The New Faces Of Lane Bryant Are Exactly What We Needed — & We Think You’ll Agree

Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Lane Bryant’s second installment of its This Body campaign, for fall 2016, dubbed “#ThisBody Is Made to Shine,” just dropped today. This time around, there’s a new, zeitgeist-y twist on the campaign’s original message of empowerment and body positivity. The retailer used diverse casting to underscore the wide range of sizes and shapes within the plus market. There’s also an emphasis on dealing with — and overcoming —negativity on social media. It’s something that Ashley Graham, one of the campaign’s stars (and a recurrent Lane Bryant face) has certainly dealt with and spoken out against.

Graham stars in the new imagery alongside Candice Huffine, as well as Alessandra Garcia Lorido (fun fact: she’s Andy Garcia’s daughter). It’s also the first time the retailer has included non-models — actresses, specifically — in its ads. This marks the first-ever fashion campaign for Gabourey Sidibe, who stars in Empire and is directing a short film (with us!). Danielle Brooks, currently in the fifth season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black as well as on Broadway in The Color Purple, featured in the latest This Body ads, as well.
We went behind the scenes on on the shoot, lensed by Cass Bird, in NYC last month. Ahead, all of the campaign’s stars discuss the state of plus-size fashion today, dealing with social media ire, and more.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Gabourey Sidibe

This is your first fashion campaign, ever. What compelled you to join?
"I’m being very particular as far as fashion campaigns. Should I be telling other people what to wear? Probably not. But I liked the idea of this campaign, and that it’s all about bridging the gap between [plus and straight] sizes. I just think that’s really important. I remember how wide the gap felt to me when I was a teenager. I felt like I was in a position to do something to help that.

"Also, Lane Bryant has been a part of my life for a long time; even when I wasn’t wearing it, my mom was wearing it. Now that Lane Bryant has revamped its style quite a bit, it feels like clothes that I can wear, that make me feel sexy and confident, and not really clothes that my mom would wear. I get to wear things that girls that are not my size get to wear."

What sorts of items have you struggled to find in your size in the past?
"When pencil skirts were super, super in, I couldn’t find them anywhere in my size. I love those tulip-y skirts that flare out at the bottom, too, because I enjoy pretending to be a 7-year-old on Easter Sunday, spinning around in my skirt. Also, there are a lot of see-through tops that I really, really love that hide enough but also expose enough that make me feel really sexy."

Lane Bryant wanted to showcase a range of sizes in these ads. Why is that important to have plus-size retailers know, and stress, that there’s such range within the market?
"When you see commercials or billboards and there are only a few different sizes, and none of them are yours, you feel really alone in the world. You feel like you are a misfit; a weirdo. It’s really, really important to be able to see yourself. If you can’t see yourself, sometimes you don’t know that you’re alive, you don’t know that you exist, and you don’t know that you’re normal. And it seems like Lane Bryant is taking a major, major step toward making sure that more people of different sizes can see that they exist. More than just in their own mirror, which is very important.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Danielle Brooks

What compels you to be vocal about size inclusivity?

“[OITNB co-star] Laverne Cox is actually who made me say, ‘What’s my platform? How can I contribute to this world in a way that made sense from me? What am I missing from this world that I wish I had as a little girl?’”

What did you realize was missing?
“Having examples. Having someone bold and courageous enough to speak out about issues with our bodies and our self-worth. It isn’t that there weren’t plus-size people in the industry when I was growing up, but there weren’t plus-size women talking about [being plus-size]. So that’s what I want to be for the next generation.”

You’ve talked before about the fashion "rule" that plus-sized women shouldn't dress in color or patterns. Why does that tick you off?
“I don’t understand why retailers think they wouldn’t make money off of plus-sized women. There are more plus-sized women in the world than women who are not. How dumb can you be not to use women who are curvy to rock your stuff?

"I want to wear textured clothes and colorful clothes! I want all the bells and whistles. I want something interesting to swing around in on the carpet, that’s not blue or black. I want that red carpet moment that I deserve. I'll continue to fight this fight, in order to help curvy girls.”

Thoughts on the wide range of sizes in this campaign's casting?
"It’s important to not get stuck in a size 14-and-up as the ‘standard.’ The thing about being plus size that people often forget is the conversation about health: We’re not ignoring that! There are women out there that are a size 28 that need examples of what it looks like to be a size 20; women that are a size 20 that want to be a size 14. We need to have realistic, healthy role models.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Ashley Graham

You’ve been vocal about body shamers on Instagram.
“There’s been such a double standard during my career. I've posted photos on Instagram and had people take ownership over my body. You have to say, ‘Oh, it’s just a good angle, believe me,’ or explain your own curves or face to [fans] that might love you, but then come and bash you. It can feel like I’ve come so far, and then just take 10 steps backward. I can’t believe we’re still dealing with this, but I’m going to keep on talking."

What do you think of the brand deciding to include celebs for the first time?
“You’re not seeing women like Danielle and Gabby: It’s slowly happening in TV, but you’re really not seeing any of it of film. It’s important for us to show that beauty in all shapes and colors can come from, and exist in, film and fashion and TV.

"Having Gabby and Danielle on as well doesn’t just show color and size diversity. Them being in the campaign shows it’s not just pretty models saying ‘love your body,’ it’s about women who come from different fields really coming together and spreading the message of love your skin, love who you are, be comfortable.”

You've walked in some shows with plus- and straight-sized models. How long will it take for luxury houses to include more size diversity on the runway?
“They may never. I’ve succumbed to the idea that not everyone is going to put curvy women on the runway. Not every designer’s going to think, Oh, we should use a curvy woman for this campaign. But, if we start to get the majority of people doing it, that’s all that matters. I’m not asking for everybody to do it. All I’m asking is for people to understand that we are more than our size; we are more than our measurements, and we represent a lot of women, not just a small group of women that have loud mouths.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Candice Huffine

What do you think about plus-sized models being criticized for not being “plus” or curvy enough?
“Everyone’s going to have an opinion about everything; you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t know why all of the sudden it became normal to comment on someone’s body. I’ve been trying to shout from the rooftops about ownership; about being yourself and loving yourself; being really proud and encouraging other women to do so. If a woman is healthy and happy, good for her.

"I think there was a time in the industry when there standards of what a plus model should look like, and girls were doing unhealthy things to get there, pushing their bodies to be bigger through unhealthy gaining habits, just to stay in business and please everybody.”

Did you ever develop unhealthy habits to be "more plus-sized"?
“No. I’ve always been like, there’s gotta be a space for me, as me, and I’m going to wait to figure out what that is and if fashion will accept me as me. And we have gotten to that place now.”

How long did that take?
“Oh, about a decade! There’s a whole gray area of beautiful women, size-wise, and it’s an exciting time now.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Cass Bird/Lane Bryant.
Alessandra Garcia-Lorido

How do you feel about the idea of a plus model not being “plus enough”?
“People try to categorize with such extremes; you’re either a size 0 or a size 18; there’s an average, an in-between, that should be celebrated. There should be an equal amount of opportunity, work, and celebration for everybody.”

What do you make of the ongoing conversation about limited red carpet options for those who aren't, say, a size 2 or 4?
"Sample sizes are put on a pedestal, but garments, pieces of clothing, should change for you, not vice versa. I think designers are finally starting to realize that."

This is your first Lane Bryant campaign. Have you worked with Ashley or Candice before on other projects?
“Yes, I’ve worked with both of them once before, and we’re all at the same agency. There’s a camaraderie among plus models because we know that any opportunity for one of us opens doors for other models. I think it’s great to celebrate other women in your own industry; it’s only going to help you in your career.”