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Today is the 14th annual Love Your Body Day, which was started by the National Organization for Women to educate women about body image issues and eating disorders. It’s also meant to draw attention to the relentless barrage of print and TV ads that make women feel inferior about their bodies and seek improvement through diets, push-up bras and cosmetic surgery.

There are a variety of local activities being held to mark LYB Day across the U.S. but, in the busy calendar of public ‘awareness’ days, this important occasion too often goes by unnoticed. (Wouldn’t Michelle Obama be a fantastic public ambassador for this issue?)

For its part, NOW asks women to do one simple thing on LYB Day: talk about it.

To promote that message, NOW created the Let’s Talk About It campaign earlier this year to get women to open up about a subject that is very private and often wrapped up in shame and self-loathing. They invited women, including some well-known faces from the fashion industry, to submit personal videos that document their experiences with the bottomless pit of anxiety that is our self-image.

Here’s a gripping and articulate testimony from Crystal Renn, the supermodel who has often been the subject of humiliating public scrutiny because of her fluctuating weight. If you only think of Crystal as a plus-size model, wait till you hear her talk about how a battle with anexoria got her down to 95 pounds — 95 miserable, self-hating pounds. Watch the whole thing, as Crystal’s final comments are terrifically inspiring.

There are a total of 14 short videos in this series on NOW’s YouTube channel, featuring other models, writers, actresses and average women too.
As you watch these films, keep these statistics in mind: 80% of women say they are dissatisfied with their appearance; 50% say they would consider plastic surgery; and only 4% say they would use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe themselves.

Talk about this, girls, and don’t stop talking about it. There is huge power in collective action, as NOW has proven throughout its history.

In the meantime, if you do nothing else to mark Love Your Body Day, read the helpful list below of ‘15 ways to love your body‘. It’s reprinted from Margarita Tartakovksy’s insightful blog Weightless, which offers tons of advice, support and perspective for anyone affected by these issues. (You can find the original post here, which includes links to other parts of Margarita’s blog that address each of these points specifically.)

15 Ways To Love Your Body

1. Look at your layers, and begin with the inside.

2. Be aware of habits that hurt your body image.

3. Consider the moments you feel best in your body, and keep recreating them!

4. Figure out what loving your body even means to you. Body love isn’t some abstract, nondescript term. It’s made up of certain perspectives, attitudes and actions.

5. Remember that loving your body is a daily process. Just do one thing.

6. Spread the body love by helping others, which will in turn help you, too.

7. Remember that loving your body (and accomplishing your goals and practicing your passions) won’t happen X pounds from now. Don’t you see,  you don’t have to wait?

8. Pamper yourself, regardless of how you feel about your body.

9. Consider ditching dieting and the mentality that comes with restricting yourself and focusing on calories, points, etc., and ignoring your internal cues.

10. Reflect.

11. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for all the amazing things, big and small, your body helps you accomplish.

12. Get past body envy and comparison-making.

13. Think about five things you love about yourself and these four other body positive pick-me-ups.

14. Reconnect with your body.

15. Bask in life’s beauty.

NOTES: The main image above was created by Shanti Rittgers and was one of the winners in the 2008 Love Your Body poster campaign. … You can find Crystal Renn’s gripping 2010 autobiography, Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves here.

Steve Jobs Changed Fashion Shoots, Too
Posted by richard | October 9, 2011

Russell James, the celebrity fashion photographer, added this tribute to Steve Jobs over the weekend, showing how the former Apple CEO changed the way model shoots are done.

James posted three images on his Facebook page that offer a behind-the-scenes look at a recent Victoria’s Secret photoshoot, and how Apple products became surprisingly indispensable parts of the process.

“As I look around my shoot,” he writes, “it’s very apparent he was a game changer, even in our niche world of photography.”

“When Steve Jobs told us he would reinvent the phone what we didn’t understand was that he would reinvent the way we archive, share, listen and see,” Russell says, offering the photo above of Adriana Lima as an example. “Iphones are synchronized with my camera from the first moment of my shoot. Anyone from makeup artist to stylist to set designer can take out their iphone and see exactly what they need to. He put the shoot right in our pockets.”

