While I'm definitely an avid shopper, I admit I usually base my purchases on what I need and what I like when I try on, as opposed to being swayed by ad campaigns from retailers. Oftentimes, said images seem contrived or unrelatable (and sometimes, unattainable to the extent of being discouraging), so I rarely take them into consideration when choosing where to shop. That said, the #AerieREAL Role Models campaign is a major exception — it's the first time that marketing from a brand I already love has made me even more invested. And now that the #AerieREAL Spring 2019 Collection is here, the brand's shedding light on even more inspiring women and their stories.
If you weren't familiar with the original #AerieREAL Role Models campaign, the unretouched images featured four very impressive ladies: model and body positivity activist Iskra Lawrence, author and activist Cleo Wade, podcast host Jenna Kutcher, and gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman. This year, though, they're joined by a cluster of five more women, each as bold and brave as the next and all ready to share their stories and support one another, all while looking fab in Aerie's latest styles, natch.
Have you ever before seen such a badass, all-girl dream team? I think not:
The Spring 2019 new additions include actor, author, and talk show host Busy Philipps; activist and actor Jameela Jamil; gold medal Paralympic snowboarder Brenna Huckaby; creator and motivational speaker Molly Burke; and activist and actor Samira Wiley. Girl squad goals, people. Or should I say bold, fierce women squad goals.
Just as it's exciting for me and everyone else to see a variety of different women — with different bodies, skin tones, struggles, and skills — all represented in one ad campaign, the women themselves share it's a dream come true for them, too. "When I found out that I was going to be one of the faces of #AerieREAL, I couldn't even comprehend what that really meant," Brenna Huckaby tells Elite Daily in an exclusive interview. "I had seen last year's launch of the models and how excited and empowered I felt listening to their stories and seeing their images. When I found out that this was the person that I got to be, I was in complete awe, and so excited."
For Huckaby, who is a three-time world champion snowboarder, the whole campaign is a win-win, as she not only gets to learn about other inspiring women, but share her own story as well. "There were these voices that I didn't even know existed, that were so loud and so necessary, and I wanted to be a part of that," she says of the original #AerieREAL women. "As I grew comfortable with my own voice and what I had to offer, I realized that I had a message that somebody needed to hear, and so I wanted to be that voice on this platform."
What's more, she's thrilled that women aren't just being given a platform, but an honest, real, unretouched one at that. "When I think back to when I was 14, going through cancer and losing my leg, there was no representation for what my future was going to look like," Huckaby explains. "I had no idea, because I never saw that finish line. Being one of many women in the media now that have physical disabilities, we are that finish line for people. We're showing people, you are limitless, and you have worth and you have power, and you can do whatever you want. We get to be a visual representation of something that they had no idea they could be."
One of the other #AerieREAL women to share her story is Molly Burke, a YouTube content creator and motivational speaker who went blind at age 14 as a result of retinitis pigmentosa. If you check out any of Burke's fashion-focused videos, it's clear she values style, fabric, and feel when selecting her outfits by memory and touch, so her endorsement of Aerie says quite a lot about the brand's high level of quality. "I just love how you can walk out the door looking trendy and fashionable, and feeling like you're still in your pajamas," says Burke of the cozy, chic new pieces:
When it comes to opening up about her journey and how she got to a place of self-love and positivity, Burke insists it was a desire to educate and help others overcome their own obstacles. "Everybody's struggling with something. Some people's demons are more private and easy to hide, but everybody has something," she tells Elite Daily in regards to what motivates her to share her story. "And if I can use my challenges to help other people, it means that my pain has purpose."
This mindset is also why Burke looks up to fellow #AerieREAL Role Model Aly Raisman, who has been a major advocate for survivors of sexual assault. "She chooses to openly speak about very vulnerable things. I know how hard it is to publicly talk about the most painful moments of your life every day," says Burke. "And whenever I see somebody else who's on that same path in life, and is using their pain for purpose, it continues to inspire me to push through when it feels like too much. There's so much value in it, and there are not enough people doing it."
Cue Aerie, a brand Burke already swears by, with the perfect opportunity to educate others with her powerful story. "It's definitely one of my absolute favorite projects I've ever worked on," she says. "I've been shopping and wearing American Eagle since I was, like, 11, and then Aerie for the past four to five years, so I've been with Aerie for a long time as a fangirl. Look at my closet, half the stuff is American Eagle/Aerie in it! This is very literally a dream come true."
If you're inspired by these women and their stories, in favor of the unretouched images, and impressed by the cute clothes themselves, consider yourself a full-blown #AerieREAL fan — welcome to the club. Check out all the pieces modeled by these fab ladies and more, shop-able now on the Aerie site and in stores.