JCPenney’s ‘Here I Am’ Campaign Is Taking A Stand Against Negativity Toward Plus Size Women

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You know things are changing in the consumer fashion world when brands like JCPenney are hiring popular new media influencers to feature in their campaigns, rather than the typical anonymous model-types. In a true testament to the power of social media and democratic voices online speaking up in the name of body diversity, JCPenney’s #HereIAm campaign is a bold, unapologetic celebration of body diversity, while also breaking down myths around plus size women.

The video features blogger Gabi Gregg who goes by the name ‘Gabi Fresh’, plus size yoga practitioner and self-love activist Valerie Sagun, blogger and bestselling author of ‘ Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls’ Jes Baker, Grammy award-nominated singer/songwriter Mary Lambert, and Ashley Nell Tipton who became the first plus size winner of ‘Project Runway’. These women were chosen because they have amassed an incredible amount of power, all through their positive and affirming messages about body image.

The video begins with Jes Baker asking the question: “Would my life be better if I were thinner?” to which she answers: “No. But it would be better if I wasn’t treated so poorly because I’m not.”

That sets the premise for the message JCPenney are sharing in this campaign. Each of the women featured has been a victim of some form of bullying or fat-shaming because of their size. In fact most of us have grown up in a world where we have subconsciously been “taught” by social cues and media messaging that if we deviate from society’s preconceived definition of what beauty looks like in a woman, we risk being treated as “other”.

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Musician Mary Lambert reveals how she was told that she would never be successful because of her size, reinforcing another harmful message girls are often ingrained with, that they are valued based primarily on their appearance.

“My size isn’t an indicator of my worth,” said Mary defiantly.

If you join any major body image discussion online centered around plus size role models like the above women, or someone like model and blogger Tess Holliday who has become quite visible in the mainstream fashion and beauty world, you will notice a common trend: the body police jumping in and claiming all fat women are promoting bad health. The people who peddle this kind of comment are relentless but they do not do it in a way to encourage or help those struggling with weight, it is often done in a mean-spirited bullying manner, because hey, the internet provides the prime environment for anonymous shaming.

This video completely shatters the “fat equals unhealthy myth” by showing Valerie Sagun perfectly executing yoga poses some of us could only dream of! We are strong believers in the idea that you cannot hate your body toward your ideal healthy self, and nor should you, and this message is part of the video.

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“You can’t love your body for what you hope it turns into without actively loving it for what it is today,” said Mary. As in, don’t mistake the happiness of a fuller-figured women as her promoting obesity or bad eating habits. It’s time to stop the stereotypes because there is a definite trickle-down effect throughout society, which makes the JCPenney campaign super important.

‘Ghostbusters’ actor and comedian Leslie Jones recently caught our attention with a tweet she sent out about being shunned by designers who did not want to dress her body type for the premiere of her film. Thankfully, former ‘Project Runway’ designer Christian Siriano answered the call and showed up the entire industry. The same thing happened with Leslie’s co-star Melissa McCarthy at the Oscars a couple of year ago and she was also understandably outraged at the lack of designers wanting to dress her.

The knock-on effect of having celebs like Melissa and Leslie speak out about this pattern, as well as brands like JCPenney actively using their gazillions of dollars to push a body positive message is going to be huge and far-reaching. And clearly, we are seeing an exciting shift in the way brands are being influenced by people, as opposed to the traditional model of it being the other way round.

While there is certainly a long way to way, we also should celebrate the major strides being made which are giving more diverse body types permission to feel included, celebrated and normal. You can watch the ‘Here I Am’ video below:

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