Real Talk With Sarah Herron

Sarah Herron founded SheLift, a non-profit that empowers girls with physical differences to discover confidence through outdoor adventures and body-positive mentorship. Read on to learn more about Sarah and SheLift’s story and what makes her #AerieREAL!

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What inspired you to start SheLift?

Growing up as an early 2000’s teen, we only had TV and magazines to idolize our favorite entertainers and role models. There was no Instragram, or platforms for connection that removed the barrier of real human condition. Magazine photos were always photoshopped and the models we saw rise to the top were always impossibly skinny and perfect. I never saw a single women in the media who resembled me or my body. I had one arm, I was chubby and as far as I knew I was completely alone. I compared myself to those I saw and developed disordered eating and depression. I was in my twenties before I ever saw a woman with a limb difference in a movie and it was Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer. A few years later I set out to find love on ABC’s The Bachelor and quickly discovered that for millions of women across the world, I, too was the first woman they’d seen on TV that they could relate to. I wasn’t sure how to react or mobilize the groundswell of women coping with physical differences in a world that judges them by appearance. So I continued to do my thing – I got active, I got healthy and I shared my successes and my feelings to Instagram. When I discovered that my accomplishments in outdoor recreation and community directly correlated to my improved confidence and mental health, I realized this was my angle to make impact. I started SheLift with a mission to normalize differences by empowering girls with physical differences to improve self-acceptance and confidence through outdoor adventures and body-positive mentorship. SheLift provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences to young women with differences to help them live authentic lives and connect with others.

We just returned from a fundraising retreat in Mexico last month where 20 women – of different age and ability – came together to connect, share and conquer their obstacles. Over the weekend we went on adventures and practiced self-care and discussed the things that make us different but beautiful. You can read more about the trip and ways to join a future retreat here.

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What advice do you have for someone looking to overcome a challenge in their life?

The best advice I can offer someone trying to overcome a challenge is to seek connection. When we keep our story and our struggle bottled up, we cannot rise from it.  When you share your struggles out loud (with a trusting support group), you’ll be surprised how many other women come forward saying “oh yeah, I feel that way, too!” There’s empowerment in simply knowing you’re not alone.

SheLift provides mentors for girls involved. Who is your role model and why?

My role model is my friend Debbie. I initially met Debbie through her husband Joe, who I worked with. Debbie is a personal trainer and was looking for new clients and Joe knew I’d be up for the challenge. Immediately I loved working out with Debbie because she didn’t approach training like a drill sergeant or with a bootcamp intensity. Instead, she coached that the importance of fitness and training is to become stronger and healthier and that that doesn’t mean exerting energy to the point of exhaustion. More simply put, Debbie didn’t make me fear fitness. As I continued to train, Debbie and I formed a strong friendship – she was coaching my body and my mind. Every week we would discuss the importance of positive self-talk and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Despite my best effort to dismiss Debbie’s compliments when I was feeling “fat” or “ugly,” she always reminded me that it’s important I practice good mental health as well as physical health. Debbie is only a few years older than me, but she is a mom and an entrepreneur on a mission. She is empowering postpartum mom-bods to love the skin they’re in. She’s turned her passion of instilling “beauty is strength” into an online training program for moms called “Tough Mamas.”

Real Talk With Sarah HerronWhat makes you an Role Model?

I’ve never liked calling myself a role model because the truth is, I’m still human and I am very much imperfect. I never set out with a mission to lead or set an example, I just started living my life as an authentic person and that seemed to catch on! It’s part of my emotional makeup to want to help girls be the best version of themselves and to discover their self worth and strengths. Despite how many inspirational quotes I read or preach, I believe women are wired for personal struggle. So when people ask me what makes me a role model, I guess I’d say it’s because I’m the non-role model, role model. I’m just a person trying to get through each day like the next. I have strong days and healthy days but I also have bad days and fat days – and that’s OK. At the end of the day, I hope that by sharing my story, other women will realize they’re not alone in their journey.

How does the #AerieREAL message align with SheLift’s beliefs?

SheLift is about empowering women to live their most authentic lives. This means encouraging girls to embrace their imperfections and the qualities that make them unique and lovable and to let go of self-comparison. Through social media, I am trying to pull back the curtain on what differences look like. If there’s more visibility to size, shape, disability, etc, we begin to normalize differences and reject beliefs that only skinny is pretty. The #AerieREAL campaign is leading the same mission. It’s so important to be showing impressionable young women that bodies aren’t perfect! Putting photos of un-photoshopped women in media will help other women realise “Oh, her stomach looks like mine!” or “omg, she has stretch marks, too!” and ultimately help reduce eating disorders and depression. We’re both on a mission saying “It’s OK to have imperfections and you’re certainly not alone.”

