Aerie’s New Body-Empowerment Campaign Uses Real Women as Models

Aerie celebrates real women and real (inner) beauty in its new campaign. (Photo: Instagram/aerie)
Aerie celebrates real women and real (inner) beauty in its new campaign. (Photo: Instagram/aerie)

Not too long ago, it was hard to see a clothing ad without wondering, “But what would I look like in that?” Now, brands from Target to Ultimo are championing women with “real” bodies. The latest campaign to shine a spotlight on relatable-looking models is from Aerie, American Eagle Outfitters’s lingerie-and-swimwear offshoot, and promotes body positivity, using the dedicated hashtag #aeriereal.

Aerie’s latest project is the Share Your Spark Experience, which the brand released as a video on its YouTube page, featuring 40 inspiring “Aerie girls” ranging from professional models to everyday women letting loose.

The video, set to Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself,” follows the women — described as “Aerie designers, models, bloggers, and social fans” — as they come together to breezily dance around an urban loft in the company’s chic lingerie while being professionally shot to celebrate the launch of Aerie’s Sunnie bra.

“Half of the girls had never even been on a photo shoot,” the video’s narrator, plus-size model Iskra Lawrence, says. “And yet all these women proudly bared their real selves to share their spark with girls everywhere.” The women — who range in size, ethnicity, and age — all have one thing in common: they seem to glow from the inside out.

Aerie’s Instagram account features models of all ethnicities, shapes, and sizes who have one thing in common — they radiate pure joy. (Photo: Instagram/aerie)
Aerie’s Instagram account features models of all ethnicities, shapes, and sizes who have one thing in common — they radiate pure joy. (Photo: Instagram/aerie)

“When I was younger, I never had representation of people I could truly relate to,” confesses Barbie Ferreira, a curvy “Aerie Real Girl” who rocks a pretty pink bra while waving a sparkler around (like most girls in the shoot, who are literally showing their spark). “Even if you don’t see yourself in media, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a spark of your own,” declares Shivani Persad, another plucky “Real Girl,” whose “real” body is tall, slender, tan — and un-retouched.

Yecca Zeng, an Aerie bra designer with Asian roots, wears a multicolor bra as she tells women, “Don’t worry about fitting in. Standing out is way more fun.” Blogger Alitzah Evans adds, “Self-confidence isn’t just a thing that you have right away. It’s something that you gain over time,” while shining in a matching, rust-colored bra-and-panties set.

Official Aerie “Role Model” Iskra Lawrence has been described by the brand as “the happiest girl we know.” (Photo: Instagram/aerie)
Official Aerie “Role Model” Iskra Lawrence has been described by the brand as “the happiest girl we know.” (Photo: Instagram/aerie)

Perhaps the most recognizable star of the campaign is the narrator, 25-year-old UK-based plus-size model Lawrence, who in February was named Aerie’s official role model. Not only is she a stunner, but Lawrence also embodies the beautiful-from-the-inside-out ethos of Aerie by being an advocate for the National Eating Disorders Association (she herself is a survivor), managing editor of body-empowerment site Runway Riot, and outspoken Photoshop opponent.

Aerie has been blazing a trail as one of the most prominent body-positivity and truth-in-advertising proponents in the apparel industry, launching campaigns that included a non-Photoshopped Emma Roberts last summer, un-retouched models in its spring 2014 campaign, and even a parody video released on April Fool’s Day to promote the brand’s Aerie Man underwear line and raise awareness of body positivity by using a universal language: humor!

On its website, Aerie already sells many variations of the Sunnie bra, from cross-backed bralettes to push-up bras, in sizes up to DDD (they’re not just using real women in their ads, they’re making products for them).

“#AerieReal started as a spark and ignited a movement,” Lawrence explains. “It’s not about flaws or curves; it’s what’s beneath the skin. Our real truths. Our real selves. Our real beauty. #AerieReal is about empowerment.”

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