Do you remember when Dove’s Real Beauty campaign first came out? I remember. It was a BIG DEAL! I was in high school and I felt pretty inspired by the images they shared in the pop magazines I was reading at the time. As a teenager, it was the first time I was seeing different body types used a models. At the time, I was very self-conscious about my body – my skin was very pale and I had lots of freckles all over my body which made me shy. I was pretty thin but somehow felt fat and insisted on covering my arms and wearing an extra shirt tied over my waist to hide my butt… So that campaign hit home and made me and my friends question what our idea of beauty came from.
If you don’t remember, here’s the scoop: a popular brand of soap was trying to change the conversation about the female body, about beauty, and about acceptance. They photographed women of all colors and body types and created an exhibit, but really, they created a wave. A big one. That campaign went viral, and that was before “viral” was a thing. That was 15 years ago. That was when I got the courage to buy my first bikini.
Helping women feel good in their own skin never gets old.
Talking about bikini, did you see the recent H&M campaign? Following the footsteps of Dove, H&M came out with their latest bikini collection earlier this year, and they did so by sharing a picture of a curvy woman, sitting by the water, proudly showing her stomach rolls. Beautiful. Real. Non-apologetic. It went viral too – and viral is pretty much a thing now so you’ve probably seen it.
I’m older now, and more confident about myself and my body, but let’s be honest, I don’t always feel like walking around the pool in my bikini. If I’m bloated, on my period, or if I don’t just feel at my best, I keep my sundress on and that’s the end of it. When I saw the H&M campaign, I immediately thought of me as a teenager, seeing the Dove pictures for the first time. I thought of how I was inspired and encouraged to accept myself and just go for it. And I thought of how helping women feel good in their own skin never gets old.
These companies might be using this angle to support their marketing goals, but even so, isn’t it a GREAT message for every girl and women out there? When you realize that, according to a recent study, only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, you understand that these marketing campaigns have more than marketing effects.
It’s refreshing to see models with whom I can identify. It gives us all permission to be proud of our bodies – whatever size and shape they have. If we only see one type of body, over and over again, what message are we receiving? I remember the first time I saw a model with freckles. I remember wanting to tell the world freckles could be beautiful too. I had freckles and I was being made fun of because of it. When companies consider using more relatable models, they support a healthier, more accepting generation of girls and young women growing up in the US. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, nearly 70 percent of girls in grades five through 12 said magazine images influence their ideals of a perfect body. Read that again. The impact is real.
So when H&M decides to use a bikini model with stomach rolls, not only do they boost their website traffic and sales, but they boost the self-esteem of girls and women who see the post and are inspired by it. By using a model with a “different” body type, they are giving permission to everyone else to be proud of how they look.
The Fashion business has definitely been changing a lot, which is inspiring and necessary. International Fashion model Gigi Thoennes reminded me that Sports Illustrated had recently featured a plus size model on their cover, which shows how far we have come. But during that same conversation, Gigi also shared that, although there has been noticeable changes, there is still room for growth.
“I think that this effort to be inclusive has to be taken beyond just body sizes. The color of the skin, or of the hair, is still a big issue within the fashion industry. As a red-head, I don’t get many “beauty” jobs since red-heads are not considered for these jobs. Many of my African-American and Asian model friends are still having difficulty booking gigs. I would like to see the fashion industry being inclusive on all levels.”
Yes, Gigi, I agree! I want to see that too. As I recognize and celebrate the changes happening in the fashion industry, I want to invite brands to step up to the challenge and go viral with their own positive body image campaign. The fashion industry holds a lot of power and, by doing a bold move like breaking out of a restrictive body size mold, a brand shows that this power can be used to spread a message of positivity, self-love, and acceptance. For that, I thank you Dove and H&M. Now, who’s next?
Written by Mukta Cholette, Founder of Creative Marketing Ninja. As seen in GirlTalk HQ