Body positivity in 2016
While there’s still much debate about what the body-positivity movement really means, one thing’s for certain: it has diversified the types of bodies we see on magazine covers, advertisements, on television, and everywhere in between.
In 2016 alone, fitness stars, athletes, models, and average women alike refused to conform to one standard of a beautiful body. Instead, they documented their belly rolls (yes, most of us have them!), cellulite, muscles, post-baby bodies, and more. Here, we share the most inspiring and downright badass body-positive moments of the year.
Photo: Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit covers
The magazine’s highly anticipated special issue took a body-positive turn when it released not one, not two, but three covers this year. Each featured a woman with a different body type: curvy model Ashley Graham, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, and long and lean model Hailey Clauson. “I thought Sports Illustrated was taking a risk by putting a girl my size in the pages,” Graham told People after the cover reveal. “But putting me on the cover? They aren’t just breaking barriers; they are the standard now. This is beyond epic.” Rousey, who showed off her strong physique coated in body paint, was the first athlete to be featured on the cover.
Photo: Chrissy Teigen/Snapchat
Chrissy Teigen shares her stretch marks on Snapchat
By now, you know Teigen isn’t one to shy away from speaking her mind on social media. She’s called out her fair share of internet trolls, but Teigen also took her candid speech to a new, body-positive level when she shared photos and videos of her stretch marks on Snapchat. If that’s not enough Teigen realness for you, she’s also shared makeup-free moments and a photo of her breastfeeding her daughter Luna.
Photo: Getty Images
Amy Schumer’s Pirelli calendar shot
The comedian, actress, and author tends to use humor to shed light on ridiculous body standards (case in point: her body con dress mirror picture). But earlier this year, Schumer had the opportunity to represent body positivity in a different way—in the Pirelli calendar. The beautiful black and white shot features Schumer perched in a chair in nothing but underwear, showing off her coffee cup and belly rolls to the world. As if the moment couldn’t get even more inspiring, she shared the shot on her Instagram with the caption: “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!”
You can see the now-iconic shot on Instagram.
Jessamyn Stanley’s inspiring Instagrams
This yoga instructor made headlines this year for defying typical yoga body stereotypes and proving anyone and everyone can benefit from the practice. Stanley, who isn’t afraid to tell the world she’s a big-bodied woman, inspires others via her Instagram account, where she’s shared countless images of her in headstands, back bends, and other challenging yoga poses. Her words and images are a total celebration of her body and we can’t get enough of it.
Photo: Courtesy Lonely Lingerie
Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke’s lingerie campaign
In March, Dunham said that moving forward, she refused to have images of her body retouched. “I bid farewell to an era when my body was fair game,” she wrote on Lenny, and the writer and actress has put those words in into action through a lingerie campaign with the brand Lonely. In the advertisements, Dunham poses with gal pal and Girls co-star Jemima Kirke. With their stomachs, thighs, and imperfect skin on display, these two prove that all bodies are beautiful—clad in lacey lingerie, naked, or otherwise.
Serena Williams’ "Sorry" music video cameo
When you didn’t think a Queen Bey music video could get any fiercer, along came the Sorry music video featuring a sexy, dancing Serena Williams. Rather than succumb to comments that suggested she was “manly” looking due to her muscular physique, the tennis champion came out on top, dressed in a tight body suit and celebrating her body by jamming out alongside Yoncé herself.
Photo: Getty Images
NYFW’s size-inclusive shows
This year's Spring fashion shows included more plus-size and body-inclusive designers than ever before. Project Runway alum Christian Siriano showcased chic dresses in up at a size 16, Tracy Reese announced her newest designs would go up to a size 18, and Ashley Graham modeled her lingerie collection for Addition Elle at the brand's show, just to name a few of the body-positive shows to hit the runways. With diverse designs came a diverse range of models, too. Some had thick thighs and others had stomach fat, but every single one looked beautiful.
Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign
Plus-size retailer Lane Bryant upped its advertising this year with a slew of goosebump-inducing campaigns. The #ThisBody campaign features videos of the brand’s models and full-figured celebrity declaring just what their bodies can do, shifting the focus away from looks and towards ability. Enter a mass transit center like the New York City subway, and you’ll be even more inspired by the campaign’s massive posters featuring women of all shapes and sizes in Lane Bryant’s sexiest apparel.
