Aerie, the lingerie line by American Eagle, just got even more real — and for this mom, that’s a very good thing.
Back in 2014, the clothing brand geared towards teens and young women did away with retouching the images of their models. Things like stretch marks, cellulite, and scars were left on women in the final photographs, and within two years, a beautiful variety of models in all shapes and sizes began gracing the product pages.
As a plus-size mom with a belly full of tiger stripes, I was thrilled to see the positive changes Aerie has recently implemented. As a stepmom to a 12-year-old girl, I felt relieved knowing that at least one major clothing brand was helping my stepdaughter see that all bodies are worthy of celebration and love. I honestly didn’t think it could get any better.
But with their newest campaign, it just did.
This past week, Aerie added models with disabilities and chronic illnesses to the list of extraordinary human beings they’ll be featuring on their website, and the Internet is cheering. Women everywhere are taking to social media to praise the company for finally allowing them to enjoy images of people who look just like they do.
“After almost 19 years with diabetes, I finally saw the first model to ever look like me,” Massachusetts native Anna Prokop tweeted. “Thank you Aerie for celebrating diversity, no matter what it looks like.”
Turns out the models themselves feel just as lucky to be a part of such a game-changing moment. Abby Sams, who lives with dysautonomia, was overjoyed to be represented in the campaign and shared her feelings on Instagram.
“A wheelchair user is a model of a major company!” she wrote. “I am PROUD to say I’ve done this. PROUD to be a part of it. PROUD to be a model representing a community of disabled and chronically ill people. PROUD to be comfortable in my own skin.”
We’re proud of you too, Abby!
Thankfully for us all, self-acceptance seems to have become the cornerstone of Aerie’s greater mission. With their ever popular hashtag #AerieReal, women from all walks of life are celebrated on their website. For instance, on their blog, the clothing brand shares a variety of female role models who are inspiring young women daily to embrace their individuality and inner strength.
Yet, as wonderful as it is for a company like Aerie to be this inclusive, we need more brands to step up their game as well. Because honestly, our kids are depending on it.
According to a 2012 study, 52% of teens feel the media pressures them to change their appearance, with 56% of teens believing that advertisements are the main cause of low self-esteem. I know this to be true, because my stepdaughter was lamenting her belly rolls at the vulnerable age of nine. I can only imagine how damaging these statistics can be for young people with marginalized bodies — which makes Aerie models like Abby Sams all the more needed.
As parents, we must remember that our children see the public images around them and compare themselves to a beauty ideal that rarely ever matches up with who they see in the mirror. Since the media is only beginning to realize our need for positive visual representations of all bodies, we have a long way to go in terms of helping our kids love themselves completely.
But with clothing brands like Aerie, I’m beginning to feel so much hope for our future.