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We Re-Created Women's Swimsuit Ads And This Is What Happened

I don't think you're ready for this jelly.

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Photo by: Macey J. Foronda/BuzzFeed // Editing by: Jenna Williams/BuzzFeed / Charlotte Gomez / Beach Bunny / Victoria's Secret / H & M / BuzzFeed

Let's face it: Bikini ads are a fantasy of toned abs, perfect skin, clear water, and blue skies. But when it comes to trying on the actual swimsuits...well, that's when things get interesting. And while the societal pressure to have a perfect body is admittedly different for dudes — think rippling abs and that V-thingy around your waist (you TOTALLY know what we're talking about) — it still is very, very real.

So that got a few of us BuzzFeeders thinking: What would we learn if we tried to replicate popular bikini ads as men? Would we learn anything more about the pressures these types of ads place on women — and to a lesser degree, would we feel any pressure of our own?

Oh, and we also tried pretty hard to not get sand in places that it shouldn't be.


How Norberto felt about his body before the shoot: I don’t have a positive opinion about my body. I have no sexiness to flaunt. I am as sexy as a three-dollar sandwich from 7-Eleven. I'm a big dude, so going into this, I knew it was going to be a painfully awkward experience.

How Norberto felt about his body after the shoot: That was awkward, all right. For me, trying to pose like these models is like trying to build Michelangelo’s David with Nickelodeon Gak. It’s impossible, it’s frustrating, and you’re working with LOTS of jiggly bits. Our photographer Macey kept telling me to pop my hip. I was popping my hip. But you can’t see my fabulous hip pop because there’s a lot of ~fat~ in the way. My knees hurt like a mofo, because standing in the sand on my knees feels like a million little knives penetrating through the skin. And since I’m a heavyweight, the pain was tenfold. Also, these models have a natural “sexy face” in the ads. I don’t have one of those. I naturally look like a creeper with a horrifying grumpy face. It’s not sexy. It’s VERY not sexy. Note to self: Never go to the beach.

How Alex felt about his body before the shoot: Going into the shoot day, I felt pretty good and relaxed about modeling for a wide audience. I think that’s likely because of a double standard that exists between men and women. I’m far from a model, but if I can laugh this whole thing off and get some humor out of it, I can get away with it more easily than perhaps if I were a woman doing the same thing, which is unfair. Sure, I might have a bit of a dad bod going on, but, I assumed, that would be no problem because I would rock this photo shoot with complete confidence — confidence, I hoped, that would ooze out of my soulful yet intense eyes.

How Alex felt about his body after the shoot: I went into the shoot with the strong conviction that I wouldn’t be self-conscious about it at all. The reality ended up being a bit different, as was evident by how much I sucked my gut in for the final group photo. In fact, I actually started going to the gym a lot more right after this experiment, as this whole debacle proved to be a stark reminder that I no longer have the body I had as a 22-year-old. I was also self-conscious about the posing itself. As I was posing, I was thinking about how under no circumstances on any average day, would I ever pose the way I did for this shoot. I kept on wondering, Why the fuck is my hand just pointlessly waving around and Why do I feel the need to hug my own abdomen? and Why can’t my hips move that way? Are they lying?

Photo by: Macey J. Foronda/BuzzFeed // Editing by: Jenna Williams/BuzzFeed

How Sam felt about his body before the shoot: I approached this shoot like a big exam in college: I got a good night’s rest before, I wore comfortable clothes, and I studied a lot — and by studied I mean eating basically kale and Greek yogurt for the three days prior. Yes, I definitely felt pressure to look good, and who WOULDN’T? I’ve watched enough episodes of America’s Next Top Model to know this experience wasn’t going to be a cakewalk (thanks for the education, Tyra), but I felt like I was competing in the Olympics of Trying to Look Sexy, and I was definitely not going to medal — more likely face-plant in the sand. You go to the beach to relax, not to turn into a sexy human pretzel.

