Model and activist Denise Bidot's gloriously unretouched Lane Bryant ad is a celebration of stretch marks — it features her showing off a characteristic that many people have, and yet rarely see represented, especially in women's advertising. The Inspired by #ThisBody ad was first featured in Sports Illustrated's 2017 Swimsuit Issue.
For the shoot, Bidot posed in a marine-themed bikini, unapologetically showing off her striped stomach and thighs. Bidot tells Bustle that she was stoked to work with Lane Bryant, especially when she was tapped for the #ThisBody campaign.
"I love the #ThisBody campaign and can relate to it so much," she says. "It's not about putting people in a box, but allowing each individual to shine in their own way and accepting who we are in spite of any 'imperfections.' For me, it means, not apologizing for who I am or my stretch marks. It's being happy and loving yourself in the moment and not waiting for change to find your happiness."
Lane Bryant CMO Brian Beitler tells Bustle in an email that the decision not to retouch Bidot's body was a simple one.
"At Lane Bryant, we simply believe that women should be seen and celebrated as they are," he says. "Using an image of Denise confidently embracing her body — stretchmarks and all — for our ad in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition was an obvious choice for us as a brand, as she is not only an incredible woman, but a powerful advocate in the body positive movement as well."
Unretouched images of Bidot went live on Facebook prior to the Swimsuit Issue. Beitler says, "We were very pleased with the reaction that social media posts featuring Denise garnered when the images were initially shared across our Facebook page, and are encouraged to continue in the same art direction go forward."
Bidot noticed the same positivity when Lane Bryant launched the full ad as an unretouched image. "I did not know they would be released unretouched until they hit the Lane Bryant website," she says. "People started tagging me in the pictures praising the ad and I was in shock. I don't usually have control of the post production but I have been a big advocate for loving your imperfections."
She added, "When a shoot I did a few years back went viral for being unretouched, I urged more brands to follow their lead, by posting unretouched images on my social media pages. I wanted people to see and understand that we are beautiful regardless and that even models are not perfect. Yet it wasn't until Lane Bryant, that someone got it, and in a big way!"
Beitler says the brand is nudging other companies to join the movement.
"We actively encourage all brands and media outlets to be more diverse in their body inclusion, throughout their advertising and product considerations," he says. "Our hope is more brands and publications follow suit as the body-empowerment movement grows, and that all women are not only shown and celebrated as they are, but encouraged to celebrate themselves, too."
Having an unretouched image in Sports Illustrated is a big part of their body-empowerment philosophy, both Beitler and Bidot say.
"To be in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition unretouched is something not even I couldn't have dreamed of," Bidot explains. "It's so amazing to think that there is a girl out there picking up an issue and for the first time ever, seeing a body that isn't perfect but it's still being celebrated because we are all special."
Beitler says, "It has been amazing to be a part of Sports Illustrated’s significant shift toward displaying more diversity in their Swimsuit issue."
Hopefully the 2018 Swimsuit Issue will continue SI's upward trend of body diversity. There were four plus size models in this year's edition — the most of any Swimsuit Issue. But Bidot's not waiting for anyone to change the industry for her. She tells Bustle she's gearing up to launch the sequel to her "There Is No Wrong Way to Be a Woman" campaign, which Bidot introduced in 2016 to celebrate the beauty of all women, especially women who are shunned by traditional societal beauty standards. Bidot says she intends to involve both men and teens in the sequel.
"This year [...] we are making it a fully inclusive campaign," she says. "It will be launching very soon and I'm thrilled to be able to keep inspiring not just women, but everyone, to just be themselves."