Lane Bryant has put a sexy spin on the popular Victoria’s Secret Angel campaign with it’s own cunning new #ImNoAngel campaign. Some people have taken offense, stating that LB is actually attacking Angels and slender women and even promoting “unhealthy lifestyles” … WHAT? Lane Bryant is clearly celebrating all women. At its harshest, it’s a good-natured poke in the eye at the corner of the fashion industry that would shove every woman into a Barbie-shaped box, which can be seriously alarming considering the growing numbers in reports on eating disorders and negative body image — which has been linked to impossible expectations set by advertising standards. At its best, it opens the doors on dialogue about positive body image.
The ads simply declare that skinny waists, long legs, and large busts are not essential prerequisites for SEXY. And, as if to prove it, the trending hash-tag has encouraged women whose bodies may not necessarily conform to societal (read: advertising) norms of what is beautiful or sexy to celebrate their beauty by sharing photos and declaring “I’m no angel.”
The phrase “I’m No Angel” brings to this blogger’s mind one of The American Film Institute’s greatest female stars of all time, the sublime Mae West. Ms. West was one of early Hollywood’s (and Broadway’s) most flamboyant firebrands, known for being ahead of the curve (pun intended) as an early supporter of the women’s liberation movement as well as an early supporter of gay rights … and as the original full-figured fox.
Is it a coincidence that’s West’s most successful movie, in which she co-starred with a pre-Hollywood Legend Cary Grant, was also entitled I’m No Angel?
Lane Bryant isn’t the first company using it’s advertising to confront body stereotypes. Dove quietly launched its “Campaign for Real Beauty” back in 2004 with advertisements featuring beautiful women of all sizes and types without any fanfare. Their passive resistance (simply letting the photos speak for themselves; after all, a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?) was what gave them their oomph. These beautiful women, who were clearly not your typical model material, just started popping up in their ads.
Dove then amped up their advance with their video entitled “Evolution” — which demonstrated all of the behind-the-scenes alterations that a woman’s appearance had to go through in preparation for a billboard advertising a fictitious beauty product cleverly named FALSE Foundation Makeup. It closed with the simple caption “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” It quickly went viral.
Last year, American Eagle’s aerie line of lingerie ads were published sans Photoshop. The models were young and slender, which happens to be AEs target market, but so-called “imperfections” like beauty marks, tattoos, and bending wrinkles weren’t airbrushed out of the ads. Beautiful women were featured “as is” in order to provide more realistic images of beauty for their targeted, younger consumers. In fact, they still feature an entire section of their online style gallery to photographs of customers who post pics of themselves on social media sites with the hash-tag aeriereal.
Now Dove is back on the scene with its Choose Beautiful Campaign. Chances are, you’ve already seen it. Released only yesterday, the Dove Choose Beautiful video has over a million views on YouTube. YES! Over One Million.
We clearly have a long row to hoe ahead, but the fact that somebody out there in Media Land is finally figuring out what we women have known all along, namely that we should be setting realistic standards of beauty for this and future generations, is refreshing. Every person needs to love their body and themselves. Or even as Mae herself would say: I’d never love another person the way I’ve loved myself.