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Aerie’s “Real” Campaign Promotes Natural Beauty

As I stepped up to the register at Aerie–the sister lingerie and apparel store of American Eagle–this past weekend, the very bubbly woman working handed me a sticker that read, “The real you is sexy” and informed me about Aerie’s new “Real” campaign. To promote their spring collection, Aerie no longer uses Photoshop or supermodels in their advertisements. Instead, the larger-than-life posters on the walls of their stores feature women with bust sizes ranging from B to D, and the photographs have not been retouched.

The sticker Aerie customers receive upon checkout.

The sticker Aerie customers receive upon checkout.

The woman at the register told me I could place the sticker wherever I wanted, take a photo, and share it on social media using #aeriereal. Out of curiosity, I searched the hashtag on Instagram and nearly 2,500 posts appeared with inspirational words about the importance of confidence. Many comments also stated how it’s about time a major company launched a campaign like this.

Aerie markets women ages 15-21. In a world where skinniness is often automatically equated to beauty, Aerie is advocating for a more positive message than its competitor Victoria’s Secret.

But Aerie is not the first company to make a statement about natural beauty. Dove has been creating campaigns with the message that natural beauty and confidence are a woman’s best assets for the last decade. In a 2011 study conducted by Dove, only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and for most anxiety about looking their best began at an early age.

One of the more recent campaign experiments from Dove, The Real Beauty Sketches video, was all over my Facebook feed when it first launched last spring. In the three minute video, a forensic artist sat behind a screen and asked a handful of women, one at a time, to describe what they look like. He could not see them so he had nothing to go off of except the women’s words. The artist then asked another woman to describe the same woman he had just drawn and compared the two sketches. In every case, the sketch that the stranger gave a description for looked more like the original woman and was always more flattering, proving that women judge themselves too harshly.

Then there’s Elly Mayday, a model who continues to book photoshoots despite having scars and a shaved head from cancer. These physical changes typically symbolize pain and a time where a woman may lose confidence, but Mayday has transformed the message into one of strength and courage.

“Real” campaigns seem to be growing in popularity and are receiving attention world-wide from news outlets. Do you think these promotions are just a trend that’ll fade or should we expect to see magazines filled with women of all body types in the near future?