As girls we grew up idolizing the women we saw in magazines, and hoping that maybe someday, when we finally grew up, we would look in the mirror and see that same beauty in ourselves.
Every summer we are exposed to the flawless pictures of Victoria’s Secret models. And every summer, we wonder why when that bathing suit arrives in the mail, we put it on and don’t feel flawless.
We decided to re-create our own swimsuit photo shoot on the beach in Malibu. We each chose a model and then tried to re-create her pose. We think it’s very important for women of all different shapes, sizes, and colors to rock these bathing suits and give an accurate depiction of what a beach body really is. So that’s what we did.
Honestly, I wish we could go back to wearing old-timey full-coverage swimsuits. I also have fairly large boobs and it’s really hard to find a suit that lets me move around and NOT flash people. I assumed these models just got made up, put on the swimsuit, struck a pose and got the shot. Easy. But it wasn’t easy. The sand was really hard and hurt my knees. It was freaking cold that day and I did not want to wet my hair in the ice water of the Pacific. I struggled to make my body even somewhat resemble the model’s, no matter how much I sucked in.
Looking at these models was just a constant reminder that never in my adult life have I been that skinny or white, so I can’t pretend that I relate. It sucks because there are different ways to represent “bikini bodies” and beauty in general, but we’re force-fed one image. I wish I could see someone like me in a magazine, but I’m still waiting.
I feel pretty self-conscious wearing a bathing suit, especially a bikini. I got lucky in that I was wearing a one-piece. I think I would’ve been really nervous to wear a bikini just because I feel very exposed in them even when I’m not being photographed. Everyone has cellulite, stretch marks, and pudge. Only you are focusing on your “problem areas” — nobody else cares. A photograph is so misleading because it’s just capturing a millisecond. Everything is flexed or tucked (or photoshopped), so it’s not real. It’s important to remember that.
This is going to sound absolutely crazy but I am actually not a Victoria’s Secret model. I know, this is a huge shock and we should alert the church elders. I wish I could say I was a very confident 13-year-old who didn’t care for Victoria’s Secret Angels, but I’d be lying to myself. I used to see photos of these girls and hope that one day I could look like that. Especially the ones that were always like, “Oh, I like to do light stretching for working out, I love burgers.” Like, who da fuq are you?
I’ve never been a huge fan of swimsuits. Why are they so clingy? Why do none of them support my boobs? (Oh, people “concerned” about my health, this is the part where you complain if I can’t find swimsuits in my size, that I should just lose weight.) So imagine just how excited I was when I had to put on a fucking swimsuit on a fucking beach with my fucking photo posted next to that of fucking Behati Prinsloo, a Namibian supermodel who married fucking Adam Levine. You guys, this position hurt so much I can’t even explain. The hard sand, the pressure on my knees, the awkward inner thigh grab with a back ankle grasp. I was so over this. Do I look sexy? ‘Cause I can just see the pain in my eyes. My boobs also look like they’re trying to escape from prison — wait, sorry, is that too soon? Oh, hi belly button!
P.S. I had to shave my legs for this and it had been…a while.
Swimsuits and I aren’t really friends yet. More like acquaintances who will never actually meet up to get coffee. I have a lot of abdominal pain with bloating, and because of that I am very self-conscious when it comes to my stomach. Thinking about doing this beforehand made me squirm. Also, BIG SHOUT OUT TO MOTHER NATURE FOR BLESSING ME WITH MY PERIOD MERE HOURS BEFORE I HAD TO WEAR A WHITE MESH BIKINI. I have endometriosis, so my time of the month is literal hell. I was uncomfortable showing my abdomen, I was in pain, but mostly, I just wanted to figure out how the hell she got her arms to move that way. I still don’t know, for the record.
I think it’s really hard to look at the women in the magazine and actually relate to them. I mean, they’re literally flawless. For the longest time I thought that if I tried hard enough I could someday look like them. Just one more hike or 30 more minutes on the treadmill and I would get there. But I never did. I want a magazine that I can pick up and look at the women and say, “Oh my god, that’s so me,” not “Oh my god, I wish that was me.”
I think I have the same level of anxiety most women have when it comes to prancing around in something that barely covers your ass. I knew I was going to be out of my comfort zone. I didn’t think I’d be splashing around in the waves or tossing my hair in the wind while a Calvin Harris song played in the background. Also I ate a pack of Pop-Tarts immediately before the shoot, which I regretted the whole time.
