There’s been a backlash recently against all those “real women” contests run by lingerie companies trying to show that they identify with “average” folks, not just supermodels.
You know the kind: send in your Sears photo studio glossies and win a chance to become an unpaid lingerie model. This approach got a well-deserved drubbing recently by The Lingerie Addict, whose article on the issue touched a nerve with many PO’d readers.
Not all labels are equally guilty, but in general “real women” campaigns have begun to seem exploitative, a bit fake, and not very representative of “real” women. (The low point in this trend came last summer when Ultimo picked 24 “real women” for its campaigns, announced it wasn’t using professional models anymore, then did an about-face and hired a Brazilian superhottie.)
Now, HOTmilk Nursing Lingerie — which, ironically, was one of the earliest labels to try a “real women” photo contest — has found a way to remind us what these campaigns were meant to achieve in the first place.
HOTmilk’s “Inner Beauty Search” asked customers to discuss how they feel about their pregnancy and its effect on their body image — generally, how they stay connected to their “inner beauty” during a momentous time in their lives and relationships. Any mention of sexy lingerie was, of course, welcome too.
The catch? No photo required. Judging of entries was literally “blind”, and focused only on how women see themselves, not how well they pose for a camera.
The campaign, which wrapped up today with the selection of a winner and 5 runners-up, drew entries from around the globe. Women who might feel uncomfortable being judged for their appearance (sound familiar?) were eager to share their thoughts and feelings about beauty and lingerie under the protection of relative anonymity.
The entries in the HOTmilk campaign, as you’ll see below, were often moving, funny, and deeply personal. And yes, the “inner beauty” of the writers shines through.
The winner was “Shannon” from Australia, who had this to say in her submission:
The challenges I face seem only minor when I put things into perspective (i.e. heartburn), so embracing the natural changes to my body and letting go of any negativity helped me to cope with body confidence. Knowing that what is happening to my body is an organic part of life and learning to love how my body develops over time definitely helps to nurture my confidence and I have begun to love every bit of my body and its subtle changes. I truly felt like a woman, sensual and beautiful and, best of all, a mother.
Wearing HOTmilk lingerie gives me the confidence to not only feel sexy during pregnancy but to embrace the curves that made my body feel so womanly. There is something truly wonderful about good quality, great fitting lingerie that makes a woman feel empowered and to couple that with the feminine power of pregnancy certainly boosted the way I feel about my body. And my husband appreciated it, too.
Shannon will receive a generous assortment of gifts, including a photoshoot for an upcoming HOTmilk campaign — which will be the first chance HOTmilk and the rest of us get a chance to see her. But we already know she’s a beauty.
Below are other entries from the competition, provided to us by HOTmilk. Amazing to see how many feelings are universal — and positive!
I have suffered with anorexia for over 10 years so I have found it important to love my ever growing belly and appreciate that my body is doing something amazing! My body looks beautiful because it is growing my healthy babies!
Being large busted has always caused me confidence issues however as I have grown old I have learnt to embrace what I have and sought where to shop … and not to let chain stores dictate to me what is acceptable and normal and force me into grannyhood early.
I felt sexy that I could wear lingerie that fit during pregnancy. It still gave me that special flare I wanted to help boost my confidence. Most of all I loved the feeling of making my husband still turn his head for a look.
For the first time in my life I felt perfectly confident with my body when I was pregnant. And I still do. It was great to feel feminine even with swollen feet and aching back. I am still a sexy woman and a mom.
Even though I’ve a very critical environment I’ve taught myself to love my body no matter what anyone says. I’m the best judge of how healthy, fit and beautiful it is.
Liselotte, The Netherlands
The stretch marks and bit of extra weight in the wrong places are the signs that you have experienced the joy of motherhood and should not be something we as mothers are ashamed of (but some days these are difficult to be fond of)! I have an amazing partner who loved my pregnant figure and still loves me as I am — not perfect, but perfect in his eyes.
Maurine, New Zealand
I was worried about my breasts sagging, but then I realised that breastfeeding is the purpose for breasts, so if they sag afterwards then obviously that is what breasts are meant to look like. I am proud of my body, the stretch marks, scars and sagging!
Hilary, New Zealand
My body confidence has never been great but this pregnancy has given me an increased amount of confidence. I love walking around the house in my sexy lingerie with my husband commenting how beautiful I look when I am pregnant. I hope my confidence doesnt fade when the baby arrives!
The extra weight gain from having three children reasonably close together is one challenge although I am confident I will get the body I need to do the things I want sometime in the future. For me it’s not so much about what I look like, but having the body that will do what I want physically — eg. cycling, tramping and enjoying being physical. I might be 5 kg more than before but that’s okay as long as I can remain active and do what I want. I have developed painful and pretty unsightly varicose veins on one leg in particular which I’ve been wearing pressure tights for 4 months to try to stop them getting worse and help with discomfort. But again, I forget about myself when I look at my kids and am reminded why we are so willing to sacrifice ourselves.
Nicola, New Zealand
It’s amazing the power that sexy lingerie has over a woman! It allows me to feel beautiful while nursing and nourishing my babe. A far cry from the typical nursing wear, which does anything but. It’s one small way of instilling and boosting confidence, silently, during a time when we as women and mothers typically feel the most insecure about ourselves.
With the last pregnancy I hadn’t felt sexy due to the Granny-style stuff on offer. Now with this one my partner won’t leave me alone as he loves all my curves and the way they look in my HOTmilk lingerie! He keeps asking me to buy more, which I do!
Christina, New Zealand
I always tried to see the funny side of things and laugh through it all. I had become a peeing machine. I waddled when I walked. I karate kicked my husband (in bed…on accident). I was convinced my baby would look like Sloth from The Goonies. I embraced my huge belly both literally and figuratively. The bigger my belly got the MORE confident I felt because it became more and more obvious that I had a kick-ass healthy baby growing inside me.
Chelsea, New Zealand
I absolutely love my changing body, I have always had large breasts but being measured at 24 weeks and learning I’m now a 14H was a massive blow to the self-esteem! To me a “H” stands for huge hideous bras. HOTmilk bras have changed my perspective on that saying. “H” now stands for heavenly.
Puffy hobbit feet & face & oedematous under my belly button and spewing every day on my drive to work made me feel totally unsexy. I borrowed a full length mirror so I could admire my changing body as a whole image, as the wondrous creator of life. … HOTmilk made me look hot! It was a way of honouring my body for the miracle it was a part of creating, my daughter Arabella.
Sunflower, New Zealand
Wearing something feminine that’s made with gorgeous fabric always puts a smile on my face, and happy women are sexy women!
I have lost my toned stomach; I have gained a family member. I have lost my youthful breasts; I have gained security in the fact that I have given my child the healthiest start possible.