Commentary: Real Women Looking Really Good in New Underwear Ads

Is American Eagle’s new approach actually breaking the mold?

Posted: 01/22/2014 12:32 PM EST
Filed Under commentary, Body Image

American Eagle ad


There's a phrase that gets thrown around in the media a lot: Real Women. Used in a sentence, it sounds like, "We need to make sure we're using more real women, not models, in this photo shoott" or "Let's figure out how to play up the fact that we're showing real women." Such a phrase might sound bizarre, considering that the opposite of "real women" is "fake women," which would be robots, androids or animated females. But it’s not so far off since what we usually see in magazines and on billboards or commercials are women who are so retouched that there’s little realness left in the photo. We’re forced to gaze upon bodies that have been manipulated in ways that erase anything as real as a blemish, stretch mark or, heaven forbid, a fold of fat. 

American Eagle is looking to change this high-tech trickery. They’ve launched a new advertising campaign for their underwear line, Aerie. And in it, they promise that they “left everything." We left beauty marks, we left tattoos, what you see is really what you get with our campaign,” explained spokesperson Jenny Altman on GMA.

And although the company surely thought there was a moral imperative to do this, they also see the business value. Says Altman: “It’s a selling point because our customers represent this great demographic and they don’t really get to see what girls their age really look like.” 

That’s true, though honestly many girls will have a hard time seeing what they look like in these ads. The tagline is “The real you is sexy,” yet the casting agents at American Eagle still only hired women whose “real” sexy is really close to what we’re used to seeing. They are thin. They are without cellulite. They are toned and firm.

And so the #aeriereal campaign and Twitter hashtag gets a big A-plus for intention, but not so stellar marks for actual execution. More mainstream advertising campaigns should commit to breaking ground by showing what real women look like — but then they should remember that real women come in all shapes and sizes.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: AERIE)

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