The world is in no shortage of superficial images and messages in the media, fashion and advertising. We are constantly bombarded with people and companies telling us that once we change the way we look and spend a lot of money doing it, we will be happy. But that is the ultimate lie. Instead we should be hearing messages about self-confidence and finding our worth from sources other than a corporation whose sole agenda is to make money.
We can’t sit around and wait for entire industries to change tack, although trends are starting to swing more in our favor without a doubt. We’ve been seeing so many awesome examples of everyday men and women raising their voices to empower their own communities and share messages of positivity and encouragement.
In the UK a group of teen girls from Newcastle formed an online community called ‘Girls Can’ aimed at promoting positive role models to combat the slew of negative ones we see all too often in the media. They have been attracting a lot of attention in their local malls and in the local newspapers.
“We have chosen to explore the issue of role models for young women and aim to show young women that there are more positive role models than the popular ‘celebrity’ that many young women aspire to,” says the Girls Can Facebook page.
“We think that young girls and women in our area need better female role models. We want to encourage them to aspire to more than this idea of celebrity which, quite frankly, has got out of hand,” said Tegan Reay, one of the group members.
Closer to home in the US, a photographer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, decided she had had enough, and wanted to combat the negative messages that the media forces upon women. Bri Luginbill created the ‘Go Boldly’ campaign designed to add a whole bunch of positive imagery and positive messages to the body image debate in society.
What sparked the idea was a drive down the highway, where Bri spotted a billboard promoting botox and plastic surgery, telling women to “go confidently” essentially by drastically altering their appearance. She decided to hijack that statement and show her community what living “boldly” really looks like, by photographing a series of women of all shapes and sizes, including some with disabilities. Bri didn’t use photoshop in any of her photos, and is in the process of contacting magazines and billboard companies to shout her message and images just as loud as the harmful ones.
“The ads seemed to play off of women’s (and men’s) insecurities as to advertise for plastic surgery. They had photos of women or men and the words “Go Confidently” across the billboard. Underneath that slogan were tag lines like “experts in tummy tucks” or “experts in Botox” While, they may have been trying to get a positive message out, I felt like it was not communicating a positive body image message. So, Go Boldly was born on March 17th, 2014,” says Bri in an interview with NOWGR.
“The media says that the only way to look beautiful or love yourself is to become, or look like, something you’re not,” said 18 year-old Alanna Cuadra who was featured in the campaign. “We were reminded how we are all special and that we should love ourselves the way we are.”
“I think women should love their bodies because it’s the only one they are going to get. Your eyes, nose, curves-those are all things that make you, you,” said 21 year-old Christina Parilla, another model.
Photographer Bri is still looking to take submissions for her project, and is charging $50 to cover the photography session and to contribute to costs for advertising in the media. So far she has raised $400, and is looking to also raise the bar by putting her campaign images out into the world.
The great thing about this campaign is that it is not just focused on women, but men too. Basically anyone who wants to be part of a body positive movement. While she initially hoped to reach people in her city, the ‘Go Boldly’ campaign has been attracting the attention of people as far away as Israel! She has photographed over 100 people and hopes to have even more diversity to really bring the message home.
“These ads are to show that every person and every body is beautiful. We should love and accept the body we are in and not feel pressured to be anything else but ourselves,” she said.
If you feel strongly about the types of body image messages we hear every day in the media, we want to encourage you that you have the power to make a difference, just like Bri and the teen girls from the UK we mentioned at the top. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your job is, or where you are from. The media infiltrates all corners of the world, but thanks to the internet, citizen journalism and social media, we as ordinary people have been empowered to make a difference and influence the world with our messages. So don’t hold back!
You can hear more from Bri talking about her photography project and campaign in the video below.