The launch last year of the iPad presented Russell and other gadget-hounds with a new dilemma, he adds.

“When Steve Jobs announced the iPad I remembered all of us on set saying ‘But if I have a macbook and I have an iphone why would I need that thing?’. He nailed it again. One tryout and it became the way we previewed images on set, shared concepts and edited our shots. Once again he knew what we wanted before we did.”

A nice shout-out to Steve and Apple and another example of why all this week’s testimonials were so well deserved.

You can see Russell’s album ‘Steve Jobs – Contemplating The Loss’ here. While you’re there, take the time to look at the work Russell is doing with Nomad Two Worlds, and let’s all remember to support the good guys while they’re still with us.

The Lingerie Project: Naked Truths from Real, Real Women
Posted by richard | September 20, 2011

The most overdone trend in lingerie marketing is the use of “average women” to lend a veneer of everyday realism to a brand’s carefully packaged fantasies.

When done sensitively, these campaigns can give consumers a useful reference point. But they can also come across as exploitative: in almost all such cases the volunteer models aren’t paid, their “average” figures are given a Photoshop brush-up, and their personal stories must pass through the filter of the marketing agency that packaged the pitch.

The people behind these campaigns could learn a lot from Lorna Laurentino, a lingerie design student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology who has created a remarkable archive of what real, real women think about — and look like in — their undies.

Lorna’s photo blog, The Lingerie Project, focuses on ordinary girls and women from all backgrounds and invites them to a) pose in their favorite intimates; and b) talk about love, sex, identity and fashion … and how all those subjects intersect. (TLP is one section of Lorna’s personal blog, lornalaurentino.com.)

So far there are about two dozen individual profile-portraits in The Lingerie Project, and Lorna says she will be starting the series up again with a new batch this fall. Each of the profiles includes several professional-quality (and un-airbrushed) photo portraits and often-lengthy interviews.

Here’s what she has to say about her project:

Having grown up in a family made up completely of women, I’ve always felt a strong connection with the female body and knew this was the creative medium I was made for.

The Lingerie Project is not only about lingerie, but also about the woman in her lingerie. I like to explore the idea of what is sexy through a somewhat feminist approach, by addressing issues concerning body image and women’s status in society. 

The project showcases the everyday woman with the strength to bare herself in her favorite undergarments. She takes the opportunity to have her voice heard on a public forum, discussing why the undergarments are her favorite, things that make her feel sexy, what makes her feel uncomfortable, her relationships with men, women, and society.  The images are never photoshopped in any way, because every curve and dimple about a woman is beautiful.

Lorna’s subjects in The Lingerie Project offer exceptionally candid confessions as they talk about past and current loves and how their self-image has evolved as their bodies change. They come across as fearless, articulate and very self-aware.

Lorna’s gallery skews toward younger women, but the range is broad and diverse: from virgins to the sexually adventurous; women in love and those wounded by love; gay, straight and every other color of the rainbow; Victoria’s Secret fans and luxury label fanatics.

Once you’ve read a few profiles, The Lingerie Project begins to feel like an anthropological study of contemporary women — there’s a lot of depth here.

In one truly fascinating profile — the only one in which the subject’s identity is concealed by a pseudonym — a woman poses in her favorite lacy underthings while describing in heart-wrenching detail how she found personal freedom after a double mastectomy.

For Lorna, lingerie becomes a lens through which women can see and understand themselves more clearly. And her subjects will never be more naked than they are when discussing their deepest feelings in their favorite intimate apparel.

Below, we’ve reprinted some individual images and brief snippets of what the women in the photos say about themselves. If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to keep checking The Lingerie Project to see the latest instalment.

This isn’t just a cool blog, it’s terrific journalism.

“I’m a princess. I get what I want and I do what I want. That sounds really bad, but it’s true. Say I want a girl; I figure out her little quirks and what she likes and I play off of that. I act like I’m the shit and I seduce them. Because that’s really what you have to do; act like you’re royalty.”

