Aerie Continues Its ‘Real’ Streak, Casting Models With Illnesses and Disabilities

New images feature women with health conditions

Aerie's latest campaign, 'Aerie Bras Make You Feel Real Good,' features women living with disabilities and medical conditions. Andrew Buda and Alex Albeck
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Aerie’s imagery just keeps getting more and more real.

The lingerie retailer has been receiving kudos on social media this week for its latest round of images, which feature women with various medical conditions, diseases and disabilities.

#AerieREAL, the brand’s ongoing campaign, aspires to promote body positivity through the use of unretouched images—typically, featuring models of different racial backgrounds and in a variety of body types. The use of models with disabilities and other medical issues, however, is a new addition to the brand’s lineup.

“As a brand, Aerie has been a leader in empowering women and celebrating inclusivity and body positivity since our launch of #AerieREAL in 2014,” Jennifer Foyle, Aerie global brand president, said in a statement. “Our newest bra models are part of our brand’s ongoing commitment to show real, authentic and unretouched women, who are at the core of everything that we do.”

In the images, these women’s conditions are not tucked away, but rather displayed just as the Aerie products they’re wearing are. A woman with diabetes attaches her insulin pump to the back of her Aerie bra, another sits in a wheelchair. One woman uses forearm crutches, while another has an ostomy bag. The campaign also features a cancer survivor, a woman living with fibromyalgia and one with vitiligo, a chronic skin disease. Paralympic gymnast Chelsea Werner, who has down syndrome, is also one of Aerie’s new faces.

Aerie cast the women included in these images after the brand put a call-out on social media, asking for women to share a video of themselves explaining why they wanted to be a part of the #AerieREAL campaign. Almost 2,000 women responded to Aerie’s ask. Fifty-seven women ended up cast in the latest campaign, “Aerie Bras Make You Feel Real Good.” According to a release, Aerie selected these women because they “represent the inclusive beauty that makes up the DNA of the brand, which is committed to empowering all customers to embrace and love their real selves.”

This week, the images gained attention on social media, with users praising the brand for its inclusivity. A few even noted that it was one of the first times they had seen someone with their disability or disease featured in such a public way.

Aerie first announced its commitment to not retouching the images used in its marketing, stores and website in January 2014. Fittingly, the brand has since started calling models “role models.” Celebrities like Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi and model Iskra Lawrence have been included in its campaigns, as well as plenty of “real” women—like the ones featured in the brand’s latest round of imagery.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.