How Sam felt about his body after the shoot: In spite of all the seaweed and salt water I had to deal with (ew), I love how my picture turned out, and what’s funny is it had nothing to do with my pose. Granted, I’m fairly comfortable with my body to begin with (swimming competitively for nearly a decade and walking around in public in a Speedo will do that to you), but I genuinely had fun with this, and I think you can tell in the picture — my smize is on POINT. Listen, I have many traits that the media seems to place a premium on (I’m a fit, cis white male), but I still feel pressure to look a certain way, ESPECIALLY in this day and age where we document every move we make online. But at the end of the day, it’s way more important to rip a page from Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s book and be feeling yourself, you know what I mean? Also, I *STILL* am finding sand in places you won't believe. Sorry if that was TMI.


How Javi felt about his body before the shoot: Before the shoot, I was hella nervous. I’ve never liked my body or have been comfortable with it. The ideal for men is an athletic look with a six-pack. Most of the time that’s just not possible, unless you make a very hardcore commitment. Even when I think I look OK, I’ve never been satisfied with my physique. I grudgingly agreed to go do the shoot, but even up until the last second I thought about backing out. I’ve always had issues with my body, thinking it wasn’t chiseled or athletic enough, and the thought of being exposed is terrifying.

How Javi felt about his body after the shoot: During the shoot, I didn’t like it at all. I’m only exposed like that when I’m at my house walking around in my chones. I took my shirt off at the very last second and was NOT comfortable. It was cool getting out to the beach, though, and after a while you start to get comfortable with it. Afterward, though, the anxiety begins to creep back in again. Again, having your body exposed to thousands of strangers is nerve-racking to say the least. I was dreading the day when I would actually have to ~look~ at the pictures myself.

Charlotte Gomez / Thinkstock

Norberto: Ooof…that was hard to look at. If I had it my way, I’d be wearing black and LOTS OF LAYERS in these photos. I would also change the location to a wooded area. I would also do the shoot at night in total darkness. And I would replace myself with a puppy. Because let’s be real…I would prefer to see a photo of a puppy than my man boobs out in full display.

It's ridiculous to expect women to look like the models in these ads. Don't get me wrong, these models work very hard and dedicate their lives to look the way they do. And their work is commendable. But there's an entire three-ring circus behind the scenes — photographers, makeup artists, lighting crews, wardrobe people, Photoshop — all working together to create very unrealistic images of women. And these images are EVERYWHERE...and that fucking sucks. As a man, I may not face the same societal pressures that women do. But I can empathize. And that's something all men should be doing.

Alex: Outside of the fact that that these are all gorgeous women, the thing that strikes me the most about the ads we were trying and failing to re-create is how unnatural they appeared. Like, if I were walking on a beach and saw a woman making any of these poses without a camera around, I would almost certainly tell my friends about it later. I think what is being sold here is not necessarily the bathing suit itself, but the sultry looks one could use to attract a partner if only they had ~the right~ bathing suit. It seems like a successful advertising model for a company, but it strikes me as almost destined to disappoint the buyer. Even if one were to find the perfect bathing suit, it would be hard for them to strike any of the poses in the ads without getting some seriously confused looks from everyone around them.

Sam: The biggest takeaway I have from this shoot is how far removed from reality advertising — and specifically, the portrayal of women in advertising — actually is. Yes, these ads feature real women. But what you don’t see is everything that goes on BEHIND the scenes to make these images a reality — the Olympic-level training, the crazy posing and lighting, the travel, the photoshopping. And yeah, I think as a society we do a halfway decent job of telling ourselves that while these are the bodies women should strive for, most will never actually look like that. The problem is that because these images are so ubiquitous, that doesn’t matter, and consequently these insane standards thrive. It’s like Duane Reades in New York City — you can’t escape them!

And don't worry, Mom and Dad, I'm not quitting my real job to become a model anytime soon.

Javi: Doing this was a wake-up call to how woman are portrayed in all forms of media. The poses are totally unrealistic, and no one actually does that kind of stuff at the beach — for the most part. This was evidenced as people walking by were laughing at us during the shoot. It’s nonsense when you think about it, but we are literally bombarded with those kinds of portrayals EVERY SINGLE DAY. I liked NOTHING about being in that pose myself — I felt exposed, and, quite frankly, silly. That’s the same attitude I’m going to have when I view a similarly absurd ad.

Once the photos were ready, I avoided looking at them for two days before I gathered the nerves to do so. Afterward, I still didn’t like what I saw. I saw the rolls I’ve acquired through not working out enough. I’m more comfortable with myself after this, but still want to work to improve.