Dove model brings ‘real beauty’ to Pitt

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Dove model brings ‘real beauty’ to Pitt

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty model, Stacy Nadeau,  spoke to students in the O'Hara Student Center Tuesday night.  Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty model, Stacy Nadeau, spoke to students in the O'Hara Student Center Tuesday night. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty model, Stacy Nadeau, spoke to students in the O'Hara Student Center Tuesday night. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty model, Stacy Nadeau, spoke to students in the O'Hara Student Center Tuesday night. Jordan Mondell | Staff Photographer

By Danni Zhou / Staff Writer

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Former Dove Real Beauty Campaign model Stacy Nadeau was shocked when a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in reference to her body that “the only time I want to see thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it.”

After he called all six Dove models “fat and ugly,” he received thousands of emails from the public in response to the article and later printed an apology revoking his comments.

But prior to the article, the campaign gained its first positive male reaction from another reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, applauding the Dove women for embracing their natural shape.

Coinciding with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Pitt’s Project HEAL (Help to Eat, Accept, and Live) invited Nadeau to speak to students about the importance of women embracing their natural figure on Tuesday night in the O’Hara Student Center. SGB partnered with the Year of the Humanities to fund the event.

“An event like this rarely happens at Pitt. We thought inviting Stacy would open an opportunity for students, especially girls, to become inspired to be comfortable with their natural self,” Cara Lyons, president of Project HEAL, said.

According to Lyons, about 30 people attended the event. Nadeau discussed her stance on and involvement in the Dove campaign as a former model and current advocate through a presentation, ending the night with a Q&A session.

Unilever, a multinational company that manufactures personal care products, created the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, featuring six women, in 2004. Prior to launching the campaign, the producers told the women to prepare themselves for the public reaction they had zero control over.

“At that point, we made a pact. If we receive negative reactions from thousands of people, but we made one woman feel better about her natural shape, that would be worth all of our efforts,” Nadeau said.

While traditional media champions a size zero as the perfect woman, Nadeau proudly described her “healthy self” as a size 12. But growing up, she was not always comfortable with her size, often making excuses to avoid shopping outings with her friends.

“To me, that meant there was something wrong with me. Sometimes my size made me hold back because I felt insecure. Today, I am a very happy size 12,” Nadeau said.

Nadeau’s insecurity woes are something that plague many women. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

Samyuktha Melachuri, an undeclared first year, said she has been struggling with her body image since 2009.

“I actually didn’t know about this campaign until this event. For me, Stacy’s presentation lets me know that I am not alone and that I, too, can find traits about myself that I can be proud of instead of focusing on the parts I do not like,” Melachuri said.

Although it took a few years, the launch gained momentum after the six women appeared on Oprah. According to Nadeau, Oprah stated she would go out and buy Dove soap after the show, and millions of viewers followed. Dove soap sales significantly increased after Oprah’s announcement.

As the campaign continued to grow, the Dove women witnessed its positive impact. At a meet-and-greet in Times Square, a crying woman told the models, “You are the reason my daughter is alive,” according to Nadeau.

“The woman’s daughter had been struggling with an eating disorder and was receiving help from a clinic. When she heard about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the mom said that it helped her daughter realize there were traits to love about herself,” Nadeau said.

At that moment, Nadeau said, the campaign completely changed. Before, it had focused mainly on embracing one’s natural figure. Afterward, it became about changing lives like that of the woman’s daughter.

But Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies professor Gail Wolfe cautioned that though Dove’s real beauty approach to advertising may be less harmful in comparison to societal norms, people should not dismiss the company’s ultimate goal — to sell products.

“I think that we ought to continue to ask questions about Dove’s campaign, [such as] what are corporations selling us via such campaigns? Are the products they’re marketing harmful to our bodies and our environment? Under what kinds of labor conditions are such products manufactured, distributed and sold?” Wolf said. “I’d want to know the answers to these kinds of questions before endorsing Dove’s campaign or others like it.”

About five parents attended the event in support of the University and the Dove campaign, including Justina Perrott from Moon Township, who heard about the event from Lyons.

“If girls are not confident in their natural bodies, it will stand in the way and discourage them from other parts of their lives, such as schoolwork. It’s nice to see women reaching out to younger generations,” Perrott said.

Aside from learning to celebrate natural body types, Pitt students applied Nadeau’s advice to other areas of their lives. Alina Quach, a sophomore neuroscience major, said surrounding herself with friends can positively affect her mental health.

“I really appreciated how she mentioned the importance of surrounding ourselves with positive people. At a competitive university like Pitt, particularly in the health majors, we’re faced with a lot of pressure to come out on top, and sometimes this can become overbearing,” Quach said.

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