Luxury fitness-club chain Equinox, known in part for its provocative advertising, is at it again: Its latest campaign, unveiled on Tuesday, has put a topless woman with mastectomy scars front and center.
“I committed,” noted that model, Samantha Paige, in an Instagram post about her part in the 2017 Commit to Something campaign.
Paige, 41, of Santa Barbara, Calif., is a survivor of thyroid cancer and had a preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation. She then got silicone breast implants but opted to have them removed after learning of their health risks and suffering through a stubborn staph infection.
“I started writing about my story last January when I had my silicone implants removed in order to inspire other individuals, not just women, to tell their stories and own their internal and external scars,” she tells Yahoo Beauty, explaining that she’s writing her memoir. For the ad, a casting agent found Paige, who had never modeled before, through the “Last Cut” photo documentary project she’s been working on with her friend Lisa Field.
“Equinox’s Commit to Something campaign provided an incredible opportunity to be of service to my message that we find greater happiness, wellness, and freedom by vulnerably sharing our truth,” she adds. “We heal this way. For me, this campaign was a huge opportunity to reclaim and embody after six major surgeries in the last 20 years.”
Paige, who hosts the “Last Cut Conversations: It’s Time to Own Your Scars” podcast, adds that posing for the photo also gave her the opportunity to send a positive message to her young daughter. “I had zero reservations,” she says, adding that she’s grateful for the feedback she has received so far, which has been “positive and uplifting.”
Other attention-grabbing images in the latest Equinox campaign include a sophisticated woman (Jessica Stam) tending to a greenhouse full of marijuana plants, a tanned and naked man being groomed by four stylists, and a woman standing next to her harp, bandaged and bloodied, seemingly from practicing so hard. Last year’s installation included a head-turning photo of a glamorous woman (Lydia Hearst) nursing twins at the table of an upscale restaurant; that photo, which was purely a pose, received a slew of critical comments on social media.
In the new photo, shot by celebrity photographer Steven Klein, Paige is posing for a tattoo artist (actually, a model) who seems to be inking roses over her left scar. It’s a simulation, an Equinox spokesperson tells Yahoo Beauty, and a faux tattoo — albeit one that was designed by an actual tattoo artist, Brooklyn-based Amanda Wachob, specifically for the ad. But Paige says she’ll probably skip getting real ink over her scars at this point.
“I have many tattoos on my body,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “I loved how the beautiful tattoo in the campaign looks but am not yet sure if I will get one across my chest. Mastectomy tattoos are important and powerful for many women. However, there is part of me that feels as if my chest scars are beautiful markers of two of the most empowering decisions I have ever made — to have a preventive double mastectomy and to remove the implants I elected. So, in this moment, I believe I will continue to wear those proudly and tattoo around them.”
Carlos Becil, Equinox’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement, “This year’s campaign revolves around the notion that what you commit to is who you are, so we’re daring viewers to take a stance and look inward, even if doing so makes you a little bit uncomfortable. We’re in the business of changing lives at Equinox, so we’ve learned firsthand that going ‘all in’ on anything — whether it be a workout, a cause, or yourself — will undoubtedly get you one step closer to finding out who you really are.”
Some Facebook commenters found that to be a stretch. “Is Equinox a tattoo parlor or a gym?” asked one, with another simply asking, “What in the hell?” and yet another sharing the observation: “Yesterday it’s grow weed. Today get a tattoo. The EQX marketing team is really, really despondent as we enter the year of Trump.” One woman noted that she was the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and did not find the ad to be “appropriate.”
Still, the ad has garnered more than 200 likes and has not yet caused anywhere near the amount of criticism caused by the breastfeeding image. Many saw it as a reason to celebrate. On Instagram, fans called Paige “fierce,” “stunning,” “badass,” “incredible,” and a “goddess,” with one deeming her “an inspiration to so many.”