In the Greater Columbus Ohio community, Debra Penzone, president of the Charles Penzone Salons, has long been known as much for her charitable work and the numerous boards she serves on as she is as the face and driving force behind the famous salon group with six locations. As such, Penzone has increasingly found herself invited middle and high schools to talk with groups of young girls about beauty skincare and fashion.
“But as I looked at those girls and we talked about the issues they face, all I could think about was Debbie Miller, all her insecurities and all the bullying and fears I went through,” says Penzone. “I knew I needed to tell those girls the truth.”
The truth is, the young girl Debbie was all about the outer shell of beauty, admits Penzone. “I was one of the popular girls and everyone seemed to always like me. One day on the playground, I announced that I was creating Debbie Club, and the club turned into what today is labeled a ‘mean girls’ club.”
But going into junior high, Penzone learned what she says is her most valuable life lesson. “My appearance changed with breakouts of angry, red eczema on my arms and face, and one of the popular boys started calling me names. Before I knew it, my Debbie’s Club girls kicked me out of my own club—it happened that fast.”
With the help of an older friend Ellen Bailey, who could sympathize because her red hair and freckles made her feel an outcast, young Debbie reached out to her parents and found love, support and guidance to get her through those tough years.
“Being out there with those girls and seeing how social media and texting has magnified their problems, I became committed to helping them find their own True Beauty,” says Penzone, who continued to speak at mother & daughter teas, local schools and girls’ organizations.
Eventually, Penzone turned that passion into a book, Debbie’s Club: Discovering My True Beauty for Girls, and a three-stage companion program for girls aged 10-18 . The self-discovery program combines thought-provoking exercises with fun-filled activities to help girls explore their differences, expand their communication skills and find their own true beauty.
My True Story: In the first phase of the program, Penzone shares her story and encourages the girls to each share something that is unique about themselves, talks to them about body language, energy, and communication skills and conducts some role-playing to demonstrate the impact first impressions can have when trying to make friends. The girls each journal as a process to help them tap into their own true stories, then they create inspiration boards as a visual representation of those stories.