“I always go back to the vintage thing. I love the idea of diving into your innermost personality; having another part of your personality under your clothes that you don’t always show to everyone.”

“If a guy is checking you out on the subway or in the supermarket, there’s nothing wrong with dropping your number on his lap.”

“I try and love all of me, but the things that I don’t necessarily love I work with. Sometimes I don’t like my stomach, so I go for the high waist panties and corsets… I wish I could go through life always wearing a corset.”

“It’s usually a roller-coaster in my skin. You have good weeks and bad weeks. I try and do things to help my body. But I do it for me, not for anyone else. And that feels great to have that independence again. It’s liberating  to be beautiful only for myself again.”

“I think the industry is lacking a good moderate priced intimate designer. If you want beautiful lingerie, you have to buy Kiki de Montparnasse or Agent Provocateur, and who can really spend that much on lingerie? Elle Macphearson has the right idea. Her lingerie isn’t cheap but you’re not only buying a name, you’re buying a design.”

“Women of status from 600-630 in the Middle East did not breast-feed their children. They always had a wet nurse, and the one to the man that would become the prophet, her name was Halima. Halima translates to the feminine of ‘dreamer’. I picked that pseudonym because the irony runs very thick within it for myself.  She was the woman that breast-fed the prophet. I have had a double mastectomy and will never have the ability to breast-feed.”

“When I was little I thought breasts were so intriguing. When my sisters started developing I became so fascinated; I wanted to learn more about how they worked and what they were for. I would even ask if I could take showers with them, and I’d try to feel them up in the shower. I just wanted to understand them … but I never got them. I always wanted boobs, but I never got them.  It’s kind of a running joke in my family.”

“I’ve had people tell me the idea of sleeping around is creepy or disgusting, but I personally think it’s perfectly natural for humans to be together, regardless if you know them or not. That’s what the human body is made for.”

“I have been through so many trust issues with girls… I put so much into all of my friendships and I just always felt like I would get screwed over…but through it all I’ve met so many real people and I’ve realized that girls aren’t always like that. I’ve formed great relationships… and I’ve come to realize that there’s people that you keep in your life for a reason, and if they’re not gonna treat you right then they aren’t worth having in your life.”

“I’m really passionate about being comfortable with one’s sexuality. I happen to have been with men and women… Regarding my orientation, I like to answer to people lately that I am a ‘wonderful question mark of love’. I don’t like labels and I don’t see why I couldn’t be with either an amazing guy or girl.”

I love a good play on words, so I was immediately attracted to Jenny Altman‘s new project, ILoveAGood.com. The name is intentionally incomplete — it’s an open-ended invitation for people to fill in the blank with whatever inspires, excites and motivates them.

I Love A Good is a new lingerie style website — it launches tomorrow — that promises to be a welcome new voice in fashion media. It aims to be many things to lingerie consumers: a product advice website, a style consultancy that connects readers with brands, and a meeting place for women to share information and questions related to lingerie shopping.

Jenny, who calls herself the ‘chic excecutive officer’, will be the public face, editor and principal tastemaker of ILoveAGood, and she was clearly born for the task. Imagine a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Marlo Thomas: a tireless stylehound with an infectious enthusiasm for lingerie and an impeccable resume to back up her opinions.

Many people will know Jenny (on the right in the photo above) from her recent role as style director for online retailer Bare Necessities, where she hosted the popular live Facebook conversations with shoppers, but that’s just the latest in a string of plum gigs. She’s been a magazine writer and editor for such titles as Oprah, Lucky and Marie Claire and, as a fashion stylist, she’s dressed celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and many more.

Jenny is joined on ILAG by partner Danielle Black (the ‘chic operating officer’) who has an equally impressive background as a sales executive for such brands as Yummie Tummie, Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt.

