While Aerie didn’t think twice when deciding to do away with retouching, the decision wasn’t that easy for at least one of their models. Nia Pettitt, aka Nia The Light, opened up on social media about the struggle she has had coming to terms with her “bacne” and stretch marks and the strength she feels now that she’s flaunting them for the clothing and accessories retailer. And we’re so inspired.
A few weeks ago, Aerie shared photos of the Zimbabwean-British model on Instagram. In the photos, she’s wearing a white one-piece, and her stretch marks are visible. “We couldn’t wait for next week… NEW swim online NOW! Shop it with the link in our bio,” Aerie wrote, not even acknowledging what once made the model cringe. When Petitt saw the photos, she cried, but they were tears of joy. After years of insecurity, she felt proud. “I sent it to my mum and my friends too. It was such a beautiful moment,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Pettitt shared the images on her social platforms and wrote, “I used to cry in front of the mirror about my bacne, I never used to wear anything that showed my back and I always covered my bum because of my stretch marks, Now I’m on @Aerie flaunting them.”
She went into more detail in her Instagram caption. “I remember when I was 7, acne started to show on my face and I used to get bullied in school all the time about it,” she revealed. “I used to be so [self-conscious]. I remember going to a party and wearing this cute dress but I had to find a sweater to put on over it because it showed my back…I would always cover up and feel ashamed of my skin. In changing rooms, I’d always deter from looking too intensely at myself or I’d end up pointing out every single flaw on my skin. I’ve had family members [emphasize] it to me at occasions and it took me so long to finally embrace and accept it,” she said. “Yet, despite all of that I am now about to be all over America with @aerie flaunting my lines of love.”
She encouraged her followers to seek the same acceptance. “If you have them, ROCK them. Look in the mirror the next time you get dressed and tell every stretch mark and every acne scar that it is a part of the magic that makes you, you. Wear that dress without worrying about what people will think. Wear that bikini without hesitation. You got this, baby girl. You got this, Queen.”
Pettitt knows it’s easier said than done. “I started to realize I wasn’t actually living my best life because of scars,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle of getting over her insecurities. “I didn’t have a healthy relationship with myself and I thought that when the acne on my skin cleared that I would then become super-confident. It wasn’t the case. When my face skin cleared, my bacne then started to appear, and it was another thing I wished would disappear.”
Those feelings began to fade, but it wasn’t because of some inner strength she suddenly developed. It just wasn’t practical anymore. “I learned to accept it as I began to travel more and couldn’t hide my stylish outfits underneath jackets anymore.”
Her moving and celebratory Instagram post received almost 18,000 likes, which she didn’t expect.
“I didn’t [realize] that by speaking my truth, so many of you were now free with yourselves to embrace your bacne and stretch marks,” she captioned a new Instagram photo. The snap features Pettitt shot from the behind. She’s wearing a lace cami that shows the acne scars on her back. “This picture was taken in April 2017, I was hosting an event, and yes, I doubted wearing this top, but I didn’t let my flaws control me that day,” she shared. “I was so used to spending time on sets with an MUA or around my friends and saying ‘sorry about my skin.’ What was I sorry for? This is what my hormones were doing at the time.”
She reported that cutting out things like dairy and greasy skin care products helped clear up her acne. “Before it even went away I had already mastered living my life as if it was gone.”
Pettitt advised her followers, “Look at your flaws in the mirror and say ‘My stretch marks or my acne do not define me’ or ‘I love the lines of love that grow on my skin’ you can [customize] it to make it about the things you spend all day wishing you didn’t have.” She concluded by thanking the photographer for not retouching this image. “You made me see the beauty in this, and I love you for that.”
Of course, no one is perfect; Pettitt still has moments of doubt. “I think when I go into fitting rooms and the harsh lights are on my skin is when I notice my scars, but for the most part I love them and invest in skin care that helps them recover,” she explained.
Being in the public eye hasn’t made it any easier. “My job has made it hard because of social media,” she said. “I always felt under pressure to look perfect for Instagram, but now I show all parts of my life so that young girls stop aspiring to the five percent of glitz and glam in my life.”
Luckily, the company she works for is super-accepting. “Modeling for Aerie has helped so much because it proved that I could still be on stores across America even with acne, stretch marks, a very unique belly button, and bacne. I feel unstoppable.”
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