

  • Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) December 6, 2011, 9:48 pm

    That message on the back of TJ’s box cracks me up.. I love their marketing! Genius!

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen December 6, 2011, 9:57 pm

    That is awesome. While I had a great high school experience, something like that definitely did not exist. It must be pretty incredible to see a small idea you had one day blow up and materialize into something like what you got to be a part of today. Very, very cool. 🙂

  • Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} December 6, 2011, 9:58 pm

    It is amazing to hear that young girls are taking the OB concept and using it in such a positive way. I can see why this day made your top 10! Awesome.

  • Syd December 6, 2011, 10:05 pm

    This is so cool to see this! I attend Abbeville High School! It was such a blessing to get to hear you speak today! Although I am not apart of the Beauty Queens, I still participate in Operation Beautiful with another group of friends outside of school. I think it is truly amazing for a small town like Abbeville to have teenagers who are so willing to help others! Everyone who are apart of the Beauty Queens and even others in the school and community are such blessings! Abbeville High School is full of people who stand up for what we believe in! I love that we had this chance to meet you! Thankss! <3

  • colleen December 6, 2011, 10:07 pm

    That is so cool. Definitely wish my high school had a club like that.

  • Chelsea December 6, 2011, 10:20 pm

    You just made me crave mac and cheese from this post haha. I looked at that picture and thought, “I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO EAT!”

    I wish they had a club like that at my school as well though! Seems like such a phenomenal idea 🙂 I bet they felt so graced by your presence <3 I know I would!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife December 6, 2011, 10:44 pm

    That.Is.Utterly. Amazing. SOOO cool! I wish I could’ve been there too!

    I need to try that gf macNCheese! Sleep tight–you made a lot of ladies happy today, I am sure 🙂

  • Sarah @ w30 December 6, 2011, 10:53 pm

    This is AWESOME! What a great club and what an awesome counselor to take the initiative and start that. And I love that they sometimes do community service projects – paying it forward. So cool!

  • Elizabeth December 6, 2011, 11:35 pm

    Hi, I am Elizabeth, Vice president of the Abbeville beauty queens. (yes I am in the picture. I am in a pink shirt and if you spy caitlin front and center look to the left diagonally and I am the second one.) anyways I just wanted to say it was a complete HONOR to meet you today Caitlin. We are so excited we finally got to spend some time with you. We have been reading your blog for a while (I know I have) and I became COMPLETELY starstruck when I met you. I can’t say how honored I and the rest of the beauty queens are to be passing on the operation beautiful message in our schools and helping to beautify our community. As I said before thank you so much for s day I know we all will NEVER forget! <3

  • Khushboo December 6, 2011, 11:42 pm

    Wow this sounds like a fantastic club! Fortunately bullying wasn’t big in my high school but I definitely think it could have benefited a lot of girls (me included) in self-esteem!

  • Jen December 7, 2011, 1:27 am

    Wow…this truly is beautiful! I really do believe that (at least, to some extent) you reap what you sow & I am so happy that you were able to have this wonderful experience and see the amazingly positive outcome from something that YOU initiated! You truly are an inspiration…I can only imagine how many lives you have impacted & hearts you’ve touched!

  • Elisabeth December 7, 2011, 2:34 am

    That club sounds so wonderful! Teenage girls can be rediculously mean to one another and it’s so cool that Operation Beautiful spawned something like that. Way to go, Caitlin, Leslie and The Beauty Queens! I sure wish my school had done something like that, especially the project with the Freshman lockers 😉

  • AmandaRunsNY December 7, 2011, 5:59 am

    Wow, what a great thing you’ve started Caitlin! You are amazing. I’m continually awed and inspired by you.

  • Rebecca @ Naturally Healthy and Gorgeous December 7, 2011, 6:42 am

    Operation Beautiful is so inspiring!

  • healthy ashley December 7, 2011, 7:44 am

    So, so awesome!!!

  • Carolina John December 7, 2011, 7:54 am

    That is really cool! Abbeville has some fun people, we’ve got a bit of family near there.

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION December 7, 2011, 8:30 am

    What an awesome experience! I love that you don’t take credit for being “in charge” of Operation Beautiful. But you should definitely feel awesome about how far it’s come and how many girls you’ve helped! This is so, so, so awesome! 😀

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin December 7, 2011, 8:37 am

    Wow what an amazing club! I wish I’d had something like that at my high school – mine was SO cliquey and I never felt like I really fit in, apart from my group of friends.

    It’s amazing that YOU were the inspiration behind this club. I know you’re not taking credit for it, but seriously Caitlin, what you’ve created is life changing. 😀

  • Heather December 7, 2011, 8:37 am

    this post totally has me SMILING! Thanks for sharing about your awesome experience with the Beauty Queens. Those girls ROCK!

  • KellyK December 7, 2011, 8:43 am

    Wow Caitlin! This is unbelievably awesome! I read your site every day, and it is always a does of positivity.

    • CaitlinHTP December 7, 2011, 12:25 pm

      @KellyK: Thank you so much for supporting OB!

  • Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) December 7, 2011, 8:53 am

    Cudos to that amazing teacher who saw a need for change in her school!

