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Rarely do people with insulin pumps and wheelchairs see their bodies represented in fashion.
Intimate fashion brand Aerie has launched a new campaign, featuring models with various disabilities, medical conditions, and experiences showing off their natural beauty while modeling the brand’s undergarments.
Aerie has been working hard for years to make its name synonymous with self-love. In 2014, the brand launched #aerieREAL, announcing it would no longer be airbrushing or editing the pictures of their models. It also now has a section on its site featuring Instagram posts with the #aerieREAL hashtag from regular customers wearing its clothes.
In the past four years, its campaign to show real bodies in its advertising has expanded as well. Aerie’s website features models of many shapes, sizes, and colors. Many proudly bare scars, stretch marks, freckles, uneven skin tones, and cellulite, all things that would be unacceptable for many other retailers.
Diversity in modeling isn’t just about size, skin color, and blemishes, however. It’s also about illnesses, disabilities, and life experiences. The latest move by Aerie to support self-love is a swath of new models who are beautifully living with and displaying their various medical conditions and devices. Many people with insulin pumps or wheelchairs never see their bodies represented in fashion modeling, and they are overjoyed by Aerie’s campaign.
People took to Twitter to share not just their own stories, but also the stories of nieces and daughters with disabilities, who will now have these models to look up to.
— madelynn ♡ ☆ (@_madelynn101) July 11, 2018
— Jennifer Smith (@Mizz_j_smith) July 11, 2018
I know!!!!!!!!! this makes me want to go out in a bikini! or just feel normal♥️
— ˎ₍•ʚ•₎ˏ (@seaweed_tea) July 11, 2018
Some of the models in the new campaign are also reacting online, sharing how proud they are to be part of it.
My heart is so full right now! Just one day after @Aerie launched it's new campaign that includes everyBODY the amount of outpour I have gotten from how much this has impacted people in such a positive way is amazing. This is exactly the kind of change I want to see in the world and I know in order for the world to normalize and humanize people with disabiltiies in order to diminish the negative stereotype I had to make a change but I am sure as a little girl with polio I never imagined I had to get down in my skivvies to show the world that beautiful, strong, confident and sexy women come in all forms. I'm blessed to be able to bring that to people through Aerie. #disabilityinmedia #aeriereal . . . . . . #aerie #everybodyisbeatiful #differentisbeautiful #redefiningbeauty #loveyourbody #thisisbodypositive #allbodiesaregoodbodies #bodypositive #bopo #disabilityinclusion #youareenough #inclusionmatters #model #photoshoot #picoftheday #womenempowerment #motivation #inspiration #grateful #strongwomen #diversityandinclusion #includeus #confidence #selflove #polio #disability #noretouch #unretouched
A post shared by Rajee Aerie (@rajeeaerie) on
Time for something very big. Earlier this summer I was chosen to be an #AerieREAL model for their newest campaign and the other night they surprsied us all by releasing some of the products early. A wheelchair user is a model for a major company! 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. As a Christian a lot of people have expressed to me their distaste with what I did here with Aerie, but I have something to say to that. God gave us this life, our bodies, and our struggles to glorify him. These photos are not risque, or provocative, or slutty. This campaign is the epitome of confidence and beauty in who you are as your true self. I have confidence in who I am in Christ even with my disability and my wheelchair, and that translates physically. Being a model in a wheelchair for a major company is kind of a big deal and I want to be transparent about it all. Confidence is hard to come by and even harder to master. Just when I thought I had it my disability and illnesses stripped it away. I was embarrassed to be seen in public with mobility aids, hated how everything looked while I was in my chair. Then God put his hand on my heart and reminded me that i am fearfully and wonderfully made in his image. He put me on this path of life to be the light I needed when I was struggling. To remind young disabled women that they're beautiful no matter what. Beautiful with mobility aids. Beautiful in a wheelchair. Beautiful with an invisible illness. Beautiful, not despite those things, but because of them. That is Aerie Real. . . Image description: Abby holding her hair up and smiling over her shoulder. Shes wearing a black lace bralette and sitting in her wheelchair.
A post shared by Abby Sams (@abby_sams) on
A common thread in all these stories is pride and determination. Some of the models described their own struggle with insecurity, and thanked not just Aerie, but also the audience response to the campaign, for helping them make the world a more accepting place.
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently working out of St. Paul, Minnesota. They have bylines at The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, and Bullet Points. Follow them on Twitter @thedialogtree