Seventeen Magazine launched their #PerfectlyMe in October 2016 coinciding with the day they dubbed National Body Confidence Day (Oct 17). In the launch announcement, the publication stated this was more than just a 24 hour celebration, it was a movement. They teamed up with social media app Instagram for the #PerfectlyMe campaign, which they say was an attempt to “get the conversation going about body image and to create a community where we accept and celebrate ourselves — and each other — for the amazing individuals we are.”
They were encouraging their readers to help make social media a safe space by uploading images of themselves coupled with body confidence messages, look for role models who share positive messages, and share stories about women and girls who inspire them. There was a distinct anti-bullying aspect to this campaign also, which we love.
This campaign coalesced around body image as the central theme, and the young women highlighted in the “Real Girl Stories” series for this campaign was a great example of how many amazing role models are out there in our everyday communities, who deserve more recognition.
Esmee, an 18 year old woman shared her struggle from battling anorexia to eventually getting involved in sports which set her on the path to recovery. Shalom, a 20 year old woman told of an accident in her childhood which left her severely burned and scarred on her face. Although she wanted to hide her appearance growing up, she finally learned she had no reason to hide and found the confidence to not feel invisible anymore.
Paola, a 21 year-old woman, admitted she spent far too much time photoshopping her Instagram images in fear of people thinking she was “plus-sized”. It was during her senior year of high school that she recognized she had to un-learn the socialized stigma she lived, which declares plus size bodies as less worthy. Now she used her social media as a platform to spread body-positive messages about love and acceptance.
Another young woman who was featured was Pamela Reynolds, a 17 year old who has a remarkable story of triumph over illness. As a child she contracted meningitis (a disease that infects the fluid around the brain and spinal cord) and had to have both her legs and some of her fingers amputated. In an op-ed about her journey, Pamela talks about the upbringing she had and how her parents impacted her positive outlook on life. She was chosen by Seventeen after uploading an image to Instagram and sharing her story.
“I wrote about how I have no problem with my legs; that’s the way God made me. You can’t hate something you can’t change,” she told the Times and Democrat online in an interview about being part of Seventeen’s campaign.
“Because everything happened when I was so young, how I look has never seemed weird to me. I consider my body normal because this is just the way I am. I grew up with a pretty strong self-image because my parents and sister have always told me that I’m perfect and I believed them,” she wrote.
Her father Clarke Reynolds told WMBF News he was adamant about treating both his daughters, twins, the same.
“[I] always told both [my] daughters they can do anything they wanted to do,” he said.
Although she had a strong foundation, Pamela still received mixed reactions from the public, but was able to recall the messages from her upbringing to overcome any negativity.
“I’ve had to deal with other people’s awkward stares and reactions to my prosthetics, and that’s when it hits me that I don’t look like most people. I’ve wondered, Is that okay? Should I feel sad? But then I remind myself that I rock at life. You name a sport and I’ve done it: cheerleading, softball, tennis, track, swimming. These days, I play varsity soccer and volleyball, and I even have a job as a lifeguard. I may not have “real” feet, but I can save your life because I’m a bada** like that,” she wrote.
The inclusion of this young amputee is giving much-needed visibility to the differently-abled community in the mainstream media. When you look at most popular women’s and girl’s magazines, TV shows, films, and fashion campaigns, you have to really search to find a people with disabilities. They are the largest minority in the world and the most under-represented in entertainment. This needs to change immediately, especially in light of the fact that America has elected a man to the highest level of leadership in the world who openly mocked a disabled reported during his campaign, normalizing the disdain of a demographic already so invisible from the public eye.
More so than just giving voice to the differently-abled community is the need for mainstream media to normalize their presence in magazines, campaigns, imagery etc. Pamela says she wants people to know her disability doesn’t stop her from being an accomplished athlete.
“A lot of times when I go play sports and stuff, other people think I won’t be good enough. They automatically judge me on my body image and I take that negative energy to train harder and try to be better and show them just because I look like this doesn’t mean anything at all. I can do exactly everything you can do and sometimes do it better, depending on what it is,” she said.
Since she was 5, she has been playing volleyball, soccer, and surfing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where she is from. In 2015 she was part of an all-star soccer game for the Independent School’s Association. She plans to run track in Spring 2017, and eventually study either sports medicine or general surgery.
Pamela’s involvement in the #PerfectlyMe campaign is an important message to all young women that they matter, and no matter how “other” the world might make them feel, they DO belong. It was a message she had the privilege of growing up with, yet not everyone does.
“It’s very important to know that you’re worth something and that you’re beautiful no matter what…It doesn’t matter what anybody looks like or what they are capable of or who they are as a person, you have no idea what they’re capable of,” she said.
We hope to see more stories and messages like Pamela’s in many more publications, on a regular basis. Normalization and true inclusion doesn’t happen when a minority group is giving visibility as a token gesture. We can’t wait to see more young women’s stories being shared in magazines like Seventeen, as a way to inspire a generation of young women.