    Those girls are awesome!

  • Molly @ RDexposed December 7, 2011, 8:58 am

    Amen to all TJ foods! And that’s so touching to see what your effort has turned into!

  • Jennifer December 7, 2011, 9:05 am

    What an awesome story, I’m amazed by those high school girls. You really started a great, positive movement Caitlin!!

  • Dory December 7, 2011, 9:23 am

    This post makes me so happy. I wish there was something like that at my high school! I love the locker idea!

  • faith December 7, 2011, 9:42 am

    Congratulations on seeing the little seed you planted years ago grow into something bigger than you could have imagined, that is truly amazing. You are a hell of an inspiration, thanks.

  • Gwen December 7, 2011, 9:47 am

    I hope you realize what an impact you make on people’s lives, Caitlin! Operation Beautiful is bigger than just you, but you are the strength behind a seriously beautiful movement! Your committment is awe-inspiring! Rock.Star.

  • Allison December 7, 2011, 10:00 am

    WOW, after experiencing my own personal difficulties, I would love to start an “Operation Beautiful” club at the middle school I teach at! I contacted GOTR to start a program but was too late and I hope to be able to be a part of it in the future… You both have absolutely fabulous philosophies!

    P.S. I totes agree, TJ’s has the BESTEST foods and products 😀

  • Bridget December 7, 2011, 10:01 am

    That is so awesome. Congrats! It makes me want to contact some teachers from my high school and get them to start something just like this. The notes on the freshman’s lockers is SUCH a brilliant idea.

  • Christie December 7, 2011, 10:07 am

    How awesome! I think every school across the country should jump on board with this. I bet the bullying issues would drop a great deal. LOVE THIS! So glad that Operation Beautiful has turned into such a successful venture for you, and everyone.

  • Lauren December 7, 2011, 10:09 am

    Congratulations! This is wonderful 🙂 I’d love to hear about the other top nine days of your life!

  • Katie December 7, 2011, 10:12 am

    How amazing is it to realize this project you started has made such a difference in people’s lives? You’re so awesome!

  • Mandy December 7, 2011, 11:39 am

    I didn’t know you hated high school! You’re such a positive person it’s amazing to imagine you as anything but a ball of sunshine!

    • CaitlinHTP December 7, 2011, 12:26 pm

      @Mandy: I liked some parts of it… but a lot of it was rough. I struggled with depression and self-harming. I was the opposite of a ball of sunshine 😉 But people can change!

  • caitlin December 7, 2011, 11:55 am

    What a great club! I feel that this is so important for young girls to be involved in this.

    Have you read the article on the H&M store and how they use fake body images for their ads? I thought you might enjoy it. It’s worth the read.
    Linked at the bottom:

    • CaitlinHTP December 7, 2011, 12:26 pm

      @caitlin: ugh – so lame. H&M is doing a major disservice.

  • HTPMom December 7, 2011, 12:19 pm

    This is AWESOME !! The Beauty Queens have started a “giving to others & self/community service club that hopefully will grow and become part of other schools programs. You are such an inspiration and amazing leader. There is so many good people out there just waiting for one person to step up and lead the way….and you did and do.

  • Amber K December 7, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Oh that is so amazing! I wish I could have gone to a high school with that program. Actually, middle school was worse for me. But, either way this is truly awesome. You have inspired so many people Caitlin. You might not feel like it’s yours, but you have started something so inspiring. Thank you!

  • Samantha December 7, 2011, 5:15 pm

    Totally random…I’ve been reading your blog for years now and I actually went to Abbeville (at least up until my Junior year of HS). Crazy to see them on HTP…and reading through the comments, to see how many people actually know where Abbeville is…Let’s face it, it’s a tiny town, but a great place to grow up. Glad to see the good things that are going on there!

  • Lindsey F. December 7, 2011, 6:01 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    I’m a middle school teacher was wondering if you would e-mail me to give me some information about how the school club was started and what their weekly meetings entail. I would love to begin an operation beautiful in my school and any guidance would be GREATLY appreciated!

  • Brigid December 7, 2011, 7:23 pm

    I teared up a little reading this post. Every high school should have a club like the Beauty Queens. I’m moved.

  • Katie December 7, 2011, 7:24 pm

    What a FANTASTIC story! I wish there was more of this in the world…

  • Mel @ Post Grad Mel December 7, 2011, 8:19 pm

    I love that they put notes in the freshman girl’s lockers! It’s awesome to hear stories about girls (and women) empowering others.

  • Caroline Leigh December 7, 2011, 9:25 pm

    i teach middle school and after reading operation beautiful, i thought about how awesome it would be to start an operation beautiful club at school….i’m not sure if middle school is too young..or maybe just right.. to do something like this, but i’m still intrigued by the idea. i definitely can’t wait for your book to come out that is geared toward the younger girls!

  • Greg December 9, 2011, 9:45 pm

    Based on your comments, I tried the Trader Joe’s gluten free mac and cheese and really enjoyed it. I mixed it with tuna and Trader Joe’s tomato and basil marinara sauce. Thank you for suggesting it.

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