April Fools Day is the worst. People get real liberal with the word “prank” and often use it as an excuse to be a liar or an asshole. American Eagle managed to do both in a body positivity prank that’s backfired.
Ahead of the dreaded April 1st, their Aerie lingerie brand, renowned for its refusal to retouch its models photos, announced #AerieMan with a video ad that showed real men speaking about their pride in their bodies.
Now, there’s some nods in this vid that this is a gag, like the dude who has “Flexy” across the back of his briefs, bending over ass in camera lens. But a level of winking made sense, as American Eagle would later note, “We know our male customers respond to humor.” The problem was these dudes who dared to rock out in their underoos were the butt of the joke. Aerie Man isn’t real. April Fools.
One of the fake campaign’s real models has spoken out. Some sites are running with headlines proclaiming Kelvin Dash (the dude in the bathtub) had no idea this was a ruse. However, if you read his actual statements, it’s less clear what the deal was. He speaks more to the authenticity of his body positive message than any kind of deception from American Eagle to its models.
Here’s Notoriously dapper Davis on #AerieMan:
I can't speak on the behalf of American Eagle. But I can speak on my behalf. I want to be clear, my involvement and stance for body positivity is 100% real. There is no joke about that what so ever. Of course the bubble bath, butt selfies and yoga were meant for comical relief of a newly and sensitive topic. I was a model in the campaign and every word I said was real and came from my heart! Body image is something I have and still struggle with to this day. As a man I try to open that dialogue through my blog and social media! People have been listening and the response is amazing!! Trust me when I say that even though the #AerieMAN collection itsself is not real, everything else was! Every word I said was heart felt from a place that so many of us can relate to. I look forward to what the future holds for me……..this movement has changed my life in so many ways! I was beyond excited to be seen on GMA this morning. I guess for now I can deal with being called the "the brotha in the tub with a hat on blowing bubbles!" 😄 Lastly, does anyone know anyone, management or an agency that would be interested in representing me?!
Davis told Buzzfeed, “I had nothing to do with the way it was marketed. My stance and advocation for body positivity has never been a joke. What I represent is 100% authentic.”
"My hope is by showing my un-retouched self I will inspire other people to be confident enough to share themselves" - #AerieMan This is me all of me. You can judge, laugh, call me fat I don't care what negative things you have to say. These underwear are comfortable and I feel great in them!! #EffYourBeautyStandards
ABC reports American Eagle Outfitters Global Brand President Chad Kessler responded to the backlash with:
“Inspired by the success of the Aerie brand and the #AerieREAL unretouched campaign, which celebrates women and body positivity, American Eagle Outfitters used the #AerieMAN video to call attention to the serious issue of body positivity for its male customers. Although the #AerieMAN collection itself isn’t real, we are committed to stopping retouching on all AEO men’s underwear and swim images while showing more diverse body types starting holiday 2016. We hope that this will add to the important conversation about embracing diversity and body acceptance for women and men, and spark further changes in the retail industry.”
American Eagle also pledged to donate $25,000 to the National Eating Disorders Association. So that, plus our introduction to the dashing Davis, will have to be the silver lining to this clueless prank.
Kristy Puchko isn’t so much an angry feminist as much as an exhausted one.