Photo: Getty Images
Ashley Graham’s curvy Barbie doll
At this year’s Glamour Women of the Year’s Awards, Ashley Graham was honored not just with a shiny trophy, but also with something a little more iconic—her very own Barbie doll. The model worked with Mattel to create a doll that looked like Graham herself. Notable features include the Barbie’s thick hips and, upon Graham’s request, no thigh gap. The doll emulates Graham’s bare-all style too in a sparkly, curve-hugging mini dress.
Hilaria Baldwin’s post-baby selfie
Seasoned yogi Hilaria Baldwin got real about pregnancy and childbirth when she posted a mirror photo showing her body just 24 hours after giving birth to her second son, Leonardo. She posted it to Instagram with a caption saying, “I feel that in the age of such strong body shaming, I want to do all that I can to normalize a real body and promote healthy self esteem.” She shows the world that having a bump post-birth it completely normal, for fitness stars and real women alike. In the end, it’s just important to take care of your body in a balanced and realistic way, Baldwin explained to her followers.
Iskra Lawrence’s Photoshop realness
Retouched images have only grown more prevalent, now that practically anyone can get their hands on Photoshop-like apps and tools. Knowing this, model Iskra Lawrence posted a side-by-side image on her Instagram, showing how deceiving these images can be. “Shocking it only took me about 10 minutes to Photoshop myself to ‘perfection.’ But WTF is perfect,” she wrote in the caption. It’s refreshing to see models like Lawrence flaunting their flaws, rather than hiding them with unattainable, retouched images.
The “Underneath We Are Women” photo series
Sick of the stereotypes placed on specific body types, Australian photographer Amy Herrmann started a photo series dedicated to telling the women’s singular relationships with their bodies. “These [sterotypes] are simply programmed responses created by us and for us to suit a greater societal ideal for what is deemed acceptable and ‘normal,'” Herrmann writes in her Kickstarter campaign. Each photo in the series features a woman or women with the words “Underneath I Am…” that the Herrmann’s subjects fill in (“resilient,” “adaptable,” and “vibrant” are just a few). After all, our bodies have more than just a physical appeal—they carry our personalities and life experiences along with them.
Celebrity realness on swimsuits
For many, donning a swimsuit can be a point of contention when it comes to remaining body-positive. It’s not just a sentiment average women have either—lots of celebrities have spoken up about their feelings on bathing suits over the past year, making us feel more at peace showing off our bodies come summer (or that mid-winter getaway).
“This is how I look. I feel happy. I think I look strong and healthy and also like Miss Trunchbull from Matilda,” wrote Amy Schumer to go along with a photo of her in a black one-piece. “As bikini season starts to roll in, let’s keep in mind that a girl wearing a swimsuit does not mean it’s a free ticket to judge her body,” said Blogilates founder Cassey Ho. “I don’t care to look absolutely perfect in a bathing suit. I’m a normal girl. I’m strong. I’m fit. I feel good about myself after I’ve had a baby,” Hilary Duff told Today. These women and more make us want to throw on our cutest suits and hit the beach, stat.
Photo: Aimee Rouski/Facebook
This Teen's Crohn’s disease photos
While the body-positive movement is great, it certainly lacks content in the disability and illness department. Luckily, a brave teenager named Aimee Rouski realized just that a sought to make a change with her honest social media posts. Rouski, who lives with Crohn’s disease, showed off her surgical scars and ileostomy bag. ”People who know [you have the disease] will still love you and still find you beautiful. Your illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about,” she wrote. With these images, she’s proving the movement is bigger than body shapes and sizes and can also focus on the body’s wonderful resilience, even when dealing with a chronic disease.
Stomach roll shots
So long thigh gap—the new body-oriented trend, showing off your stomach rolls, is a lot more attainable. Fitness gurus have been sharing split-screen photos showcasing their fit figures alongside an image of their very real belly fat. Jen Widerstrom, Anna Victoria, and Emily Skye are just three women who are trying to normalize this body characteristic that’s been considered unwanted for so long. “If I'm going to show you the posed, put together, professional sides of me, I'm gonna make damn sure you see the not so flattering sides too,” Molstad wrote on her Facebook post. “Because, contrary to what society has taught us to think, our worth isn't measured by how many belly rolls we have, or how many dimples on our booty, or how much jiggle hangs out on our arms.”