The Real You Is Sexy

By Emily C. Koenig

I doubt that I’m the only one who has stood in a fitting room wishing I looked more like the models wearing the lacy bra I’m trying on. I also doubt that I’m the only one who has worked to turn a curvy body into the impossible bombshell-twig. It’s hard not to compare yourself with socially accepted images of the perfect women.

Given this, I was excited to see lingerie store Aerie in the news earlier this year for launching an ad campaign featuring all non-airbrushed models. This campaign is now in full swing and has set out to challenge “supermodel standards by featuring un-retouched models.” While I’ve only shopped at aerie once or twice, I’m thrilled to see a company with a young female demographic deciding to make the bold statement that real is beautiful. It always feels good when I can stand behind a company’s advertising campaign.

In college I majored in Communications (among other things) and if I learned anything it is that advertising is powerful. It’s no secret that one’s self-image is influenced by ads. In fact, studies have proven a strong connection between young women’s sense of body confidence and the media’s portrayal of female beauty. And there is no denying that the media and advertising as a whole are providing women with unattainable images and better-than-perfect body goals. Even supermodels can’t live up to these standards. 

I’ve taken a look at some of aerie’s new ads. The girls are fit and beautiful, no surprise there. But they aren’t “model-perfect.” Thighs touch, stomachs roll; your average healthy girl is represented. My eyes were particularly drawn to one of the photos in their #AerieReal campaign with a sign that said: "The real you is sexy.” Hell yeah, it is. I love this message. But I did find myself desiring a bit more diversity. If you’re going to do this, go all out. Show the beauty of a healthy girl with the society-deemed “big butt.” Or give us a model with a little bit of your average teenage girl acne.

We can (and should) radiate and promote positive self-image all day, every day. But without the help of national influencers (like lingerie stores) it will be difficult for every woman to remember that they are beautiful just the way they are. Aerie isn’t perfect, but I’m happy that this retailer is stepping up its advertising game, saying no to all of the retouching and marketing to young women in a real way.

Check out the models for yourself and let us know what you think.