Fashion brands have long struggled to effectively encompass the variety of beauty that exists today. Often choosing tall, lean models to grace their advertorials, the average girl is left staring at, idolizing and trying to conform to a beauty standard that is not representative of herself. And, instead of loving her body for its uniqueness, she grows to criticize it.
And for a long time, we let this continue. So, how do we combat an epidemic like negative body image now?
Well, it has to start with the brands. And for some, they have taken their responsibility seriously and embraced the shift in attitude. Take Aerie (American Eagle’s sister lingerie brand) for example, who choose to promote self-love with their products.
Since 2014, their #AerieREAL campaign has been a breath of fresh air. Spawning off of the All Women’s Project, Aerie decided to focus on empowering their key demographic (women 15-21 yrs) instead of tearing them down. They encourage and empower young girls and women to be authentically themselves, no retouching needed. All of their ads, posters and promotional collateral are photoshop free. They do not alter the bodies of their models or role models choosing instead to embrace their flaws; stretch marks, rolls, and scars, you name it, they’re there.
Their role models are all women who are unabashedly themselves, having strived, struggled and fought their way to where they are. They show the young girls and women who shop at Aerie that they can do anything and be anything if they’re just true to themselves.
Take their first role model Iskra, an English model and body positivity activist who has been attached to Aerie’s campaign since the beginning, and who feels that every girl should have someone to look up to, to be able to see themselves in the clothes and reflected in the models. And of this year, Aerie has even added on to their role model roster including actress Yara Shahidi, singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, and gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman who recently faced her abuser in court and has been sharing her story as a survivor.
In addition Aerie, like its role models, encourage its customers to share unretouched photos of themselves too. They want you to be comfortable with sharing yourself, your real self; not the facetuned, filtered version. To fall in love the parts of yourself that you find flawed. And for every unretouched photo that is shared with #AerieREAL, they have pledged to donate $1 to NEDA (the National Eating Disorder Association). A new piece of the #AerieREAL campaign, they are taking an active stance in helping girls and women change the way they look at their bodies. Inspiring you to be able to look in the mirror and love what you see no matter what size, shape or colour.
And that is what I aim to do here, even if in the smallest way. Every photo in this article is also unretouched. I did not alter, edit or change anything (despite every fiber of my being wanting to do so) because I think what Aerie’s goal is, at the end of it all, is for you to grow to love the parts of yourself you often edit out. And frankly, I found it hard. Because, like so many young girls I too struggle to often love all of myself. Body image has always been a sensitive topic for me. I grew up bullied and taunted for the way I looked and it spurned years of self-loathing and criticizing, of which I’ve slowly begun to address on my journey to learn to love myself more. It is always an ongoing battle, and there will be both good and bad days but to have brands like Aerie that support girls and women on this journey of self-love and body positivity through their clothing and role models is refreshing and a step in the right direction.
If you don’t love all of YOU, even the parts that make you self-conscious, then there will always a part of you that you hide. You will never be authentically yourself, you will merely be a fragmented or partial version.
“And self-love is the most important love. It is what drives you to succeed, to gain the confidence you so long for, and what inspires those around you.”
You get to define what beauty is to you and to love that version. And ultimately that is what #AerieREAL really stands for.