Real Talk With Sarah Herron

What makes you #AerieREAL? Comment below & tell us! For more Real Talks, see here!

 

INTRODUCING AEO CONNECTED

NOT YOUR AVERAGE REWARDS PROGRAM

Look, we get it. Rewards programs can be confusing. In theory, the benefits sound great. In practice, you’re never quite sure you’re doing it right, or where you stand with points. We’ve spent the past year working with our teams and shoppers like you to put together a program that’s truly unique. AEO Connected launched last week, and in case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here are just a few of our favorite perks.

IT’S FREE. And super easy to sign up in store, online, or on the app. Once you’re in, we’ll send you email updates on your Reward status, exclusive offers and more. No forms to fill out, no wasted paper, just Rewards sent straight to your email.

There’s more free where that came from! FREE JEANS & BRAS are one of the best perks you could get. For every 5 pairs of jeans you buy, we’ll give you one free. Same deal with Aerie bras. Plus, you’ll earn points for every dollar you spend, and once you reach a set number of points, we’ll send you a Reward that you can use in store or online, just like you’d use cash money. The best news in all this is that your points will NEVER expire, so you can redeem them whenever you want!

Ok so, we’ve got free jeans, free bras, points on every dollar… still not sold? How about an exclusive birthday discount? AEO Connected has that too. And if you’re REALLY serious about style, we have different access levels for all kinds of shoppers. So the more you shop, the better your perks. We’ll automatically bump you up into the right level depending on how much you spend, and let you know when you qualify for things like bigger Rewards or 24/7 free shipping. Plus, get even more when you combine your AEO Connected account with an AE or Aerie credit card.

For the complete rundown on how new AEO Connected works and rewards you for shopping for your favorite brands, visit us in stores or at AE.com/aeoconnected

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What Is Denim: Your Ultimate Denim Glossary

 DENIM FIT SPECS

Denim Glossary Fit Specs

Denim Glossary Fit Specs

RISE

The measurement from the top of the waistband to the bottom of the crotch seam. In other words, it’s where on your hips the jeans sit. Every body (and every one of our jean fits!) is unique, but, generally a “high” rise will sit near your belly button and a “low” rise will be closer to your hips. Source

Denim Glossary Fit Rises

INSEAM

The measurement from the bottom of the crotch to the bottom of the hem.

Denim Glossary Inseam

WARP

The vertical threads in a fabric. Source

WEFT

The horizontal threads in a fabric. Source

Denim Glossary Warp and Weft

WASH

The result of washing and rinsing denim to remove excess dye. Source

Denim Glossary Denim Washes

DESTROYED, DISTRESSED, DECONSTRUCTED

Purposely marred for a well-worn, vintage appearance. Source

Denim Glossary Destroyed Distressed Deconstructed

HEM

The bottom of the jean, which has been folded back and sewn down to form an edge

STEP-HEM

A raw hem that’s shorter in the front than it is in the back. Source

RELEASED HEM

A deconstructed hem that has been unstitched and unfolded for a frayed look and added length. Source 1  Source 2

Denim Glossary Hem

DENIM FABRICATION

Denim Glossary Fabrication

100% COTTON (see also: HERITAGE)

100% cotton denim. This rigid, durable fabric softens over time.

CLASSIC STRETCH

Our original soft, stretchy denim.

DENIM X

Denim with an upgraded stretch that retains it’s shape and won’t bag out. Natural fibers give this denim a super-soft feel for increased comfort.

DENIM X4

Revolutionary 4-way stretch means fit from every direction. Top-to-bottom warp stretch lifts your booty and gives you the feeling of longer legs, while side-to-side weft stretch contours the leg.
These forces work together to increase retention, which means these jeans won’t bag or sag, so your butt looks great, wear after wear.

CORE FLEX

Core Flex is designed with just enough stretch to give a little when you stand up, sit down, pull ‘em on or off. It has the same look and feel as 100% cotton denim, with increased flexibility for added comfort.

