Why You Should Care About The Latest #AerieREAL Movement

We’d bet that despite the number of beach photos you've posted on social media — proof of your idyllic vacations, no doubt — there are many more photos of you in a swimsuit hiding within your camera roll. But if you've been eyeing Aerie's new swim campaign, perhaps you're feeling like it's time to share them with the world (or at least your social media friends) thanks to the face of #AerieREAL, Iskra Lawrence. After all, the 25-year-old model has that effect on people. Thanks to her own empowering posts and captions on Instagram, she's been encouraging women all over the world to share their bathing-suit photos. And now, even more of us can participate in a bigger way.

The brand's latest initiative encourages women to celebrate themselves via social media by posting their unretouched swimsuit photos, using the hashtag #AerieREAL, and tagging two friends to follow suit. It's not only shaping up to be a major social movement, it's also a call to action to let go of the things standing in the way of enjoying the beach, the pool, and most importantly, your own body. Plus, it falls perfectly in line with the brand's already honest — and successful — commitment to Photoshop-free models.

For someone like Lawrence, who has 1.7 million (and counting) followers, confidently sharing photos is quite commonplace. For others, well, encouragement might be required to do the same. With this in mind, Aerie has pledged to donate $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (up to $30,000) for every new #AerieREAL swimsuit image shared. For additional motivation, look no further than Lawrence's refreshing take and encouraging words below.
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
Congrats on fronting this new body-positive movement with Aerie! For many women, posting a photo in a bathing suit might not come so easy. What's your best piece of confidence-boosting advice?
“Stop comparing yourself to others. Because of the experience I’ve had trying to become a model, looking at the other models beside me, and wondering why I couldn’t look like them, I know it really drives you crazy if you have that as your goal. You’re always going to fail; you're never going to feel good enough. As soon as you start focusing on bettering yourself and learning how to love, respect, and look after your body, that’s how you become a confident person.”

This is hardly your first swim shoot. So for someone who's a pro, what's been the coolest part about this particular set experience?
“It’s liberating. It’s wonderful that the client has said they want me to represent something. I’m on set knowing they’re not going to worry if there’s a roll here. They know that beauty is more than that and the girl seeing this is going to love that realness.”
Photo: Courtesy of Aerie.
Why do you think women might have a difficult time unabashedly enjoying their time in a swimsuit — when in public or even solo?
“I think it’s just been very difficult for women growing up in a society where we see magazines like, 'Oh, look at the celebrity cellulite.' Women are terrified to put on that bikini sometimes because they get it in their heads that they should look like an airbrushed model.”

Do you think that it's still considered a risk for models to go Photoshop-free? Do you still encounter people who would advise you against it?
“Luckily I’m with an agency that promotes the fact that [women] are beautiful as we are naturally. There’s definitely so much history of beauty and fashion being perfected that some companies are still holding onto that and scared to risk it. For Aerie to go 100% unretouched is a huge deal in the fashion industry. I think it was scary for them initially, but they listened to the voices of the girls. And the #AerieREAL campaign is more than just a campaign. It’s a movement.”

You've posted on your Instagram feed that your fans often send you direct photos of them in their swimwear or lingerie — and you answer them! What's that interaction like? Do you feel you have a responsibility as someone in your position?
“The interaction is so special to me. It’s fulfilled me, it’s given me a purpose, and it really makes me think about the girl I was when I was a teenager. I think, Wow, imagine if I could’ve messaged a model when I was 15 and had the chance to speak to her directly... I wake up and I’m excited every day because I’m able to directly communicate with them and touch their lives. They send me pictures and are like, ‘Oh, I’m in a changing room in the bikini you wore and I’m trying it on.’ It’s incredibly humbling.”

And finally, this time of year seems to be when most of the pressure is on to be beach-ready, as far as some people's standards go. Do you — even as confident as you are — still feel those types of pressures?
“I’ve gotten to the point where I just accept my body. There are definitely days when I feel a little bit insecure. Sometimes I’ll feel more lethargic. But those days are few and far between. I’ve learned to look in the mirror in the morning and just celebrate the wonderful things, to know that there’s more than internalizing everything and worrying about what I look like, worrying about what other people think about me. That’s not what life is about.”

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