Selenis Leyva’s Daughter Won’t Accept She’s Beautiful: ‘It’s Really Scary to See Your Child Look at Herself in the Mirror and Somehow Find Herself Not Right’

04/29/2016 at 10:30 AM ET

Women’s ideals about body image often start in early adolescence. But being a mom to a young girl possesses its own set of challenges when it comes to the issue.

“It’s a girl thing, and as a mom, it’s really scary to [see] your child look at herself in the mirror and find herself somehow not right,” says Selenis Leyva, who plays Gloria Mendoza on Orange Is the New Blackin the newest episode of PEOPLE’s Mom Talk.

Mom Talk

Leyva, 43, adds that it’s painful to hear her teenage daughter Alina say these things, and that when she reminds her daughter how beautiful she is, Alina responds by telling her mother she’s just saying that because she’s her mom.

The women go on to talk about how much girls’ bodies change constantly until they’re in their early 20s, and that it’s concerning for girls just entering their teenage years to face societal pressures of having to fit a certain ideal when they aren’t even close to finished growing yet.

“I think it’s gross,” Leyva says of how young girls are prioritizing the way their bodies look, including the presence of visible abdominal muscles.

“I don’t know how that happens, but it’s really … right now, at this age — 12, 13 — a big deal.”

— Jen Juneau


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Sue on

How does it happen? One contributing factor is the media push to glorify people like the Kardashian girls. Having photos of them (and their abs) all over the front page. It isn’t just the Kardashians, this type of thing has been going on for years. I had eating disorders 35 years ago. Things like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (yes, way back then) did not help. As an aside, happy to see they had the balls to use a bigger model.

Sue on

To add, a huge problem is focusing on looks with girls and women, rather than intelligence and accomplishments.

grace on

Can we please stop talking about beauty and redefining beauty and have it be enough to address a woman’s accomplishments or a girl’s positive attributes? Ok so your kid doesn’t feel beautiful. Why not tell her that beauty is not important and talk to her about what makes her a wonderful human being?

And @Sue you do realize that only one third of our population is at a healthy weight. So about 66.67% of the population is overweight or obese and the related health problems is what is making the cost of health care continue to rise? We do not need to celebrate overweight women on magazine covers. Ronda Rousey is healthy. Ashley whatever her name is looks overweight.

A magazine cover isn’t where a girl should be looking for validation.

Kesh on

I believe every teenager goes through this phase. I went through a similar phase but it was more about the tone of my skin than it was about my weight; I was extremely thin but my 17 year old is currently coming out of this phase. I think a lot of it has to do with television, magazines, and now social media. They don’t glorify it in terms of “health”; they glorify it in terms of “beauty.” I always tell my daughter she’s beautiful and for years she wanted to be thin. Her body changed around 13/14 and she gained quite a bit of weight. By the time she was in tenth grade her physical ed courses kicked in and she started losing the weight. Now, she can wear the outfits and shorts she wanted to wear a few years ago that didn’t quite fit her body right. I believe if it’s made more about health; and less about beauty it would help because in all true honesty; the average size is NOT a 3!

BlancaLatina on

This woman is U G L Y and annoying!

ImALadyToo on

We place too much importance and reward physical beauty. I don’t know how to change that, but we need to place more importance on the value of people for who they are and the things that they do. Pie in the sky, yes, but it would be nice.

Suburbgrrrl on

I don’t have children so I can’t pretend to know how I would really handle this concern but off the top of my head: sports! Not every kid loves sports but exercise makes us feel good. I imagine I would take my kid hiking or running or swimming as often as I could. Remind her of what our bodies can DO, not just how they LOOK. This is heartbreaking to read. I remember feeling this way and I think it’s normal but it can be a danger to ignore their feelings, hoping they will grow out of this phase.

button on

I’m tired of parents blaming the media. If your child is reading glam magazines/websites and regarding the Ks as role models, it is your own fault. Why does my daughter use make-up only on special occasions, enjoys sports and reads young adult fiction and classics, plus magazines like National Geographic?