EXTREME FLEX

Our most flexible jean might also be our most comfortable. Designed with the max amount of stretch for ultimate comfort. Extreme Flex denim truly moves with you, and bounces back to hold its shape after.

FLEX 4/360

Revolutionary 4-way stretch means this denim moves with you in every direction. Top-to-bottom warp stretch moves up and down with you, while side-to-side weft stretch gives you room to sit or step.
The bottom line? Jeans have never been more comfortable.

HERITAGE (see also: 100% COTTON)

100% cotton denim. This rigid, durable fabric softens over time.

SELVEDGE

Premium denim bound with a “self edge” so it doesn’t unravel. You’ll know it by the trademark white and blue taping under the cuff, on the edge of the coin pocket, and on the back of the belt loop.

We’ve upgraded ours with just the right amount of stretch to make them even more comfortable. Source

Shop your favorite AEO Jeans HERE and show us how you wear them with #ICAN (or #WeAllCan if you’re with friends!).

Denim Glossary Fabrication

Denim Glossary Fit Specs

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The Bras Of Summer!

Summer outfits, meet your new fave bras. Convertible, comfy and cute, these bras make it easy to style your summer looks. See 3 of our must-haves below!

The Bras Of Summer!

Sunnie Bandeau is back! Get unlined, underwire support in the Real Soft® fabric you know and love. Wear it with straps for an easy tank bra, or remove them to wear it with your fave summer rompers.

The Bras Of Summer!The Bras Of Summer!

Have a low-arm tank? Show off some lace and wear our Sunnie Longline Strapless Lightly Lined Bra underneath—the XO lace details are made for a  pretty peek-a-boo. Keep Sunnie Strapless in heavy rotation and rock it with every wardrobe change this summer: you can wear it with both straps, 1 strap, cross-back straps or strap-free!

The Bras Of Summer!

The Bras Of Summer!The Bras Of Summer!

Ditch the tank and rock your Castaway Lace Longline Bandeau as a top! This cotton-lined bralette is a go-to for hot summer nights. Wear it on its own or let it peek out from tees and tanks. Add the straps to let the pretty rose gold hardware show!

The Bras Of Summer!

The Bras Of Summer!

Want more of our summer must haves? Check them out here!

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIM

Memorial Day is coming and you know what a long weekend means… more time to rock your swim! Kick off summer with Erin’s fave mix and match suits. Stripes, florals and solids in all your warmest summer colors give you endless options—mix them up or match them together and make a suit that’s all you! You only have to pack a few pieces to have a new suit option for every day, and don’t forget an easy pair of shorts and a pretty coverup for running around after the sun goes down. Get inspired with Erin’s faves below and get packing early!

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIM

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIM

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIM

Shop the look: Aerie Embroidered Beach Bag | Aerie Crochet Trimmed Coverup | Aerie Cross-Strap High Neck Bikini Top | Aerie Bikini Bottom

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIMSTYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIMShop the look: Aerie Straw Baseball Hat | Aerie Short Sleeve Sweatshirt | Aerie Triangle Bikini Top | Aerie High Cut Cheeky Bikini Bottom

STYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIMSTYLIST’S PICKS: LONG WEEKEND = MORE SWIM

Shop the look: Aerie Metallic Floppy Hat | Aerie Triangle Bikini Top | Aerie Cheeky Bikini Bottom | Aerie Lace-Up Easy Short 

You Got It From Your Mama!

Here’s to our role models! This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating MOM—your original role model. To get ready, we brought our #AerieREAL Role Models and their moms together for an extra-special shoot. Find out what Iskra, Yara and Aly got from their mamas and share your story! Tell us what you got from your mama or what you hope to pass on to your kids with us @Aerie #AerieREAL.

See behind-the-scenes fun from the shoot and read our #AerieREAL Role Models’ stories below!

Iskra Lawrence with her mom, Wilma

Iskra: “Her gift is that she’s grateful and excited for each and every single thing in life. That’s really really wonderful and so happy and positive to be around. You show me what unconditional love truly means.”

Iskra+Wilma_2

SHOP THE LOOK: Aerie Cross-Strap High Neck Bikini Top | Aerie Muscle Tank

Wilma: “I think for moms out there, it’s really important to always be positive, to bring a positive vibe each day, to tell your children how much you love them, how much you do appreciate them. Just be happy.”

