Why Emma Roberts Went Photoshop-Free For Aerie

UPDATE: The #AerieREAL campaign images were just released, and we updated this post with all the pics. This was originally published on July 7th, 2015.

On Instagram this holiday weekend, you may have seen, nestled between the fireworks photos and rooftop BBQ pics, Emma Roberts' Christmas-light-covered pic above, complete with a cryptic reference to a "top-secret project." Today, we can reveal what's in the works: Roberts is starring in the next installment of Aerie's proudly Photoshop-free #AerieREAL campaign, set to debut this fall.
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
It's been over a year since #AerieREAL launched, and despite the overwhelmingly positive reaction (our own writeup of the campaign was one of our most-viewed stories of the year), it's clear that not many other brands are willing to take up the cause. To wit: For every Aerie Real, there's a 50-foot-tall ad in Times Square featuring a bikini-clad woman airbrushed beyond recognition and demanding we get "beach body ready." Clearly, we've got a ways to go before we embrace women's bodies as they really are.
Of course, some will say that featuring a beautiful sample-size celeb like Emma Roberts in a Photoshop-free campaign is perhaps less of a statement than the first Aerie Real, in all its body-diverse glory. But there's a lot of work to be done in dismantling unrealistic beauty standards — and maybe, as Roberts points out, breaking down the myth of the "flawless" actress or model can be a part of that conversation, too.

We spoke with Roberts last week while she was on break from the Aerie photo shoot in New Orleans about body image, her unexpected secret for confidence, and how she hopes the campaign will change the dialogue around beauty and "realness."
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
How did you get involved in the campaign?
"I've been a fan of American Eagle and Aerie since I was a little girl, and when they approached me I thought it was so cool, because no one else is doing this. I remember walking around New York and seeing the last [Aerie Real] ads and thinking those girls look so amazing. Unlike other ads that make me feel like I need to work out more, or I need to buy this for my face — those made me feel good, not like I had to hide behind anything."

Is it just underwear, like the last campaign?
"It's clothes, too. There's this great little sweater dress, shorts, long underwear — really cute stuff. I'm already plotting which bras and underwear I want to take home, and there's a gray sweater I want to live in on my way to set in the morning."

Is it intimidating to know the photos won't be Photoshopped?
"I've actually never felt more confident and comfortable on a set — which is amazing, because you don't have that safety net. But I saw the photos and was like, you know what? This is great — this is just me, in clothes I feel good in, being who I am."
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
Does this shoot feel different from others you've been on?
"Normally, you go on shoots and stylists are handing you designer clothes: 'Wear this, wear this!' — pinning them on you, and you're sucking it in, trying to make sure you stand right. And this has been such a different experience. I have my own hair and makeup people, and my own stylist-slash-best-friend is styling the shoot. And their clothes are flattering on me — it's stuff I actually wear in my daily life. So I actually look like myself, and not like Styled Emma Roberts, which is a first for me."

Why do you think it's important that young girls see a more natural image of beauty?
"I always think of my little sister — she's 14, and when I told her I was doing these ads, she freaked out. It's important for me to be a part of this, because I see how hard it is for girls my sister's age with social media, and feeling like they need to look a certain way. I want to promote the idea that it's okay to look like yourself — you don't have to Photoshop your Instagrams!"

So what does the term "real" mean to you?
"Often, when we hear the word 'real,' we automatically think flaws, but it just means being yourself, realizing you're beautiful the way you are, and not taking it all too seriously. Like on Instagram, I love posting pics of myself looking silly and laughing — it doesn't always have to be a sexy selfie."
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
How do you feel body-confident?
"What makes me feel confident when I'm down is surrounding myself with good friends. Especially as a girl, having people who build you up and make you feel like your best self is so crucial. And not being friends with people who are toxic or passive-aggressive. I did a big friend-clearing a couple years ago, and now I only have people in my life who make me feel loved and confident. It's completely changed how I look at myself and others — with way more acceptance.

"And it's not as deep as that, but try to find a piece of clothing or jewelry that's significant to you. My aunt gave me a vintage Victorian wedding ring that I wear on my pinky — I don't wear it all the time, but when I do, I feel protected. Find something that makes you feel good and treat yourself to that."

What do you hope will be the impact of this campaign?
"I hope girls feel good knowing that when you see these supposedly 'perfect' people in movies or in ads, that's not real. You know, I'm like any other girl — sometimes you wake up and you're having a great day, and other days you just don't feel good about yourself. The way actors and celebrities are presented can be so unrealistic, and I wanted to put myself out there in a different way.

"Even I have days where that anxiety comes up: 'I'm not doing enough, I need to work out more' — but no, you need to do what's good for you, what feels good, and what works for your body and your mind. And that's all you can do."

That's a message that really needs to be out there.
"I know — I'm honestly surprised more people aren't jumping on this bandwagon!"
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.

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