As a welcome gift to this highly likeable pair, Lingerie Talk invited Jenny to tell our readers — lingerie lovers all — what they can expect when I Love A Good debuts tomorrow. Here’s our conversation:

Q&A With Jenny Altman, Chic Executive Officer, ILOVEAGOOD.com

How will ILAG be different from all the personal style blogs, review sites and online boutiques currently on the internet?
ILOVEAGOOD is an online resource that will change the way women share, shop and view intimates. We offer women a two-way conversation; we can’t help women without hearing their voices.

You’re calling yourselves “THE underwear experts”. Where does your expertise come from?
It starts with us being real women who have been wearing undergarments our whole lives. Professionally, Danielle has spent 15+ years working with manufacturers on product fit and development as well as merchandising and retail sales. She was most recently part of the team that launched Yummie Tummie, learning all of the ins and outs of shapewear and intimates. Jenny has spent 15+ years dressing celebrities and real women for fashion magazines, commercials and live TV. At Oprah she was known around the office for being the Shapewear Queen since she spent so much time covering the intimates market, and loved sharing product and information with everyone.

How long have you been planning I Love A Good?
In one way or another…our whole lives.

What made you decide to do your own thing rather seek another fashion industry or media job?
After covering intimates at magazines such as Marie Claire, Oprah Magazine and Lucky, all roads pointed me in the direction of intimates. Magazines didn’t have that much real estate to dedicate towards intimates, and I had a lot to say (and women had a lot to ask).

Will ILAG be actually selling products?
ILOVEAGOOD is not carrying inventory. In doing so, we are free to speak from an unbiased perspective and won’t compete with the brands we love most.

Will you be talking about only North American labels, or brands from around the world? Only luxury labels, or brands from all price points?
We will be talking honestly about any brand we know and love, not just North American brands. Same goes for price point, if we love a product (whether it’s very expensive or inexpensive), we’ll be telling people about it.

Do the brands you recommend pay to be mentioned on ILAG?
The content is not paid for. No form of payment will ever influence our honest answers.

You had an interesting experience running the live discussion group for Bare Necessities. What did you learn from that experience about how women approach lingerie shopping? Why is it such a common source of frustration?
What I heard during the Q&A is similar to what I’ve always been hearing from real women. There is a lot of merchandise available, but women need help sorting through it to know what works best for them and their unique body type.

You’ve done a LOT of shopping. What was the worst experience you’ve had lingerie shopping? What was the best?
As a woman who enjoys shopping (like so many women do), I rarely have a bad shopping experience. My only frustrations come when my size is not available, or when I have to wait a week for my exciting new item to arrive. Best experience is when I see something I love, and I can buy it and take it home with me right away (in pretty little packaging, of course).

You’ve also worked with and helped dress many celebrities. Does their experience in lingerie shopping differ from that of average folk? Or do they also face the same frustrations?
Their experiences can be much more exciting than that of a regular woman (or man). Stylists pre-edit merchandise for them and they can buy whichever pieces they like and fit them the best. I had a great experience recently with Christina Hendricks while I was working with Lucky magazine. She liked the bras I picked so much that she purchased a handful of them. She discovered new brands that she may not have found on her own.

Ultimately, celebrities are still real women who need to find solutions for their specific body types.

In you personal life, how picky are you when shopping? Do you try on dozens of ensembles or just grab something you know from previous experience?
I am not picky when it comes to prices or brands, but since I’ve been the same size most of my life, I can spot instantly what will work for me.

You and Danielle are both slender. Can you represent the needs of larger and curvier women?
Along with our staff, we can associate with women of all shapes and sizes.

The market research for ILAG must have been brutal (NOT!). How many bras have you tried on in the past year while planning this?
This research has been going on our whole lives. We’ve tried on thousands of bras, panties and pieces of shapewear between the two of us, and we’re still doing it daily. Every day begins with our own undergarments, it’s all research.

Which fictional character would you say you are most similar to: Miranda Priestly, Carrie Bradshaw or Rebecca Bloomwood?
Carrie Bradshaw for sure. Like her, I’ve spent some time in the fashion closets at Condé Nast.

What’s the most expensive item in your lingerie drawer? What the cheapest item?
I’m very democratic and have Eres mingling with Gap Body.

