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Why Lane Bryant's New Plus-Size Lingerie Ad Struck a Chord

Lane Bryant
Lane Bryant

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Lane Bryant's #ImNoAngel campaign is the stuff advertiser dreams are made of. The campaign, which features six plus-size models proclaiming their non-angel status while showing off Lane Bryant's Caclique lingerie line, has been re-posted everywhere: Fox, CNN, Time, Buzzfeed, Today, USA Today, Refinery29, Glamour. Sofia Vergara and Zooey Deschanel have publicly endorsed it. In short, it's gone viral.

Within the first 48 hours, #ImNoAngel clocked in 1.8 billion media impressions across TV, social, and digital platforms, according to the PR company in charge of the campaign. Digiday reports that #ImNoAngel generated over 7,000 tweets on Monday alone, and only 2% were negative. The most shared tweet so far (NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's retweet of our article) garnered over 650 retweets.

"We hoped to stimulate conversation and discussion and we hoped to stir some emotion, but we're delighted with how this has unfolded," Lane Bryant's CEO Linda Heasley tells Racked. "Every day, every hour, we get really excited as more people jump in and post images and it's just been great. We're very, very happy."

The #ImNoAngel verbiage—a pretty direct jab at Victoria's Secret's top models—only helped feed the campaign's viral fuel. Adweek called it an attack ad, the Washington Post said it could be bullying skinny models, and Popsugar wondered if it really was "redefining sexy." Everyone was talking about it, which was the goal in the first place.

"The #ImNoAngel mantra questions what 'angel' really means," Heasley says. "The notion of angel as the personification of perfection isn't achievable or attainable for most women. Women are barraged daily by images of beauty that most of us give up on. So, we wanted to show who you can be and not focus on what you're not but focus on who you are and what you can be. It was a fun, tongue-in-cheek way of stimulating discussion."

Justine Legault, one of the models featured in the #ImNoAngel images, was confident going in that the campaign would have its supporters, but described the response as overwhelming. "There's this feeling of 'Oh great, finally,'" Legault tells Racked. "You always know that you want these things to happen and then when it happens, you're like, 'This is great.' And you just try to live the moment. You try to be in the moment because you want to cherish everything."

"We got a little bit of pushback but people came around."

Ashley Graham, another of the campaign's stars, is no stranger to media storms. She made headlines as the first plus-size model in the ad pages of Sports Illustrated's 2015 swimsuit edition earlier this year, and was the subject of an ad controversy back in 2010 when she filmed a lingerie spot for Lane Bryant that ABC initially refused to air. This time around, it was easier to get the campaign off the ground.

"We got a little bit of pushback but people came around," Heasley says. "It's time to change. It's time for us to make a statement. There's been so much in the press recently about body imagery and body shaming. It's gotta stop. This campaign builds on that tradition of stirring the pot but it's a different time, although it's not so different. That's what's so interesting."

Based on her experience, Graham wasn't surprised by the overwhelming support. "Right now, I really feel like anything anybody does in the curvy, plus-size—whatever you want to call it—fashion world, I think that it gets a lot of buzz because this is what people want to talk about right now," Graham tells Racked. "They want to talk about being curvy and being sexy and not being afraid to show what society has called flaws. I think that's fantastic because more young girls need to have role models like that."

Graham is well-known for her work in promoting body acceptance, both as the founding member of ALDA, a coalition of models working with young women to promote healthy body images, and as the founder of her own plus-size lingerie line. She sees the Lane Bryant campaign as another step towards plus-size models becoming a regular part of the fashion industry. "This is definitely a catalyst and I'm using my body in a great way to spread a message of love and acceptance," Graham says. "But I really believe that very soon—I hope—we won't have to say, ‘Oh, this happened in the plus-size world!' It'll be about the fashion."