“#AerieREAL celebrates real beauty, inside and out.” – Jennifer Foyle
It amazes me that I even have to type out the phrase: everyone has the right to feel comfortable in their own skin. But, nevertheless, we’re making progress as a society. This post was inspired specifically by the #AerieREAL campaign that gives women of all body types, shapes, sizes, races, ages, and abilities the power to show pride in who they are and take ownership of their bodies.
When I came across the “Share Your Spark” campaign, I realized it was about much more than feeling comfortable in your own skin. It’s about showing off your talents and positive attitude to make others feel empowered and more connected in a disconnected, competitive world.
What some people fail to recognize about the campaign is this: it’s not about neglecting health. I’ve seen some negative comments on the brand’s social media, as their posts regularly show up in my feed. It breaks my heart to see that some people cannot be accepting of other individuals and are basing it solely on physical appearance. Instead of celebrating confidence, it’s being condemned. People are saying it’s “gross” and “displeasing to look at” but all I see is a positive situation trying to be ripped apart by negative energy.
They are completing missing one of the key pieces to the story: listening. It’s not about trying to silence someone else’s story. It’s about appreciating their confidence and comfort. It probably wasn’t easy for any of these girls to get in front of a camera and be completely vulnerable to a judgmental eye. I can only imagine how many of them immediately compared themselves to models that have been made less human by the Photoshop magic wand.
This energy isn’t strong enough to rip a solid campaign apart, but the commenters are a part of the reason why some women still continue to feel insecure. Why can’t we take a look at this campaign and realize it’s much bigger than the physical aspects? It’s about the comfort and self-love we need to experience on a daily basis, as both women and men.
To me, this campaign is about setting realistic goals and achieving them. Women can’t strive to look like Victoria’s Secret models because not all women are built like that. It’s those models’ jobs to tirelessly workout, be careful about every calorie that enters their body, and live to meet the goals set by the company. Even then, these goals still don’t achieve what Photoshop can. There is a hidden element in between photo shoots and publishing. It’s the editing process.
Being a VS model, or any other model in the fashion industry, is portrayed as a much different playing field than an Aerie role model. Look at the huge difference just in description. Aerie doesn’t classify their models by the traditional label. They call them what the campaign strives to call attention to: being a role model and creating a realistic lens for women to look through. Another visible difference I’ve noticed is that there is color in these women’s cheeks. You can see life pumping through them. You see freckles, moles, tattoos, scars, and imperfections that society would tell us we need to fix, as if it breaks us.
The campaign thrives off the removal of retouching and embracing women for being wonderful human beings. Aerie emphasizes inner and outer beauty. The brand was one of the first to create a largely successful marketing campaign about body positivity and not changing yourself, but accepting who you are.
There is nothing wrong with other types of models in the industry. These women are just as beautiful and capable. It’s not the models that are the issue; it’s the industry. Unrealistic standards have been set and corporate rules have dictated precedents. Other companies need to follow in Aerie’s footsteps and make a change to amplify the voices in this movement.
Of course, one of the brand’s goals is to make a profit. But the profit isn’t at the forefront of the campaign. As consumers, we’re not shown some unrealistic version of a body we can never achieve. Rather, we’re shown other people who are just like us but are different. They don’t all look the same and it doesn’t make us feel like we have to live up to one expectation, to one body. It removes the notion of meeting the unrealistic expectations set in fashion. There is no talk or labeling of “plus-size.” It’s every size. It’s inclusive. It demonstrates that our differences can be unifying.
This topic is something that I’ve grappled with for quite some time, as I grew up feeling like I was never allowed to be comfortable in my own skin. This campaign has affected me positively in so many ways. It’s changed my way of thinking and has helped me accept my beauty. Too often, we’re told conflicting things: be beautiful, but embrace your natural beauty. Don’t do your makeup, but don’t look like you just rolled out of bed. We are given too many contradictory guidelines when the guidelines are unnecessary to begin with. There is no master rule that dictates beauty. The only rule—if you even want to call it that—is to love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin.
I think one thing these negative commenters are missing is that they are being discriminatory in some way. But their discrimination is based on what we’re told is beautiful and proper in our world. They think their opinion is correct because it’s what they’ve been molded into believing. Unfortunately, some of these people can’t morph out of the mold and change their way of thinking. It will take more time and education to shape a future where we are welcoming of all types of people. Our differences, inside and out, are what can ultimately bring us together.