Polishing pearls: Counselor runs confidence-boosting program for girls


Photo submitted by Keisha Howard

Tehreem Shahab, Staff Writer

     Keisha Howard’s day job as a guidance counselor involves her helping students. Howard has a very busy schedule, but she is still able to find time for her side job as a model. She is proud of her natural and inner beauty and believes other girls should feel the same way about themselves.

     In order to boost the self-confidence of young girls Howard began the P.E.A.R.L. Girls program (www.pearl-girls.org) six years ago. P.E.A.R.L is an acronym for poised, elegant and responsible leaders. The program teaches girls between the ages of 7 and 17 table manners, introduction making, lady-like behavior and job interview skills.

     “When I entered the education system I noticed that a lot of girls hadn’t been taught their table manners,” Howard said. “They hadn’t been taught how to be a lady, sit like a lady or speak properly. So I started this program where I was teaching these girls manners and etiquette and basically building their confidence.”

     Howard’s modeling experience began at age 10. She has modeled for Dr Pepper and is currently modeling for African-American natural hair magazines and shows.

     “I grew up in the modeling and pageantry industry,” Howard said. “Competing in pageants helped me with my public speaking skills because when I was younger I was really shy. Pageants helped me to get up on stage to turn on that inner magic and confidence.”

     As the founder of P.E.A.R.L. Girls, Howard is able to host pageants. One of the pageants she hosts is the Miss P.E.A.R.L. of Dallas Inner Beauty Scholarship Pageant. Each pageant gives out scholarships to the members of the program.

     “The reason I host them is because I really believe that pageants teach girls valuable life skills,” Howard said. “I host inner beauty pageants where girls don’t even have to wear makeup. They are judged on their community service, their public speaking skills and academic achievements.”

     However, Howard believes that not all pageants are helpful.

     “Only certain pageants are a good thing – I don’t believe in ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’”, Howard said. “I believe in natural pageants where you just let your natural beauty shine rather than a swim suit competition or how much makeup a girl has on.”

     According to Howard, it is important to be picky when choosing who to model for. Howard has refused modeling jobs she has been offered because she did not agree with what they stood for.

     “If anyone really wants to model I would tell them to do their research,” Howard said. “There are a lot of industries out there that are interested in making money and if someone gets offered a modeling job they should look into it and see if it really represents their character. I refused these modeling jobs because I didn’t want my picture representing beer or cigarette companies.”

     P.E.A.R.L. Girls also teaches self-esteem modeling, where any girl can model on stage despite her size or appearance.

     “This kind of modeling means to have enough confidence to get up there, rock the runway, smile and have a good time,” Howard said.

     Not only does Howard help motivate girls through P.E.A.R.L. Girls, but she continues to do so as a counselor.

     “Being a counselor goes along with what P.E.A.R.L. Girls is,” Howard said. “I love helping people, I love working with teens. It is my passion and I decided I could help other all day by being a counselor.”