There’s an important message in the new photo campaign featuring Emma Roberts for teen lingerie label Aerie, which should send the Internet into a tizzy this week.
The Scream Queens actress agreed to do the unretouched photo shoot partly to promote Aerie‘s fall collection and its #AerieREAL campaign, but also to get teens to think twice about doctoring their own Instagram selfies.
“I want to promote the idea that it’s okay to look like yourself — you don’t have to Photoshop your Instagrams,” Roberts, 24, told Refinery 29 while on the set of the Aerie shoot earlier this summer.
“It’s important for me to be a part of this, because I see how hard it is for girls my sister’s age (14) with social media, and feeling like they need to look a certain way. … It doesn’t always have to be a sexy selfie.”
That’s a powerful, and impactful, message coming from a star with a huge fan base among social media-savvy teens, who are bombarded daily with carefully crafted selfies from celebrities who often use stylists and fashion photographers to give their ‘candid’ moments an unrealistic polish.
Roberts, who was last seen in two seasons of American Horror Story, is the first celebrity spokesmodel brought in by American Eagle‘s high-flying underwear brand since it debuted the #AerieREAL campaign 18 months ago.
The campaign — in which Aerie vowed to stop airbrushing its models and to use a diverse array of body types in their advertising — was a strategic turning point for the brand and won universal acclaim from its youthful customer base.
Last month, parent company American Eagle Outfitters reported revenue growth of 12% over the same quarter a year ago — at a time when many other mall-based fashion retailers are struggling. Much of that growth was attributed to the Aerie brand, which reported sales up a whopping 18% over the previous year.
And Aerie’s rise — some analysts have said the 9-year-old label poses a significant threat to Victoria’s Secret‘s dominance in the lingerie market — can be traced directly to its rebranding, which reflected the growing dissatisfaction that customers feel toward fashion marketing.
The messages accompanying the new Aerie campaign are targeted with laser-like precision at a generation of consumers that, paradoxically, craves authenticity while still being enthralled by the glamorous, fairy-tale lives of young celebrities.
“No Hollywood Lights. No Special Effects. No Retouching,” says the headline in Aerie‘s press release about its latest campaign to “challenge supermodel standards.” As an alternative to all that Tinseltown fakery, Aerie offers “photos (that) capture Emma’s authentic beauty, playful spirit and real self.”
“Emma is the kind of girl our Aerie girls would be friends with,” brand president Jennifer Foyle said in the press release, adding that the campaign is meant to promote self-acceptance and “encourage the celebration of reality over fantasy.”
For Roberts, the Aerie campaign allows the actress to show another side of celebrity life that is less glamorous but more genuine.
“Partnering with Aerie was a natural fit for me because #AerieREAL is a message I personally identify with, particularly being in an industry that is quick to judge flaws,” she said in the press release. “I feel so honored to be part of a movement that reassures women that real doesn’t mean flawed. Real is sexy, real is cool.”
“I hope girls feel good knowing that when you see these supposedly ‘perfect’ people in movies or in ads, that’s not real,” she told Refinery 29 earlier. “The way actors and celebrities are presented can be so unrealistic, and I wanted to put myself out there in a different way.”
Ironically, although Roberts makes a good spokesperson for #AerieREAL, she’s probably not the best poster girl for a campaign that’s meant to make people feel good about their imperfections. With her creamy pale skin, slender frame and an absence of noticeable blemishes, piercings or tattoos, the unphotoshopped Emma looks pretty much the same as the TV and film star most people are already familiar with.
Here’s a look at the first set of images from the campaign, with Roberts modeling underwear, sleepwear and casual clothing from Aerie‘s fall and holiday collections. Beneath that you’ll find a second gallery of behind-the-scenes images from the location shoot in New Orleans.
The campaign had its unveiling last Friday at an L.A. dinner party featuring Roberts and her Scream Queens co-stars Lea Michele and Glen Powell and other Hollywood up-and-comers. Scream Queens, the latest project from the production team behind both AHS and Glee, debuts on Fox on Sept. 22.
CREDITS: Campaign photography by Ali Mitton; BTS photography by Neilson Barnard, Getty.