What's behind the #ImNoAngel beauty campaign?

Plus-size retailer Lane Bryant challenges Victoria's Secret's stereotypical body type and definition of beauty with its spring lingerie collection.

Lane Bryant, a women's clothing company specializing in sizes 14 to 28, launched the #ImNoAngel campaign for its lingerie line Cacique Monday. "I'm No Angel" is part of a global shift that's redefining beauty and attractiveness and directly challenging the impossible stereotype of an emaciated, photo-shopped model. 

In an age, too, where marketing surveys show that authenticity is a value cherished by both millennials and baby boomers, this is seen as a smart business move. 

The black-and-white photos show industry models Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Candice Huffine, Victoria Lee, Justine Legault, and Elly Mayday clothed in Cacique lingerie and confidently defying society's limited standards of beauty. The photos were taken by photographer Cass Bird and will be featured in a series of TV commercials and advertisements for the brand's spring campaign.

“Our ‘#ImNoAngel’ campaign is designed to empower ALL women to love every part of herself. Lane Bryant firmly believes that she is sexy and we want to encourage her to confidently show it, in her own way,” Lane Bryant CEO and President Linda Heasley said in a statement.

The name "I'm No Angel" is a clear dig at Victoria's Secret, which calls its uber-thin cast of models “angels.” Last year the lingerie giant was accused of body shaming when it launched a campaign that defined the “perfect body” in very specific and limited terms. However, Lane Bryant suggests that the name isn't meant to be an insult to Victoria's Secret.

 Lane Bryant's "I'm No Angel" campaign is the most recent in a series of moves by companies – as well as countries – to challenge and counteract damaging concepts of Western beauty in the media and within the fashion industry.

Earlier this month, France joined Italy, Israel, and Spain in banning unhealthily thin models in advertising campaigns and on catwalks. While this could lead to body policing issues of its own, it does discourage modeling agencies and fashion houses from hiring models with unhealthy body mass indexes.

Tess Holiday, who is five-foot-five and a size 22, recently signed with MiLK Model Management in the UK, making her the first plus-size model to sign a major modeling contract.

American Eagle Outfitters’ lingerie brand Aerie began its "Aerie Real" campaign in 2014, in which it vowed not to airbrush or retouch any of its models because "the real you is sexy." The company has since earned the approval of the National Eating Disorders Association for its portrayal of real bodies.

The "I’m No Angel" campaign is a departure from the unrealistic standards of beauty that have plagued the media worldwide and gets consumers accustomed to seeing real people in advertisements. However, many observers say that there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

Northwestern University Professor Renee Engeln, who is an expert in objectification theory and body image and the media, said in an email to the Monitor that “little change is likely” if plus-size models such as Tess Holiday remain the exception. “It takes more than one model to start re-shaping how we think about women’s bodies."

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