Real Talk with Evelyn Riddell

Evie is a history student at the University of Toronto, an active member of the type one diabetes community, and she just so happens to be fearless wearing a bra in front of a camera! Read on for more of her story and why she wanted to join our latest #AerieREAL photoshoot.

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What made you want to join this #AerieREAL bra photoshoot?

Aerie has been my favourite store for many years. I started out with wearing their clothes, and then ended up loving their message. I often looked at their photos in store and on social media, wondering if I could ever be a part of their movement, but at first I thought my Type One Diabetes would somehow disqualify me. After all, I had never seen anyone like myself represented before. I had faith, however, that if any store could change this, it would be Aerie! When I saw the contest opportunity on their Instagram, I decided to take a chance and apply. I hoped that I would be given the opportunity to not only make my dream come true, but to represent all Type One diabetics and give them a voice.

You’re on our site rocking a bra and an insulin pump, and people everywhere (us included!) are so inspired by you. How does it feel to represent the diabetic community?  

It has been absolutely surreal! When I was diagnosed, one of the first things I noticed was how incredibly supportive the Type One community is. From the very beginning I have been an active member of this community, and I am forever grateful for the lessons, friends and opportunities it has given me. It feels amazing to be giving back, and be representing Type Ones within the #AerieREAL movement. I’ve heard from countless individuals saying how this campaign is the first time they’ve seen themselves represented in the media. I have received messages from tweens, teens, adults, and parents of young children. Many individuals have even sent me photos wearing their Continuous Glucose Monitors [CGM] or insulin pumps visibly for the first time. My hope is that one day soon it won’t be a single campaign representing the community, but Type One representation will be so normalized that we’ll see devices worn confidently, and blood sugar checks done proudly everywhere… until there’s a cure!!

Have you seen representation of people with diabetes in the media before? How has it (or the lack of it) affected you?

The only time I see Type One representation in the media is when I’m actively looking for it. That’s why the type one community is so important, because it provides us with examples of individuals thriving and proudly living with Type One Diabetes. Without these, there really isn’t representation within “mainstream” media. There is a narrative of general “diabetes” within advertising, which leads to many misunderstandings about the differences between Type One and Type Two diabetes. Because of this incomplete narrative I have received many rude or ignorant comments about my personal health. I have been subjected to comments from both my peers and strangers, ranging from my eating habits to their reasons for my diagnosis, and even my body type. This was not easy to deal with as a 12 year old girl already struggling with self-confidence and body positivity. This is why representation of Type One Diabetes is so important, because it can educate people and help breakdown harmful misconceptions. I know that this campaign would have meant the world to a me at 12 years old, and I hope that it will mean just as much to everyone else.BTS2_Carousel_Bras_2_2

Tell us about your experience on the shoot!

The shoot was absolutely incredible! One of the most empowering, exciting and fulfilling days of my life! Every single person on set genuinely believes in Aerie’s message. Their first priority was making sure all the models felt comfortable and safe. Wearing just a bra and underwear can be intimidating, especially with flashing lights and cameras pointed at you. This being said, I never felt anything other than comfortable and was surprised how natural it all felt. As someone with Type One diabetes, Aerie made sure there was always food in case I went low, and were all eager to learn more about how my devices worked. I arrived beyond excited yet very nervous, and by the end of the day, left feeling like I had a new family.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I’m not perfect, far from it, but I’m trying my best! I’m real about this, and I want people to know it! When it comes to my Type One Diabetes, I don’t want to pretend that it’s not difficult. Growing up I was always a perfectionist, but type one has helped teach me that there is no such thing as “perfect”. Having a chronic illness means learning to accept both the highs and the lows, and being content with knowing you’re trying your best. I wear my insulin pump and CGM proudly, because without it I can’t grow, mature and live the life I want to.

 

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Real Talk with Aysha Emmerson

Aysha Emmerson founded Self.I.E. (Self Inspiration and Empowerment) Camps to help girls in their pre-teen years. Read on to find out what inspired Aysha to become an advocate for empowerment and learn more about the camps that bring girls together at such an important time in their lives.

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What inspired you to create Self.I.E. Camps?

My fervent belief in the powerful strides girls can take when they support one another drove me to create Self.I.E Camps. I experienced this support from inspiring young women double my age when I was hospitalized with anorexia as an eight-year-old. I battled with this life-threatening disorder from ages seven to twelve. The unkind words and actions that were all too common in middle school only made my struggle worse. I watched my peers’ attempts to conform, while wearing my own feelings of not being “good enough.” In high school, as I found my niche and grew a stronger voice, things began to change for me. I realized that I was not alone in my experience of insecurity and isolation. Believing that no other girl should have to hurt like I did—I heard my call to action. I could not find a pre-existing venue to help inspire and empower younger girls using the approach that I felt was needed, so I decided to create my own.

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Tell us about how your camps empower girls and young women & why that’s important to you.

