1. Meet Brooke Birmingham.
She’s the 28-year-old, Quad Cities, Ill., blogger behind the site Brooke: Not on a Diet, where she chronicles her incredible weight-loss progress.
2. Over the past four years, she’s managed to lose more than 170 pounds.
And she’s kept it off for the past year too.
That’s pretty impressive and inspiring!
3. Shape magazine thought so too, which is why it contacted her to be a part of its “Success Stories” series.
“Success Stories” chronicles inspiring stories of real people who have lost weight and changed their lives.
4. But when Brooke submitted this “after” photo of herself in a bikini, Shape insisted she send in another of herself in a tee.
5. When Brooke asked why they wanted a different photo, she was told it was “policy” to show “Success Stories” in tees.
“lt’s just their editorial to be fully clothed, simple as that,” the writer explained.
But a quick glance at Shape’s site and other “Success Stories” quickly proves that’s not true. There are several women, including the woman above, who are shown in bikinis on the site.
Not surprisingly, Brooke felt singled out. “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough to be featured on their website,” she told BuzzFeed. “When you log onto their website, the first thing that pops up is a woman in workout pants and a sports bra. There have been other success stories with women in bikinis.”
6. After going back and forth with Shape, Brooke eventually decided not to allow them to use her story.
“If I couldn’t have the picture of me in my bikini to go along with my story, then it wasn’t MY story,” she wrote on her blog. “The story I wanted to tell and shout out to the world, not their ideal story. So, if I couldn’t tell it my way, then they weren’t going to be able to tell it at all.”
“It all boils down to, I want people to know they shouldn’t feel ashamed of how they look,” she told BuzzFeed. “They should love their body no matter what. I wear a bikini because it makes me feel good. Just because you don’t have what the media portrays as the ideal body, you’re still beautiful.”
As for what she hopes others will take from her experience, Brooke says that she wants to open up a dialogue about what bodies really look like after extreme weight loss. “I get that they’re a business. I get that America is judging on appearance, but at the same time, some of us need to see the real thing.”
7. A spokesperson from Shape said this has all been a terrible misunderstanding:
“This is a result of a misunderstanding with a freelance writer. This does not represent Shape’s editorial values and the comments made about Shape’s ‘editorial policy’ are absolutely untrue. Shape prides itself on empowering and celebrating women like Brooke, and any indication that we would not run the piece with the photo provided was wrong, as we would have been proud to share her inspirational story.”
When BuzzFeed reached out to the freelancer handling the story, Jessica Girdwain, all she would say was, “I totally support what [Shape] says.” Girdwain is not currently under contract with Shape.
8. Misunderstanding or not, since Brooke posted about her Shape experience on her blog last week, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The response has been, ‘I needed to see a picture of this. I needed to know that my body is OK like this,’” she told BuzzFeed. “Yes, there’s been negative people, but I didn’t do this for those people. I did this for people to know that they are not alone in these issues.”
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