Last month, actress Gabourey Sidibe debuted her first-ever fashion campaign, Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody.
Sure, the Oscar-nominated actress and “Empire” star has landed her share of magazine covers and feature spreads in the past, but the Lane Bryant campaign which also included “Orange Is the New Black” actress Danielle Brooks and models Ashley Graham, Candice Huffine, and Alessandra Garcia marked a bold new step in her career.
Sidibe recently shared a photo from the campaign on Twitter, which perfectly explains why it means so much to her and hopefully to others as well.
“I’m STILL not over this,” she wrote, accompanied by a picture of her ad plastered across a subway station wall. “Who knows how many subway posters I walked by hoping to one day feel as beautiful as the faces I passed.”
In a 2009 interview with Oprah, Sidibe opened up about the difficult process of accepting herself for who she is and for what she looks like.
“My first diet started when I was 6 years old. I’ve never been a small girl,” she said. “One day, I had to sit down with myself and deiced that I loved myself no matter what my body looked like and what other people thought about my body. … I got tired of feeling bad all the time. I got tired of hating myself.”
She’s not alone, either. New York City’s Girls Project reports that more than 80% of 10-year-old girls worry about being fat, and by middle school, between 40% and 70% of girls feel dissatisfied with two or more aspects of their bodies.
In a world filled with bullies and unrealistic beauty standards, girls have it rough. Campaigns like #ThisBody can help change that by showing girls everywhere that beauty doesn’t have a size. This sort of representation matters.
One of the core aspects of the campaign centers on is pushing back against bullies especially on social media.
The anonymity of social media mixed with the cruelty of society makes for a dangerous combination when it comes to the self-esteem of young women and girls. #ThisBody pushes back on weight-related insults flung by strangers.
In one of the campaign’s videos, Sidibe reads a common message she receives: “I hope I never let myself get that big!” She also shares her response: “By ‘big’ you mean amazing and beautiful and fabulous, right?”
The reality is that most women aren’t a size 2. Somewhere around 65% of U.S. women are a size 14 or larger.
These sorts of messages are damaging to girls, boys, women, men, and well, all of us. They warp our view of what’s “average,” and they demolish the self-confidence of impressionable minds. Seeing women like Sidibe, Graham, Brooks, Huffine, and Garcia not only embrace their bodies, but push back on the haters is a nice counterbalance to some of the bad in the world.
Growing up, Sidibe looked at the subway posters but didn’t see anyone who looked like her. Thanks to her, a future generation might not have to.