Plus-size models like Ashley Graham are redefining what we consider sexy, but the media is still doing their part to make her an unattainable ideal. That’s why one mom-of-two in Nevada is posting pics of herself that highlight her “flabby stretched out loose skin belly.”
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“These plus-size models have stretch marks and pouches just like the rest of us, but they’re Photoshopped. And that’s sad because that’s who we have to look up to,” Summer VonHesse, mom, military wife and amateur photographer, said to Global News.
Last week, VonHesse posted a picture of herself in a bikini that proudly displayed her “flabby stretch-marked pouch,” which she says she learned to accept on her “journey to self-love.” Her post was met with overwhelming positivity from women and men alike, garnering nearly 7,000 likes and hundreds of comments from her more than 100,000 followers.
“Never thought I could feel beautiful about my body…until now. Thank you for this picture. You may have just changed my life,” wrote one user.
“Why do you live in the middle of nowhere?? ‘Cause you need all that space to hold your AWESOMENESS!!” gushed another user.
VonHesse, whose dream is to open a horse sanctuary (she’s set up a crowdfunding site to raise money), has been posting her bathing suit and lingerie pics (and nudes) to her Instagram account since November with the goal of empowering other women.
“We can’t live up to a false reality. We’re never going to look like those Photoshopped plus-size models and we should honour who we are,” she says.
“But at some point, we should stop looking at what I’m doing as being brave — it should just be being you. I want us to get there as a society.”
She’s especially aware of how media manipulation can form a young girl’s perception of her own body, and that’s something she’s desperate to change for her own five-year-old daughter.
“The amount of media we take in is huge, but now normal people have the technology to get their message out. And what is perceived as normal can get out there and it can help young girls not to hate their bodies,” she says.
However, it isn’t just young girls that VonHesse wants to help with her bold photographs — she’s also trying to normalize her post-baby body for other mothers who’ve lost confidence in themselves.
“I get countless messages from married men asking me how they can help their wives feel better because they hate their bodies. And that’s touching to me because my husband and I struggled through that for many years where I didn’t want him to see me naked,” she says. “It’s important to me to put this out there because it’s something a lot of people can relate to.”