Lane Bryant is the go-to retailer for sizes 14-28, and for anyone looking for a body positivity sanctuary, to be honest. They showcase their love of all sizes through various outlets, including social media. Most recently, they shared a photo of Anna O’Brien, 32, who blogs under the name Glitter + Lazers. The image was taken from the fashion and fun guru’s Instagram account and shared with the caption “Need a little ‘dayum, girl’ in your day? Here you go. cc: @glitterandlazers. Snap. Share. Tag #ThisBody.”
When the brand asked O’Brien, who went viral last month for embracing friendship in all shapes and sizes, for permission to use her photo, she didn’t know how they were going to use it. “I was surprised and happy to see it posted on their account,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “We chose this picture because Anna simply looked great and confident in one of our new swimsuits,” Lane Bryant CMO Brian Beitler tells Yahoo.
O’Brien, who says she’s always been an advocate for diversity, was proud of Lane Bryant for taking this step, because, as she says, “body types like mine aren’t always shared as regularly as they exist in reality.” She admits that she was also aware that it might make her the target of some “interesting commentary.”
Of course, the way the world works these days, this unfortunately was the case. The post was met with mostly positive comments, which is proof that we are moving in the right direction, but there were a few trolls in the mix. “I think maybe some shorts would be good,” a user called annagp13 wrote. “That left knee bout to give out,” another named haleyr0se nastily wrote. “I’m all about confidence. And I’m also a plussize woman. But this is crazy unhealthy. Don’t act like this is normal. Because this is really, really dangerous for your body,” wrote a third.
“A lot of people treat all trolls the same, and I personally believe there are four types and they have to be treated differently,” O’Brien tells Yahoo. “Some feel threatened. They see something they’re uncomfortable with, and they react aggressively because of that discomfort,” she says. “Many of these individuals have been taught that a certain body type is more ‘worthy’ (of love, happiness, social acceptance, etc.), and anything that challenges that belief challenges their own personal evaluation of worth,” she explains. So in attacking her, she believes, they are attempting to defend their own value.
Then there are those she refers to as ignorant. “These individuals often ask poorly worded questions. These comments may come off as offensive, but I’ve learned these individuals are usually harmless and want to learn. They simply aren’t the best at gaining that knowledge. I use these engagements as opportunities for thoughtful discussions, instead of getting angry.” Annagp13’s shorts comment could fit into this category — maybe she was just offering her opinion on the outfit but worded it poorly and it was misread.
“Some just want someone to respond to them, to feel emotion, to take your anger,” O’Brien continues. “These are what most people consider ‘trolls.’” She suggests blocking these people and deleting their comments, “because reactions from you or anyone else is what they feed off.”
Others, she says, seek to conform. “Much of the most aggressive commentary I get comes from other plus women who have placed limits on their options, choices, and self-exploration because they feel they are not worthy of it,” says O’Brien. “To see a woman as myself doing those things can be shocking. Half of these women will feel inspired to think differently or maybe even try something new. But the other half will hold on to that ideal that they are not worthy because they are different and vehemently defend it. They will tell me I am wrong because I refuse to conform, and that I should hide because I make an invisible ‘they’ uncomfortable. I respond to these individuals on a case-by-case basis because it really is unpredictable how they will respond.” Commenters who claim they are also plus-size but would never show that much skin could fall into this category.
Save for a few more comments questioning O’Brien’s health, most of the other comments were extremely positive. “Yasssssss????????????????????????!!! She’s gorgeous and slaying,” wrote one follower. “F*** yeah! Get it girl! She’s my new f***in queen!!!!” said another. Others were just happy to see someone who looked like them celebrated on social media. “Awsome! Love that your a real plus size girl… my first thought was hey thats my body shape!” wrote a supporter.
“Negative comments happen. Ignore them and move on,” Beitler says. “We keep our focus on the positive comments that build confidence and hope they inspire someone else to take a chance with their fashion. Spread kindness.”
O’Brien’s confidence is too tough for a few trolls to tear down. “I guess I was lucky enough to learn at a very early age that being different is a gift, not a curse,” she articulates. “So when things get hard, I just focus on the good — the people I inspire, the stereotypes I’ve helped change, and the joy I’ve found from just being myself. Those things are far more powerful than a few nasty words will ever be.”
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