aerie real

It’s always a little strange when so many new swimwear campaigns come out just when the first big blizzard of the season is about to hit, but I have to say, I don’t mind as much this year as I normally would. So many of the big campaigns coming out this time around are so body-positive and inclusive, it’s hard to do anything but love them. First GabiFresh unveiled her latest swim line with Swimsuitsforall, and then, Ashley Graham modeled Forever 21‘s latest plus-size swimwear options. Now, Aerie is joining in on the fun, and their strategy is worth noting.

(Related: Nicolette Mason Talks Her Upcoming Addition Elle Line, Her Personal Style, and Her Future Design Career)

Aerie first released their new campaign, #AerieREAL, back in August 2014. The unretouched campaign photos starred Emma Roberts, who was, admittedly, the wrong choice to act as a spokesmodel for Photoshop-free photos. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that they printed her as-is, but when the model you’re working with already beautiful, blonde, and has a naturally Hollywood-perfect body, it’s hard to take the whole “no retouching!” thing seriously.

In an effort to continue what was a pretty wonderful idea in the first place, though, Aerie has expanded their #AerieREAL campaign to include their 2016 line. As NYLON notes, the campaign “features plenty of leggy, conventionally attractive women,” but one woman in particular stands out. Barbie Ferreira, a model signed to Wilhelmina Models who self-identifies as a “curve model,” a.k.a. one who’s not traditionally shaped nor is plus-size, is featured in one of the ads in a beautiful pink strappy bikini, and it’s 30 seconds of pure glory. Just watch:
[youtube_iframe id="ZLFPM53mKm0"]
In the video, Barbie says,

“Not being retouched in the images is something that is very important to me. [I like the idea of ] people knowing that that’s what I look like without anyone’s perception of what my body needs to look like.”

And that, really, is the crux of the campaign. The idea of being #AerieREAL is so much more than just encouraging women to be comfortable with the bodies that they have (though that is a very real part of it). Rather, it’s about turning the fashion industry on its head and proving that campaigns don’t need all of the retouching they often suffer from in order to be successful, and just generally trying to change the way we look at fashion and how women’s bodies are represented in general.

(Related: The #BeBodyAware Campaign Is Calling for Total Body Acceptance in Fashion, and It’s Wonderful)

One look at her Instagram will tell you that Barbie is the kind of body-positive model we need in the fashion industry right now. She’s not traditionally plus-size, nor does she fall within the parameters of straight-size designs. Essentially, she is representative of the majority of women, and she’s doing it in way that’s completely non-apologetic and entirely herself. I’m hoping that, if we don’t at least see her in more Aerie ads going forward, that she’ll take the fashion industry by storm and transform it into something that I could be proud to work within.

Click here to see the entire #AerieREAL campaign!