Stephens alumna Jennie Runk has been making news for being normal.
Well, actually, she’s not that normal. She’s absolutely beautiful. But she is a normal size.
And then a big-named swimsuit company had the audacity to put her in a bikini and use her photos in its campaign without even labeling it as anything other than “beachwear.”
Here are the headlines:
“H&M’s new Beachwear collection has groundbreaking approach to swimwear for curvy girls” (warning: click on that one and a “Weight Watchers” ad pops up.)
Amidst all the media attention, Jennie—who was a model before she attended Stephens, where she earned a creative writing degree in 2011—decided to share her own thoughts. She wrote this commentary for BBC News Magazine. Jennie writes:
“I had no idea that my H&M beachwear campaign would receive so much publicity. I’m the quiet type who reads books, plays video games, and might be a little too obsessed with her cat.
So, suddenly having a large amount of publicity was an awkward surprise at first. I found it strange that people made such a fuss about how my body looks in a bikini, since I don’t usually give it much thought.
When my Facebook fan page gained about 2,000 new likes in 24 hours, I decided to use the attention as an opportunity to make the world a little nicer by promoting confidence. I’ve since been receiving lots of messages from fans, expressing gratitude.
Some even told me that my confidence has inspired them to try on a bikini for the first time in years. This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to accomplish, showing women that it’s OK to be confident even if you’re not the popular notion of ‘perfect.’
This message is especially important for teenage girls. Being a teenage girl is incredibly difficult. They need all the help and support they can get.
When our bodies change and we all start to look totally different, we simultaneously begin feeling pressured to look exactly the same. This is an impossible goal to achieve and I wish I had known that when I was 13. …
Read more about her experiences here, but she goes on to write:
Having finally survived it, I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it’s acceptable to be different. You will grow out of this awkwardness fabulously. Just focus on being the best possible version of yourself and quit worrying about your thighs, there’s nothing wrong with them.
What an inspiring message. I hope her young fans take it to heart.
Like Jennie, I can’t wait for a society that stops obsessing over size. But I’m kinda a hypocrite because sometimes I obsess, too. I hate running into people who knew me in high school or college—I know the first thing they’re going to notice is I’ve grown out! But I’ve also grown up, and unfortunately what they can’t see is that my confidence has grown just as much as my waistline.
In the meantime, models such as Jennie will be the pioneers leading us toward that nirvana.
You can learn more about her by becoming one of the 3,477 (as of Wednesday morning) people who “Like” her page on Facebook.
Actually, make that 3,478. Because I’m definitely a fan.