Magazine recognizes free-spirited Juneau girl for her inner beauty

Unique eighth-grader featured in campaign by teen publication

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

Caitlin Chalmers dyes her hair blue. The Juneau 14-year-old and her friends wear a restaurant's take-out boxes on their heads and mimic Storm Troopers from Star Wars. In short, she's unconventional.

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This month, Chalmers was honored by an international magazine for teens in its eighth-annual "25 Beautiful Girls" issue. The eighth-grader in a local Montessori program will be featured in the magazine's "Turn Beauty Inside Out" campaign.

"It's a real honor because it's all about girls and speaking for yourself and being independent and being noticed," Chalmers said.

New Moon issued a call back in September for girls "who radiate inner beauty." Based in Minnesota, the bimonthly magazine has been honored by the Association of Education Publishers in part for promoting girls' voices. It has a Girls Editorial Board made up of youths such as 12-year-old Libby Jacobson.

"Inner beauty is knowing who you are and what you stand for," Jacobson said. "It's being able not to care what others think - all in all, it's being you."

Chalmers was nominated by her friend Megan Behnke, a Juneau teen who was featured in the magazine in 2001.

"Caitlin is never afraid to speak up or do something people might and often do think odd," Behnke wrote. "I've known her since kindergarten, and I've never once known her to be anything less than who she really is."

The youngest of three siblings, Chalmers said she likes to read and write and play the flute. She sees herself working someday as a teacher or a writer. For now, though, she's busy keeping her friends amused. Sometimes that means wandering around Wild Spice restaurant with her friends, looking like Storm Troopers.

"That's basically us," Chalmers said.

The "wit and off-the-wall humor" are part of what inspired Behnke to nominate her.

"Even now in eighth grade, when it is supposedly impossible for girls to be themselves, her long skirts, shawls and painted jeans - as well as her collection of eccentric hats - reflects her uniqueness of spirit," Behnke wrote.

"She will inexplicably repeat various random phrases as her reply to multiple e-mails," Behnke added. "One baffling example: 'It doesn't take a lot to interest goats.'"

"She continues to surprise me, including the time I showed up at her house and found her hair bright blue. The way she looks with her blue hair seems to me to be the way she was meant to look - wonderfully eccentric."

The description was just what New Moon was looking for when it started running its "25 Beautiful Girls" series in 2000. The magazine's editorial board wanted something to contrast with People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People."

Asked about her own definition of beauty, Chalmers was quick to reply.

"Beauty is more focused on what's inside a person - their personality and what's in their minds - than what's on the outside," she said.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.



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