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| Culture |

Ekaterina Juskowski's Foundation Remakes the Image of Miami Girls

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Miami girls get a bad rap. The term conjures notions of strappy stilettos, skintight dresses, and cringe-worthy pronunciations of "supposedly."

"Just look it up on Google," Ekaterina Juskowski suggests. "All you get are sexually charged images of women's behinds and breasts in bathing suits."

Even though Juskowski wasn't born in Miami, she considers herself a Miami girl — with pride. She hopes to inspire other Miami women to embrace the term too and realize they're part of a sisterhood of talented local women. But first, Juskowski says, the hypersexualized stereotype must be redefined. This year, she unveiled an organization (fittingly called the Miami Girls Foundation) that aims to do just that.

"The Miami Girls Foundation will bring positive images to the term," Juskowski says. "The only way to solve the problem is to stand up and say, 'I'm brilliant and a Miami girl, and there are a lot of other women just like me.'?"

Juskowski was born in Moscow, where she came to admire hardworking Russian women, who were treated equally in the Communist workforce but still had to fit into the traditional patriarchal culture at home. Juskowski studied photography and modeled too. Business frequently required her to travel between New York and Miami. And at first, Juskowski admits, she also bought into the Miami girl stereotype. "I thought Miami girls had to look sexy and wear high heels; everyone had to be glamorous," Juskowski says. "That's what I knew and what I was trying to be."

It wasn't until 2011, when Juskowski moved to Miami, when she realized her mistake. "I met so many Miami women who were educated, with high-paying jobs, dressed beautifully, [and were also] great wives and mothers," Juskowski says. "They would say, 'I'm not a Miami girl. I haven't been to South Beach in years.'?"

Meanwhile, others would constantly tell Juskowski that she wasn't a Miami girl. "They meant it as a compliment, but it made me very uncomfortable," she says. "I look up to all these brilliant Miami women. I wanted to be one."

She studied sociology at the University of Central Florida. For her research thesis, she interviewed scores of Miami women to uncover what the term really meant. "Miami women were speaking down about Miami women," Juskowski found. "When you exclude yourself from this community, it brings everyone down and backfires on you as well."

The foundation is two years in the making. It will officially launch in January. There will be female ambassadors from the entertainment, business, and education industries. There will also be regular events and even a Miami Girls magazine that will publish profiles of local women.

"In a sense, a Miami girl is a role model. She will be very supportive, not competitive, but very driven," Juskowski says. "A Miami girl might not identify as a feminist, but she is. She can do and have it all."

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