Iskra+Wilma_5.jpg

SHOP THE LOOK: Aerie Cut Out One Piece

Yara Shahidi with her mom, Keri

Yara: My mom is one of the biggest influences in my life. Part of it is just watching her maneuver through the world. Being able to be in your presence, I’ve watched you maneuver through the world without compromising. You’ve always been very honest and open with me.Even being able to see the times in which you’ve struggled has made it so I embrace myself and I embrace the moments when I don’t feel my best. And rather than glossing over those, you’ve taught me to really live in those moments and figure out how to grow from those moments rather than feeling as though I have to attain some random idea of perfection.”

Yara+Keri_3

SHOP THE LOOK: Aerie Strapless Ruffle Jumpsuit

Keri: “I feel like one of my jobs before I had her, before my husband and I manifested this creature, was to know that we were depositing goodness. And for her to reflect back and say ‘geez thank you’ without me whispering in her ear “name me a role model” is honestly more than I could ever ask. So I’m honored.”

Yara+Keri_5

SHOP THE LOOK: Distressed Cable Sweater | Lace-Up Easy Short | Long Sleeve Striped Shirt | Cut Out One Piece | Denim Fringe Short

Aly Raisman with her mom, Lynn

Aly: “No matter what I do, no matter how crazy everything gets, I always look forward to coming home & just being grounded & having that balance. Family is the best place for me, so I feel very lucky.”

Aly+Lynn_2

SHOP THE LOOK: Smocked One Piece Swimsuit | Long Sleeve Striped Shirt | Triangle Bikini Top | Bikini Bottom | Striped Kimono

Lynn: “Be confident, be supportive and kind, and just really love yourself.”

Aly+Lynn_5

SHOP THE LOOK: Triangle Bikini Top | Macrame Scoop One Piece Swimsuit | Macrame Top

Share your story! Tell us what you got from your mama or what you hope to pass on to your kids with us @Aerie #AerieREAL.

DIY Sea Glass Bottles

Brighten up and add castaway vibes to any space with these DIY beauties! See how to make your own below.

DIY Sea Glass Bottles

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Clean, empty glass bottles
  • Sea glass spray paint
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint tarp or newspapers (optional)

DIY Sea Glass Bottles

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Soak off any labels on bottles and wipe away all residue.
  2. In a well-ventilated area, lay down tarp or newspapers.
  3. Put on gloves and spray a light mist of paint on your bottle from about 2 feet away.DIY Sea Glass Bottles
  4. One coat gives a natural look, two coats will have a more opaque, saturated look.
  5. Let them dry.
  6. Fill with sand or plants, or leave them empty—up to you, castaway!

*Note: Just in case you don’t already know, do NOT drink from the bottles once you paint them! Decoration only.

Want more DIYs to fill up your summer break? Check them out here!

STYLIST’S PICKS: SUMMER FEELS

Upgrade your basic bikini and try a new texture with smocked swim! Our newest fabric is all about the details, and smocking is the prettiest of them all. It adds a whole new feel to your suit—smoothing, stretching and shaping to you. If you’re a solid-colored suit kind of girl, smocking is a great way to kick it up a notch! Our newest smocked swim comes in a ton of colors, making it easy to mix and match with solid or printed bikini bottoms. See some of Erin’s faves below!

STYLIST’S PICKS: SUMMER FEELS STYLIST’S PICKS: SUMMER FEELS

Shop the look: Aerie Smocked One Piece Swimsuit | Aerie Inside-Out Beach Fleece | Aerie So Fly Aviator Sunnies

 

STYLIST’S PICKS: SUMMER FEELSSTYLIST’S PICKS: SUMMER FEELS

Shop the look: Aerie Smocked Scoop Bikini Top | Aerie High Cut Cheeky Bikini Bottom | Aerie Harem Pant | Aerie Love Goes Round Sunnies

Want more stylist’s picks? Check them out here!

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

For her Make-A-Wish experience, Kristin Wong wanted to join the #AerieREAL campaign. We were SO honored to welcome her, celebrate her and make her wish come true!

Your wish through The Make-A-Wish Foundation was to join the #AerieREAL campaign. Why did you choose Aerie? And what do you hope comes from this experience?

