Sammy Nickalls
July 23, 2015 12:40 pm

Even if you’ve never seen the award-winning 1999 American drama American Beauty, you probably recognize the iconic image of Mena Suvari reclining in the buff in a massive pile of rose petals. It’s a shot that’s come to symbolize one singular definition of beauty, as well as sexual objectivity—Suvari’s character is powerless to an older man’s inappropriate fantasies of controlling her.

Now, photographer Carey Fruth has decided to take that rose-petal image and recreate it with her own empowered twist to show that beauty comes in many, many forms.

“Everyone woman I know has struggled with their self-image,” Carey told HelloGiggles. “We all want to change what we look like. We spend so much energy on trying to be something that we don’t need to be. The media tells us every day that we aren’t good enough and that simply isn’t true.”

Carey’s photo collection aims to challenge traditionally narrow standards of beauty, as well as sexual objectivity, by taking that iconic scene from the movie where a young woman is powerless to the male gaze, and flipping the script. The 14 gorgeous women in her series—who represent different ages, ethnicities and body types—reclaim control of their bodies, and of the “beauty” label, by posing powerfully in a bed of lilacs.

Carey’s project takes back control of the term “American Beauty” and replaces it with much more diverse definition of what beauty really is. “Almost every image you see in mainstream media is of one type of woman, thin white women to be specific,” Carey told the Huffington Post. “But that is not actually the majority of women in our country look like. America is made up of all types of women. Women who are hungry to see themselves represented in a beautiful way. And why shouldn’t they?”

Carey, who’s based in San Francisco, hopes her series will promote body positivity and challenge people to embrace what makes them authentically beautiful. “All I really want is for everyone to receive the respect and love they desire in this world,” Carey told us. “And I hope that women are seeing this images and seeing a bit of themselves being represented in a beautiful way. I hope it helps them to feel inspired and in control about how they see their own bodies and sensuality.”

We totally love this project for so many reasons. It’s a celebration of female sensuality that’s not exploitative, and a reminder that ALL women are beautiful, despite the lack of diverse representation in the media. Here are some more of Carey’s fabulous photographs, but you can see the rest (as well as her other work!) on her website.

(Images courtesy of Carey Fruth)

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