Jasmine Tookes will wear the Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra during the company’s annual fashion show. Anointed an Angel last year, she’ll be just the third African American woman in the runway extravaganza’s multi-decade history to wear the extravagant lingerie set. “I feel like it’s a milestone for Victoria’s Secret for me to be wearing the bra,” she said. “And I’m glad that I can represent that for them and for all the girls in the world.” Yet, there’s another reason Tookes is one to look up to: her stretch marks.
In photos released by the brand, Tookes is — shockingly enough — seemingly unretouched. While Victoria’s Secret had no comment on whether digital manipulation was involved in the shoot or not, stretch marks are clearly visible on the 25-year-old’s side.
Allowing any blemish to appear in marketing materials for the brand is rare. “The reason people retouch bodies is because they’re just trying to sell you something,” an anonymous retoucher for the brand told Refinery29. In a majority of other images of the model featured in Victoria’s Secret ads, campaigns, commercials, and other sanctioned shots, Tookes’s skin seems airbrushed to appear entirely smooth.
That’s not to say this woman isn’t completely gorgeous — because she undeniably is — but she’s not flawless. This is actually incredibly refreshing, especially coming from a brand that has actively perpetuated a largely unobtainable ideal.
Consciously or not though, letting a stretch mark slip by can actually be empowering to Victoria’s Secret’s millions of impressionable fans. In fact, research reveals that media has a powerful impact on women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. So showing that an Angel has blemishes too can actually have a positive impact.
So glad Jasmine Tookes got the Fantasy bra! Reppin' girls of color and wearing her stretch marks proudly!!
— Me, the Queen???? (@jadorelacouture) October 26, 2016
While the company’s usually responsible and blamed for promoting unhealthy body image amongst girls and women, stretch marks are actually the norm, with an estimated 80 percent of Americans having them. As the Mayo Clinic explains, stretch marks can form on anyone and are usually the result of weight gain or loss, medication use, and a few diseases such as Cushing’s Syndrome and adrenal gland diseases.
Tookes might not have set out to be a role model, but she joins a large group of influencers who have dropped the veil on skin imperfections in an attempt to normalize them. Robyn Lawley Instagrammed a photo of her post-baby body and referred to her stretch marks in a more inspiring way. “I knew they were coming and as they’re fading into white (like all my others) I thought I might capture them. Because they are some bad ass #tigerstripes. And I earned them,” she wrote. “We put an unbelievable amount of ridiculous time consuming pressure on women to care so much about their flaws they forget how truly beautiful they (you) are today.”
Chrissy Teigen also recently took to Snapchat and showed a close-up of her thighs, which she captioned “lol my thighs have tributaries.” Amber Rose also told the Daily Mail this summer, “As women, we all get very self-conscious of our stretch marks and our cellulite and stuff like that, but as long as you know that every single woman in the world has it, you kind of just feel like, ‘Hey, let me just embrace it; this is who we are.’” There’s also the viral photo project #loveyourlines, created by two moms to challenge the stigma surround stretch marks; #ThighReading, which is a body positive Internet campaign that tells women that every mark tells a unique story; and photographer Chloe Newman’s photo project whose work highlights the beauty of stretch marks by sprinkling them in glitter.
“I think it’s great if companies like Victoria’s Secret are photographing images where the women’s bodies are not completely retouched for their campaigns! Especially as they have such a huge following and reach to so many people around the world,” Newman tells Yahoo Beauty. “I think as we see more and more realistic images of women’s bodies on platforms such as Instagram, where girls are celebrating their bodies in whatever form they may be, more girls are looking for more relatable images in advertising from that.”