Painting the road to acceptance through an adventure with a fox
One thing you don’t often learn growing up is how to love yourself. Jessica Smith found that words of praise are seldom heard. Conventional expectations shadow most girls. As a result, they struggle to value their unique traits. “There are so many young women and girls across the globe who are unhappy with who they are,” Smith says. So she set out to change lives with words, watercolours, and a fox.
With experiences of her own childhood still vivid in her mind, Smith decided to pen a story encouraging little girls to love and accept themselves. Her message is simple, yet profound: “In one way or another, we are all needed,” Smith says. “We are all important.” Her book, Happy To Be Me, follows the tale of a fox named Daphne May who learns that the things that make us different are also what makes us special. “If we all looked the same, this world would be so dull and boring,” Smith says. With her work, she’s splashing out the colour she needed to see, and helping the next generation gain confidence.
It took two years for Smith’s vision to come to life. After disagreements with illustrators and publishers, her dedication to the book’s purpose played out when she illustrated and published the work herself. “I wanted my message to be heard,” Smith says. While striving to prove that every human is precious, the author went the extra mile to show that her own work is valuable. Through Smith’s actions and her book, South Africans can recognise that we are all deserving of love, not in spite of our differences, but because of them.