I think I was able to use my Make-A-Wish in a way that most Wish Kids aren’t able to because I’m a lot older than most of them. The demographic of Make-A-Wish Kids are usually much younger, hence why most of the wishes are to go to Disney World or on a trip to a different country. However, I recognized the significance of how my wish could provide me with a once in a lifetime opportunity and because of that, I wanted to do something that money truly couldn’t buy. I also wanted to do something that wouldn’t only make me happy and help me grow, but help the greater community as well. I remembered just a few months ago when YouthLine, the teen to teen suicide/ crisis hotline I volunteer at, talked about just how many people reach out to YouthLine. The teens that contact YouthLine call or text in because they feel they have no one else to talk to or feel that no one else will understand what they’re going through. In comparison to the 1000 contacts we had back in 2013, last year we had over 12000, which just goes to show how many teens have needed and still need this resource for emotional support and help with mental health.

I chose Aerie because I knew they were national partners with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and eating disorders are a type of mental illness and something we deal with all the time on YouthLine. My wish was to use my wish to promote YouthLine to more teens across the nation, and I thought that because they already supported NEDA, there’d be no better company to better spread the word about YouthLine than Aerie. Furthermore, YouthLine and Aerie have a shared demographic and ultimately spread the same message: learn to love and take care of yourself. I can’t think of a better way to have used my wish, and I truly hope that more teens will learn about YouthLine through Aerie and call in for support.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

How did you begin your journey with YouthLine?

Sophomore year, my health teacher briefly mentioned YouthLine during the Depression/Suicide unit and then never talked about it again, so I went into my counselor’s office to learn more about what the organization was. A few months later, I applied and went to training. I think I was most intrigued by the type of help you have to provide at YouthLine. It’s different from volunteering at a food bank or playing piano at a senior center — there’s literally a life and death risk with many of the contacts, and the service you provide is so much more intimate and personal. The person calling in trusts you with highly confidential information that they’re afraid to tell anyone else, so you’re truly held responsible for every aspect of your words and actions.

Another reason I was drawn to YouthLine was because I didn’t quite understand the concept of mental health and just how important it was. I used to be someone that prioritized physical health over mental health; I was a part of the stigma against speaking out about mental health issues. For many years, I actually believed that having a mental illness was a luxury; there are people in this world that are starving, yet you’re choosing to not eat?

Fortunately, now I’ve learned now that being able to care for your own mental health and focusing in on self-care goes hand in hand with taking care of your physical health. It’s clear to me now that these mental illnesses aren’t a choice, and I’m forever grateful to have had my experiences with YouthLine terminate the ignorance that I once had and that millions of people still have.

What advice do you have for someone struggling with something in their life?

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO REACH OUT. TALK ABOUT IT. You need to understand that it’s okay to talk about these things in the same way that it’s okay to talk about physical health. If you break your bone, you talk to your doctor, and though it may take some time, that bone will eventually heal. Mental health is the exact same way; YOU MUST talk about these things because even if it may not be physical, it is still a part of you that is injured and deserves attention.

Though the circumstances of what you may be going through seem impossible and that no one will understand, there are still so many people in this world that are willing to listen to what you have to tell them, whether it’s someone you know and love, or a complete stranger from across the nation.

Another thing to not forget is that in spite of all of this stress and pressure you’re feeling right now, you cannot forget to take care of yourself. Sometimes when you’re caught up in a myriad of emotions, the stress and fear builds up to a point where you forget to do things such as get adequate amounts of food, water, and rest. You stop doing the things that you love and that relax you; you can’t forget to do these things, whether it’s taking time out of your night to take a bubble bath, playing your guitar, coloring in an adult coloring book, or simply just watching your favorite TV show. You should always talk to someone about how you’re feeling when you’re going through a struggle, but don’t forget that it’s also okay to take a step back, distract yourself from the reality of what’s going on, and take care of yourself when these struggles become too much to properly and safely manage.

If you’re a teenager who feels lost and has no support from the people you’re surrounded by, please go to oregonyouthline.org. Call 877-978-8491. Text “teen2teen,” to 839863. Reach out, and I guarantee that the volunteers at YouthLine will listen and support you so that you feel heard.

Real Talk With Kristin WongHow are you a role model to others?

I hope that I appear as a role model to others through my perseverance. When I first had cancer, the doctors told me that most kids take an extra year off of school and have to graduate a year late because it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of school work, especially for high school students. However, in spite of doing chemo and facing all of the side effects, I still worked hard to finish all of my work in time to graduate with the Class of 2018. During my time in treatment, I also continued to go to YouthLine as often as possible because when you have something that you’re genuinely passionate about, there really is nothing that can prevent you from doing it.