The thing that sucks about these magazines is they just make you feel like crap. You look at the swimsuits, and the models, and you just don’t see yourself represented.They’re beautiful women, no doubt. But they don’t depict what real women really look like. I think it’s unhealthy for girls to only have one image of what a “bikini body” is. Because a bikini body isn’t a model’s body, it’s YOUR body in a bikini.
First of all, this bathing suit was the tits. I’m not really in a pose that really demonstrates how kick-ass it felt, but ask around, I spent this whole day wiggling around and taking selfies and generally enjoying myself. I don’t think I realized how long this model’s arm was until I tried to duplicate this this pose, and my own arm got stuck halfway through boob town. This is like the pose you make when you’re trying to act natural around your crush, so you decide to wrap your arms around your body so it looks like a straitjacket. That is to say, “natural” poses do not look natural on a lot of people.
I think all bigger girls learn pretty quickly what their most flattering “poses” are for pictures — if you spend a lot of time untagging bad pictures of yourself on Facebook, you figure it out pretty fast. For me, posing in a way that was almost intentionally unflattering felt like I was sabotaging myself. It was like, “What are you doing, Kristin?! Now everyone will know your DAAARK SEEEECRET about how your arms and thighs are MADE OF MARSHMALLOOWWWSSSS.”
But honestly, it’s OK. Marshmallows are great, and so am I, and so are you.
Nina: Honestly, this wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be. I’m nervous about showing my body off to strangers on the internet and I’m scared of how they’ll judge me. But as is true with most things in fashion, don’t compare yourself to the model. Very few of us are the model. I think if I hadn’t spent a few days obsessing over that picture, I would have felt more confident. You don’t have to look like the model to rock the suits!
Allison: I think everyone should get photographed on the beach in a bathing suit at some point in their life. It actually makes you feel super glam. Even if you’re self-conscious beforehand, it is a really fun experience that kind of helps you to get over any insecurities and just have fun with it.
Sheridan: IDK, I’m just so over the Angels movement. I think it’s obvious that any size can be sexy, whether you’re a 0 or a 20. I didn’t feel 100% comfortable rocking a suit so tight my nipples were calling for mercy, but I was hoping that by doing so, I could at least show people that it’s OK to bare your body. You don’t have to look like Behati to wear a swimsuit. Do what makes you happy and you’ll be OK in the end. Of course there will be some dicks out there who will enforce the idea that a model’s body is the only kind of body that is desirable, but screw them. We’re all beautiful, we’re all sexy, we’re all fantastic with our bones and stretch marks and scars. Ugh, sorry for the clichés, I’ll stop now.
Lara: I want to be able to celebrate every single body. Lately it seems as if every other online article you see deals with body image in some way. And you know what? There’s a reason for that. Doing this shoot just made me realize how far we’ve come with these issues…and how far we still have to go. I won’t stop talking about this until I stop hearing little girls worry about the way they look. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, and modeling is much harder than I ever could have imagined. So I’m sending out 1,000 claps to models everywhere and 1,000 claps to all of us mere mortals. We may not all be models, but the world is a runway for ALL of us. Bye.
Kirsten: Doing this was 100% out of my comfort zone. If I had my way I’d be wearing a nice conservative burlap sack in these photos. However, despite how terrifying it is to put yourself out there like this, I think it’s important for women and young girls to see themselves (and their varying body types) represented in mass media. Looking at the photos of my colleagues and friends rocking these suits, and absolutely exuding confidence, it helps me be less of a critic toward myself. Having airbrushed skin and zero fat doesn’t make you beautiful, having confidence and radiating that confidence makes you beautiful — “flaws” and all.
Kristin: I think if you asked the VS models what they thought about OUR pictures, they would probably say things like “Oh, your hair was so beautiful, I wish my hair was like that!” or “Wow, I wish I had your stomach!” Everybody wishes they had a body feature someone else has, even us, even fancy pretty lady models. It’s really hard to be objective about your own body — so when someone says something nice about you, you should believe them, because they probably wish they had that nice thing for themselves. Also, I learned that it is super easy to fall over in the sand when you are doing a fancy model turn, so props to you, models!
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