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A Being Beyond Your Body

In previous issues we have talked about the fabulous Victoria’s Secret Angels — their careers, their confidence, their fun spirit. These beautiful and graceful Angels are who many women want to be like, afterall sexy confidence sells. With exotic backgrounds, they have exciting careers traveling around the globe to exotic shoots while being spokeswomen for their brand. However, the question can be asked if these size zero women are actually inspiring or deflating to the average woman? I believe the answer can be both at times. These successful Angels are inspiring women. However, looking beautiful is their job and what they spend hours doing. That being said, you as a normal woman most likely have different responsibilities. You have a demanding job, maybe a significant other, and maybe a family that all need your attention while trying to remember to save a little time for yourself. When you start to compare yourself to airbrushed models, we may run into some problems.

In a TEDTalk given by Cameron Russell titled “Image is Powerful”, this Victoria’s Secret model talks about image and models. She considers herself lucky because models are models simply because they won “the genetic lottery” and fit the mold or “legacy” that society has set in place.

In her short talk Cameron says “image is superficial” because the pictures we see in magazines and advertisements are not portraying the models themselves but rather “constructions” by photographers, makeup artists, and hair stylists building a certain image. After showing several photos of her from past shoots she says “that is not me” because it was an image created of her rather than a real portrayal of herself. Cameron contrasts pictures of her on the day of the photoshoot with what she was transformed into the day of the photoshoot. Her photo shoots produced images of a much older and more sexualized woman than the young woman she actually was at the time. So next time you start comparing yourself to anyone else, remember Cameron’s words about these created images: photos can play to our fantasies rather than our realities.

Weeks ago Victoria’s Secret released their re-engineered “Body” line, a part of their cotton underwear line meant for all shapes and sizes. The tag line was “You have never seen ‘Body’s’ like this”. However, while showing a diversity of skin tone, Victoria’s Secret did not show a diversity of body size.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, which has been an ongoing effort for the past few years, can be contrasted with Victoria’s Secret’s approach. Dove can be thought of as the champion of the beauty of real women of all sizes. Their campaign picked up on a lack of self-esteem and a lack of positive body image among women. Understanding that there are naturally thin women out there, there are also naturally curvy women too. Instead of strictly size zero, Dove ads showed size four, six, and size twelve women.

However, dress sizes are all just numbers. You are more than a number that a retailer puts on you. The key lies in remembering to look beyond your body.As humans, we all HAVE a body but we ARE a soul. Your job is to foster your soul and spirit rather than solely the body. This really hit home to Janine Shepherd, an Australian Olympic-hopeful cross country skier. During a five hour training bike ride, she was hit by a truck and suffered life threatening wounds, broken bones, and a partially crushed spinal cord. In her TEDTalk, Janine talks about her recovery story. It was a battle between her mind and her body. Paralyzed from the waist down, the doctors surgically repaired her spinal cord but told her that she really would never walk again. As an athlete her body was everything to her. She asked herself if her life would ever have value again because she had lost all that had been of value to her. Sitting at home one day she was inspired by a plane flying overhead to become a pilot. Janine told herself, “If I can’t walk I might as well fly”. It was her inner drive and her unfailing spirit that drove her recovery and her new dream of being a pilot. Janine said, “My real strength never came from my body and although my physical capabilities have changed, who I am inside of me never changed“. She eventually regained mobility and passed her pilot’s test! After hearing her talk, I understood that there was no getting in her way and no stopping her lively spirit. Janine is such an inspiration to us all! In the time since her accident, Janine has come to understand the strength of her spirit, which she uses to empower others.

So just remember this for me: You are real. You are not a photographers “construction”. You are more than your dress size. You and your body have been through real challenges. You are a being with a special purpose. And lastly, you have great worth!

Claire Higgins

Claire Higgins is a resident of northern New Jersey. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. At the Mount she is an active member of Student Government Association holding positions as Advisory Board Student Liaison and Executive Board Treasurer. In her free time she enjoys going for runs and attending spin classes. After graduation, Claire hopes to continue serving the community around her