Growing up, I played with Barbie dolls and idolized them for their “perfection.” However, there is a new Barbie on the scene and it’s time to take note! Barbara “Barbie” Ferreira is a 19-year-old, ‘curve’ model, based out of New York, and she is seriously thriving. Last week, American Eagle’s lingerie line, Aerie, released a new video as a part of their #AerieReal campaign. The campaign focuses on not retouching models’ images and has tried to present a wider range of women in their print and digital ads. In their newest video, Ferreira is seen strutting through Palm Springs, in a hot pink, string bikini with the confidence and attitude of a queen.
The video has blown up, with articles featured in People, Elle, TeenVogue, and many more! Ferreira states in the video, “Not retouching the images is something that’s very important to me – people knowing that that’s what I look like without anyone’s perception of what my body needs to look like.” Nevertheless, her insistence on untouched modeling is only one of the reasons Barbara Ferreira is my new role model (and should probably be yours, too)!
I’ve been following Ferreira on her many successful social media accounts for months now and she consistently demonstrates her capacity for positivity, intelligence, and kindness. Her Tweets are hilarious and relatable and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself, which she has had to on multiple occasions. Despite the amount of praise the Aerie ad received, it also faced backlash from Twitter followers claiming that Ferreira is endorsing obesity through her modeling. This is a notion that she is more than capable of shutting down by reminding her audience that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes!!
The most powerful part of Ferreira’s message is her clear emphasis on health and feeling confident about oneself, regardless of what beauty standards may dictate. I personally follow her on Snapchat, and her “story” essentially consists of a DJ Khaled inspired montage of her life. She shares videos of delicious looking salads, posh modeling gigs, and adventures in exciting cities. She intermingles these entertaining snippets with inspiring speeches centered on body positivity, confidence, and self-care. Her willingness to share her life with her fans (including successes and struggles) displays a unique vulnerability that has inspired many.
What sets Ferreira apart from more popular incarnations of the growing “body positivity” trend? Other popular role models have resorted to insulting other females as opposed to encouraging them. One example of this denigration is the popular Nicki Minaj song “Anaconda” in which she proclaims, “fuck skinny bitches,” a multitude of times. Ferreira doesn’t use this language to describe her fellow females and instead opts for messages of inclusion and respect. Her insistence that people should be aware of their own health and focus on feeling good is a perspective that should be spread far and wide.
The representation of a greater and more diverse set of body types is something that our culture desperately needs. This isn’t just relevant to the fashion industry, it pertains to every person that feels constricted by our society’s beauty standards. Her message and her confidence speak to countless women that are told by our larger society that their body type isn’t unconditionally welcome. The importance of presenting a more inclusive representation about what constitutes beauty and health cannot be understated. Barbara Ferreira’s willingness to use her voice to encourage women is an empowering step in that direction.