Alexis Pappas may be part of the local pageant circuit and a former model, but there was a time in her life when she was very depressed and down on herself.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to make it to that point in my life where my self-esteem went up,” Pappas, 18, said. And that is when the St. Monica Catholic High School student got the idea to make a documentary on the subject.

“I really want other girls around the world to know that they are beautiful. We’re all judged, especially in the year 2015, with all these different magazine covers and it feels like we have to live up to a certain standard. So I definitely wanted to do a documentary just to show other girls out there that this goes on all the time,” Pappas said.

The film, entitled ‘Optimized,’ will focus on four girls, Brooke Morgenstien, 14, Journey Cardenas, 16, Oksana Chester, 18, Tilly McCallik, 20, who because of their age are each in a different stage in their lives. “You really get a variety of different aspects. Because no matter what age you are you are going to have to go through these different things.”

Though there are documentaries that have dealt with self-esteem and body image before, the unique thing about this film is that Pappas and the director, her cousin, Kelsey Selby, 17, plan to film it in virtual reality.

Selby, a rising junior at Pacifica Christian High School, believes filming in virtual reality will lend itself nicely to the topic they are dealing with.

“Virtual reality is like an empathy machine … So you go in it, you can film something in Africa, or you can feel something in a castle, anywhere,” Selby said. “And you feel like you’re there. So you can really feel like you’re in the moment and living whatever is going on. You don’t feel like an outsider. You feel like part of what is going on. So we felt like that would be most valuable and that would really, really give the viewers the best perspective.”

Selby explained that after filming you stitch it all together and it then viewers who put on virtual reality goggles are able to see a 360 degree view of the film. “The movie turns with them … It’s like you’re living life. You’re immersed inside the movie.”

Pappas and Selby want viewers to be immersed in the film because they want them to really get to know the girls involved. The four subjects will be filmed during a two to three day retreat. During the retreat the girls will go through many activities with transformational psychologist, certified yoga and meditation teacher, Dr. Hanna Chusid.

“We want the girls to talk and kind of open up about the past and how we can move forward. And we really want the girls to think about, you know, their goals for the future, what they want in their lives,” Pappas said.

During auditions, the girls were specifically chosen because of their own issues with self-esteem and body image, as many of them have dealt with depression, anorexia and insecurity.

“Some of the girls found it hard to open up. [Their] mom’s came with them to help them open up, to get to know us a little better. And some of the girls were just like you know ‘I’m very tired of hiding who I am to the world. Very closed off because I’m bullied. And I’ve cut myself,” Pappas said.

Pappas and Selby are currently raising the funds for the film through an Indiegogo campaign, which as of Aug. 18 has raised $4,450 out of the $20,000 the girls want for the film.

Selby has high hopes for how the film will affect their subjects, but also a larger demographic.

“I would hope we wouldn’t just help the four girls in the film. I think we will help women, girls, even men. People who struggle with these really common issues. Anxiety, depression and insecurity are just very common and we want to help people through that universally.”

The Indiegogo page for ‘Optimized’ can be found at

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