Keeping It Real

What does “keeping in real” in advertising mean to you?

I’m all-in for swapping out the media lens and opening the aperture to show more body image diversity. More authenticity. More beauty that’s intended to open the eyes of the beholder.

Artists like Colby Caillat, Meghan Trainor and Mary Lambert hit the charts with their version of keeping it real. Uber-progressive fashion retailer Modcloth has made a bold commitment to Fashion Truth, and was the first to take the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, vowing to 1) not materially change physical features of models in post-production, 2) be explicit if they do, and 3) not run explicitly altered photos in media where children under 13 might see them.

Change is happening and the movement is gaining momentum, but I have a big pet peeve with how the conversation often unfolds. It’s the real descriptor…

“Why don’t you use real women in your ads?”

I get the intent behind these words, but it’s not working for me. What’s the basis for determining a woman is not real? A photo?

I work in the fashion biz, and can assure you the women defined as “not real” are, in fact, very real. They’re loving and loved by family and friends. They eat, sleep, pee and poop. They have flaws and insecurities. They’re human, they’re real. More often than not, they don’t control how their realness shows up in advertising—even notable celebs.

Real is our common denominator.

If the end goal is to convince media and advertisers to ditch old school ways and open up the definition of beauty, let’s start by examining how we think, act and talk. Choose words that don’t diminish any woman, certainly not on the basis of how she looks. Choose words that align with the intention to elevate all women—regardless of age, body type, beliefs, etc.