Aerie’s Latest Inclusive Campaign Features Models with Disabilities

BY KATIE LACOUR

Back in May, Abby Sams decided to courageously submit herself into an #AerieREAL contest. To her surprise, she became one of the influential models among other female role models to shape a new, inclusive beauty standard. Sams went from college student status to being her beautiful self on the same platform as Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and many other young women, showing a powerful femininity among girls of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

 PHOTO: Aerie

PHOTO: Aerie

Nineteen-year-old Sams submitted what #AerieREAL means to her in a video right before her final exams. She found out later that month that she was chosen to be in the campaign alongside other girls who have chronic illnesses, diabetes, and physical disabilities.

I want to normalize diversity and disability. I want [people] to see it and know that limitations don’t mean I’m sitting at home, wallowing in self-pity. I can do things and have fun and be a model, all while being chronically ill, and that’s normal.

Abby Sams' photos of her sporting a gray lace bralette for the Aerie campaign were first shared on Twitter. They went viral instantaneously. What Sams thought would lead to hurtful comments, turned into an outpour of messages of support and admiration.

Abby Sams told Glamour what "Aerie Real" meant to her: "It means beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities."

In today's media, magazine and ad campaigns are becoming more inclusive, representing all body types and women of color. As the media changes, young women are also becoming more accepting of their bodies and who they are. With #AerieReal, girls are finally seeing themselves represented on a larger platform. Sams' representation in a wheelchair along with the other girls in the campaign -- one of which was even sporting her diabetic pump -- is a huge step for the fashion industry; it acts as a message to young girls and women that they are accepted, no matter what. It also extends that message to the rest of the world that these bodies are beautiful, not just the model types we tend to see.

We’re here. We exist. We want to feel beautiful. Aerie really set the bar high with the diversity in [its] models, so I’m hoping I can expect to see the same level of diversity in other brands as well.

We hope to see this change grow more in other fashion brands. We support you, Abby Sams!

Lead Image Credit: Aerie