I believe that our uniqueness is what makes us beautiful and I have experienced the pain that comes from struggling to change the body we are born into. I no longer want to live in a culture that perpetuates an unattainable image of beauty. I no longer want to see girls’ and boys’ true selves be degraded by their own low self-esteem, which can lead to any number of serious issues that inhibit an individual’s capacity to reach their potential. I no longer want to feel helpless to a situation that I can help improve. I want everyone to embrace themselves and each other.5 Days_Themes

Self.I.E (Self Inspiration and Empowerment) is a day-camp for girls entering grades 5 and 6. Led by high-school students, the camp includes activities and reflections designed to build a strong sense of self and skills to navigate the pre-teen world. Each day of the camp centers around one of five themes: self-care, self-acceptance, self-expression, self-defence, and self-to-others. The goal is to help participants at a vulnerable age develop a rich appreciation and understanding of themselves, allowing them to build resilience and flourish, while also enabling them to support other girls and give back to their communities. It creates a safe space where girls entering middle school can come to see the value in being themselves and can be given love and support from their peers and positive teen role models, who were in their shoes just a few years earlier. In addition, sharing and role modelling Self.I.E’s five themes helps the camp counselors to better embody these lessons in our own lives, while strengthening their confidence as leaders.

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What would you tell your ten-year-old self?

To my ten-year-old self: you deserve kindness. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and who accept you as you are—and if you can’t find them just yet, hold on a little longer—they do exist. Treat yourself as you would treat others. Be kind, be patient, be accepting, and know that it is okay to be confident in who you are. Stop focusing on others’ opinions and focus on what you think of yourself. In the end, that’s all that matters.

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What advice do you have for someone who is struggling?

Find trust. Trust the resilience of life’s little joys. Trust that there are people who care about you and who can help you. Trust what your own body is telling you. Trust that you can and will get through this. Like when you are on the last stretch of a run and all you want to do is quit, physically override any negative thoughts with each step you take—no matter how small. Trust that you and others have crossed a finish line before and can do it again.

Final Reflection

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I am #AerieREAL because I believe our real selves are our best selves. I live each day with the intention of lifting others up and building their self-confidence. I see the world through an accepting lens, recognizing the beauty in everyone and everything. I focus on the things I do control—who I am and how I treat others—rather than the way I look or what others think of me. I recognize that I will always have my flaws and challenges but that these are an important part of the real me and the person I am becoming. By using my voice and personal story I hope to inspire and support others, while helping to bring about social change.

 

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It’s #CallYourDoctorDay!

June 12 is Call Your Doctor Day! For the 2nd year in a row, we’re teaming up with national non-profit Bright Pink to raise awareness for this important holiday. This year, Call Your Doctor Day is focused on empowering you to see your healthcare provider as a partner: you + your healthcare provider = dream team!

It’s #CallYourDoctorDay!

In honor of Call Your Doctor Day, Bright Pink has two tools you can use to prepare for your appointment:

  1. Get help scheduling your well-woman exam and get up-to-speed on what to expect at your annual by visiting BrightPink.org/Annual.
  2. To help guide a powerful provider-patient conversation, go to AssessYourRisk.org and complete Bright Pink’s breast and ovarian risk assessment quiz before your well-woman exam. Use your quiz results as a conversation starter with your doctor.

By preparing to have conversations with your healthcare provider at your well-woman exam, you can be your own best health advocate!

It’s #CallYourDoctorDay!

Scheduling an annual well-woman exam, even when you’re healthy, is critical to maintaining your breast and ovarian health. Your annual is also an opportunity to build a relationship with your healthcare provider, ask him or her questions and talk about your personal plan for preventive care.

Bright Pink can help you build a strong partnership with your provider. Not everyone feels comfortable going to the doctor–and that’s OK! Bright Pink provides information, resources and tools to support you on your path to your best health. Part of that journey should include conversations with a healthcare provider at your annual.

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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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!

 

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It’s International Women’s Day!

Aerie women change the world. In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re honoring game-changing #AerieREAL women across the globe. Today, we’re also launching styles designed in collaboration with our #AerieREAL Role Models and supporting causes close to their hearts. 100% of sales of limited-edition styles designed with Yara, Aly, Rachel and Iskra will be donated to movements that matter:

It's International Women's Day!

100% of sales will be donated to Innocence Project, a special cause that works to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated.

It's International Women's Day!

100% of sales will be donated to Darkness to Light, a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.

 

It's International Women's Day!

100% of sales will be donated to I AM THAT GIRL, a non-profit that provides leadership, social & personal development programs for high school & college girls.

 

It's International Women's Day!

100% of sales will be donated to NEDA, a non-profit that supports those affected by eating disorders.

It's International Women's Day!

Show your support this International Women’s Day and wear what matters to you! Share your photos with #AerieREAL and help raise awareness for these amazing causes.

 

 

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