Passions and perseverance aside, I think all it takes to be a good role model is to remember that everyone is human– you need to treat everyone in the same way you would want to be treated. I try my best to not to exclude anyone, and I always find ways to show others that I care and that I’m thinking of them. I emphasize how important it is to take care of yourself and not be ashamed of who you are. I hope people perceive me as altruistic, ambitious, and vigilant because I consciously make all of my decisions so that they can inspire someone else to do something similar and treat others the same way. I want to be a part of the origin for a young mind to begin the process of loving themselves, allowing them to be unafraid to accept who they truly are, and letting it shine to the rest of world.

A role model leads, but also listens. A role model has strong opinions, but is not ignorant to new and different perspectives. A role model is unafraid to be independent and empowering, but is not so far out of reach that those that aspire to be like her find her unapproachable or intimidating. A role model leads by example to not only inspire others, but to inspirit herself as well.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong

#AerieREAL is about standing together and feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. How do you personally identify with that message?

            One thing that I’ll never forget is back in 2014, I was told by another girl that she hated me because I was “too Asian,” as if embracing the race I was born in to was something to be ashamed of. This was especially shocking to hear because the girl that told me this was Asian as well. A few months later, this same exact girl told me that she wished she was white because being Asian automatically meant that you could never be beautiful.

The most frightening thing was that I understood the shame that came with being Asian American. I live in a primarily white city, and I go to a school where I don’t have a single teacher (besides the Chinese language teacher) that looks like me. Some teachers I’ve had in the past have told me that they have higher expectations for me because they know my parents are stricter (in spite of never having met my parents), and in 7th grade, a boy asked me if I was “a real Asian” because I didn’t have monolids. An even more repulsive experience was just a few months ago, I was being interviewed for a college by a white cis male who took not more than ten seconds to look over my resume and said, “I hate to break it to you, but you really aren’t helping yourself stick out from the rest of your people.”

Although there’s never been a point in my life where I’ve been embarrassed to be Asian and Chinese, there have been times where I’ve felt insecure about it, especially in public situations. For example, I’ve had people at school laugh because every photo I open on Snapchat is from an Asian friend (even though it’s completely ridiculous because they only receives photos from other white students). Other times, I’ll tell my family to be quiet in restaurants because of the stereotype that the Chinese are ill-behaved in public places and as tourists.

Up until last year, at the point where I was halfway through chemotherapy, I was relatively ashamed to be Asian, and this contempt seemed to be innate. All of these years, because of all of the stereotypes and blanketed racism I’ve faced, I wasn’t 100% proud to be who I am or what I look like. The wake up call for me was that during chemo, I realized that in a world where there are millions of problems that are unavoidable (such as getting life threatening diseases), you can’t oppress yourself even more by being discontent with what you are born with.

I think a lot of this acceptance of racism and widely familiar shame among people of color, specifically Asians in this case, is unquestionably due to the lack of Asian representation politics and media. What we see in media greatly determines how we establish our sense of self and our value of self, and when we don’t see ourselves in what the media displays, we feel that there is something wrong with us that causes there to be underrepresentation of people that are like us. The girl that I mentioned at the start is a perfect example of someone that, because of the stigma surrounding who she is, is so insecure that she openly admits to hating someone that truly embraces who they know they’re meant to be. She was afraid of the fact that she couldn’t see herself in me; even though we looked comparable on the outside, she didn’t feel the same confidence or pride in herself to the same degree that I did. Because of this, she aggressively acted out, perhaps because the resentment towards her self-identity was so substantial that she couldn’t understand how anyone else could be proud of what she was also supposed to be.

Rather than tearing each other down, we should be standing together as a collective to battle against this stigma (and blatant racism) that so many of us face. It’s important to be your own, self-made version of success. If you’re not proud or confident in who you are and what you do, that means you’re spending all of your energy being someone you’re really not, which is tremendously tiresome and unsatisfying. Not understanding how imperative self-love and self-care is is detrimental to your mental health, which in turn, destroys your physical health as well. Just like how it’s important to talk about these racial issues, it’s important to talk about your mental health as well. These two issues overlap in demographics, where many mental health issues derive from discontent with self-image.

Share your experiences with others and don’t be afraid to criticize or call others out for being disrespectful to who you are meant to be. No one should feel ashamed to be the way that they are. Embracing who you are is #AerieREAL; being #AerieREAL is unapologetically being yourself.

Real Talk With Kristin Wong