Real Beauty for Real Girls

Carlos Leon, Michael Angelo, and Alexis Wolfer (pictured center) join the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Courtesy Photo

Chances are the last time you flipped through the pages of a glossy women's magazine, you closed the issue feeling less than great about your waistline, the texture of your hair, or the shape of your nose.

But a new partnership between a beauty website and a New York City girl's club is looking to redefine the meaning of beauty and the type of conversations young women are having about it.

At the inaugural "Real Beauty for Real Girls" speaker series, Alexis Wolfer, founder of TheBeautyBean.com, moderated a forum for the Lower Eastside Girls Club -- an organization whose mission is to teach economically disadvantaged girls skills in leadership, literacy and education.

Hairstylist and founder of New York's Wonderland Beauty Parlor Michael Angelo joined the group along with fitness expert and actor Carlos Leon -- who you may know as Madonna's former flame and the father to her 14 year-old daughter, Lourdes.

The trio says it's essential to understand that the images of "perfect" celebrities we're inundated with daily aren't real.

"Cindy Crawford once famously said, 'I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford,'" said Wolfer, referring to the often dramatic art of airbrushing.

"I work in fashion, so I see what people look like before they're done up and photographed," said Angelo. "But other people don't see that, and kids especially don't realize it. We have to educate them and let them know that not even the models look like that."

Getting the message across when girls are young can be essential to their self-esteem development, adds Angelo.

"By the time women come to my salon, they tell me, 'I hate my skin, I hate my hair, fix it.' They've already been stuck for years. When you work with teens, you have a shot at kicking some of those habits before they begin," said Angelo.

As for the fried and sugar-filled treats that so often stand in the way of health and fitness goals, Leon says that a large helping of self-esteem can also transform that part of your life.

"When you love yourself, you watch what you eat. You are what you eat, and you won't eat the junk because you know it'll make you feel and look like junk too," said Leon.

At the core of the discussion were affordable ways to keep fit and look glowing on a budget. "We're talking to a certain socioeconomic background. You can't just say, 'Go to the Nars counter and see Anastasia for your brows.' You need real-world solutions," said Angelo.

For example, eating well can surprisingly be cheaper than the fatty alternatives, says Wolfer. "You can buy a sweet potato for just cents and throw it in the oven to bake for an hour, and enjoy a delicious and super healthy snack that will keep you filled for much longer than that bag of potato chips," said Wolfer.

"Eating seasonally will save you money, and you want your plate to be colorful. Lots of carbs won't look colorful. If you stick to it, your taste buds will acclimate quickly," advised Leon.

The savings can transfer to the beauty realm, too, especially when you use kitchen items that you would otherwise just toss away as effective skin treatments.

"Use your used tea bags as under eye compresses -- just put them in the fridge to cool them -- and add ground oats to your cleanser for an exfoliating scrub. Virgin coconut oil can remove eye makeup and moisturize all at the same time," shares Wolfer.

We suddenly feel inspired to crack open the fridge to see what else we can use to pamper our skin -- and we promise to grab some kale, too.

Celebrities like Teri Hatcher and Cybill Sheperd are also talking real beauty and impossible Photoshop standards - Hatcher even went makeup-free on "Oprah 'to prove her point.