Allison Frank is a 16-year-old lesbian activist from Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School who found her passion for activism and began the Be You Tiful Initiative. It all started when Frank was feeling overwhelmed in a makeup store.
"I felt so awkward myself asking for help and I was thinking 'What if you're trans or nonbinary and you don't look like a stereotypical female person and you try to ask for help?' The people who work there are not prepared for that," Frank told Windy City Times.
Frank's mission is to help transgender and non-binary individuals who feel lost in the world of beauty. Be You Tiful provides a range of services from personal shopping, skincare, hair, makeup lessons and discreet binder shipping. Frank organized a team of seven volunteers who specialize in different areas of beauty.
"I made sure the people I chose specialized in a bunch of different things," said Frank. "I specialize in the match-making process, so I talk to the client personally and then I pair them up with the member I think will be able to help them the best. I also specialize in helping shop for make-up, helping to shop for clothes and doing make-up lessons."
The dream team includes both a licensed aesthetician and a licensed cosmetologist to assist with skincare, wigs and makeup. There's a place for everyone; clients might come to them knowing exactly what they want or not knowing where to start. The team will then find the right steps to take from there.
Be You Tiful also provides specialized help for those who haven't come out as LGBTQ+. This allows clients to feel confident in themselves, yet safe from being outed.
Frank read the heart-warming recommendation she received from her first client at Be You Tiful. The client was a transgender teenage girl; Frank helped her shop for makeup and clothes and gave her makeup lessons. The client described how helpful and kind Allison was, as well as how she didn't feel alone when she picked out clothes and makeup.
Beyond the clients, family members feel they can finally see their loved one live as their truest, most confident self. The mother of Frank's first client also wrote about the impact Be You Tiful had on both her daughter and herself.
"Allison is a true leader and visionary; we are so lucky to have Be You Tiful as a resource in our community," the mother wrote. "My 14-year-old [trans] female daughter came out last fall. I noticed there were so many holes in our social feminine etiquette and education. There were so many things I taught my [cisgender] older daughter along the way that I never taught my trans daughter. Allison and her dream team have been there to help us bridge the gap in a non-threatening and fun way."
Frank said she looks up to Rebekah Brusehoff, a transgender child activist who is best known for her viral image of her holding a sign that reads "I'm the scary transgender person the media warns you about."
"She's younger than I am, and I think seeing young people being able to make so much more of a difference is just amazing," said Frank.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, beauty lessons have been moved to Zoom and FaceTime conferences with team members. Personal shopping is still possible with safety precautions.
"Over Zoom, I think it's been pretty easy because a lot of our services don't require hands-on help," said Frank. "It would be a lot more helpful to be physically with someone when I'm doing a makeup lesson. But I'm counting my blessings and the fact that I'm even able to do it over Zoom and I don't have to wait to do it is amazing."
Frank has a detailed plan for her future; among those ideas, she wants to focus on helping others and continue to fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
"I hope to go to Purdue. I want to double-major in ASL deaf culture and psychology. I also want to minor in LGBTQ+ gender studies," she said. "I hope in the future to work maybe as a therapist or psychiatrist, maybe in a hospital setting, and will continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. I'm hoping by getting an education in it that I will have many more tools to be able to help people and be able to continue this project and help with others."
As for the organization, Frank said she hopes to establish chapters in each state to make in-person services more accessible for clients. She also hopes to attend national conferences and present her organization to raise awareness for non-binary and trans erasure.
Be You Tiful Initiative updates regularly on its instagram and a Facebook group @beyoutiful.initiative.