I miss Oprah. Will she be contributing to ILAG? If not, do you think she might come work for Lingerie Talk?
No need to miss her, we can watch her OWN network now.

How do you complete the statement, “I Love A Good —– “?
I LOVE A GOOD…..feel-good conversation.

A Brave Voice Speaks Up for Big Women
Posted by richard | September 12, 2011

The biggest name in American modeling today isn’t working for Victoria’s Secret or walking the runways at New York Fashion Week. And by “biggest” I mean the most talked about, most searched-for, most cheered … and most likely to shift the cultural landscape.

The biggest name in American modeling today is Nancy Upton, whose buzz index is off the charts following her audacious spoof of American Apparel‘s ill-considered “Next Big Thing” search for real-life plus-size models.

As you probably know by now, the 24-year-old Dallas actress and student (and a size 12), was so incensed by AA’s patronizing pitch for its new XL size range that she entered the contest by submitting raunchy photos that show her pigging out with a variety of foods while dressed in lingerie.

And, as so often happens in today’s viral media world, the lonely solo voice on the sidelines suddenly shot to the front of the chorus: Nancy’s entry in the AA contest led the fan voting and, presumably, will earn her a “professional” photoshoot for the company that pissed her off in the first place. Nancy has said she won’t accept the prize, which is a good thing because THAT would be an awkward moment.

A piece on Jezebel.com ignited a media frenzy, which Nancy herself has been tracking on her own blog ExtraWiggleRoom. A huge debate is taking place in online forums about the treatment and portrayal of larger women, and Nancy’s role in sparking the discussion. You can read what people are saying by following the lenfthly list of links on her blog, including a foul rant against “fat chicks” over at Barstool Sports, which is a repulsive blog for the beer-belly crowd.

See other images from Nancy’s photoshoot at the bottom of this post.

Here’s the original AA ad copy that aroused Nancy’s ire:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?

Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot.

After lashing out at AA’s “‘Hey, come on, fatties, we want you to play, too’ tone”, Nancy went on to explain the motivation behind her entry in The Daily Beast:

“I immediately thought, based on the way it was written, ‘Wow, they really have zero respect for plus-sized women. They’re going to line them up like cattle and make puns about them until they’re blue in the face.’

“The company (AA) was co-opting the mantra of plus-size empowerment and glazing it with its unmistakable brand of female objectification. …

“The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us.”

There seem to be media eruptions every few months in the continuing debate over the portrayal of larger women in fashion marketing, but few that are as authentic as this. And behind the broad-stroke parody of Nancy’s gross-out photoshoot is a smart, clear-eyed woman with a keen grasp of the issue and a very deliberate purpose. She may be shocked at the response, but I doubt she’s surprised to learn she touched a sensitive cultural nerve.

What interests me the most about all this is what Nancy Upton will do with all her newfound attention, if anything. Is she willing to take on the role of an anti-discrimination icon, or is this just the first salvo in a guerrilla campaign by average women who are sick and tired of being either ignored or pandered to by the fashion world?

If Nancy were a journalist, her stunt might be dismissed as a media ambush on American Apparel (big corporations make big targets, even creepy ones like AA). If she was a celebrity, it would come across as one of those finger-wagging, Kaley-Cuoco-in-a-fatsuit charades with a too-earnest message no one wants to listen to.

It’s her anonymity, though, that gives Nancy’s project some real punch. This isn’t Crystal Renn or Beth Ditto preaching from a position of relative privilege, or Lane Bryant scoring with a clever marketing tie-in. This is the voice of the consumer, biting back. Cynical marketing execs who think that kute-n-kuddly ad copy can cover up corporate sins might want to give their heads a shake.

So far, Nancy and her message have stayed remarkably focused — not an easy thing to do in the middle of a media firestorm — while keeping tabs on the commentary flying around her.

If and when she eventually fades from the headlines — as so many of these episodes seem to do — she will have at least reminded us of an important, enduring truth: brave voices make a lot of noise.

Photos: Shannon Skloss

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