Written by Delaney Wickert
The popular athletic wear company Aerie has recently expanded their cast of clothing models to include individuals with a range of abilities. Aerie, a product of the popular clothing store American Eagle, has previously made strides in changing the culture of beauty representation in media through their promise to stop editing photos of their models wearing their clothing, in an effort to promote diversity and inclusivity of all body types. Aerie has continued to make efforts to represent diversity in their model campaigns through hiring models of all abilities to represent their clothing line. Their inclusion of these models shows visible disability representation throughout their brand. The company started a campaign in which they select a group of women who they name their “Role Models”. These women are selected who inspire positive change through their efforts, and make up a group of individuals stemming from diverse backgrounds, and possessing a range of abilities.
Previous Aerie Role Models who represent the disabled community have included Gold Medal Paralympian, Brenna Huckaby, a world champion snowboarder, included in the Aerie Role Models campaign in 2019. Brenna is commended for her fearlessness as she is a 3-time world champion snowboarder and mother, who has had to navigate losing her leg to cancer. Brenna uses her Role Model spotlight in order to encourage fearlessness, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, as she believes mindset helps dictate success.
Molly Burke, a part of the 2020 Aerie Role Model Campaign, is a popular YouTuber and social media influencer who lost her sight at 4 years old. Molly is creating change through her motivational speaking and by sharing how she has overcome adversity in her life. Molly is committed to breaking stereotypes surrounding disability by sharing her lived experience on her social media platforms. Molly describes in her article on the Aerie website ‘“I’m making a difference by authentically sharing my story as a disabled woman, and not sugarcoating it or choosing to conform to the mold that people think I should fit.”’
Ali Stroker, a Tony Award Winning actress, and the first woman to use a wheelchair on Broadway, was also featured in the Role Model campaign. As a child, Ali always wanted to be a performer. Even though she had never seen someone using a wheelchair on Broadway, she decided to create that representation, and become a role model to those like her. Ali is now an accomplished singer and actress who inspires change on and off Broadway.
In addition to the Role Models Aerie highlights, they have also worked to represent women with visible disabilities and illnesses throughout all components of the advertisements, including models living with downs syndrome, insulin pumps, ostomy bags, wheelchairs, various support devices, and exhibiting a range of conditions such as fibromyalgia.
By showing visible disabilities and illnesses in their models, Aerie shows representation that many companies lack. Other brands have included multiple body types or gender expressions in their campaigns, however very little disability representation can be seen in clothing advertisements. Aerie’s inclusion of models ranging from all abilities, as well as highlighting those in the community who inspire positive change, help to set the precedent of disability representation in the modeling and advertising industry.
To get to know more about the Role Models mentioned visit:
Contributor. (2018, July 21). Aerie model brings national attention to ostomy awareness. United Ostomy Associations of America. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ostomy.org/aerie-model-brings-national-attention-to-ostomy-awareness/
Get to know #aeriereal role model Brenna Huckaby. #AerieREAL Life. (2019, April 25). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2019/01/31/get-to-know-aeriereal-role-model-brenna-huckaby/
Isabelle, Lizzie, & Collins, M. (2020, January 23). Ali Stroker, Tony Award winning actor. #AerieREAL Life. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2020/01/23/ali-stroker-tony-award-winning-actor/
Kim, S. (2020, February 3). Aerie continues to include authentic disability representation -Ali stroker joins #AerieREAL role model family. Forbes.Retrieved October 27,2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahkim/2020/01/31/aerie-disability-representation/?sh=52520aeb50bd
Martha. (2020, January 23). Molly Burke, YouTuber & motivational speaker. #AerieREALLife. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2020/01/23/molly-burke-youtuber-motivational-speaker/
Role models. #AerieREAL Life. (2021, August 17). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/role-models/