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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Introducing… An All-New Aerie Store Design!

 

 

Get in here, beautiful! Our brand new store design brings the feel of an indoor market to your mall. With personalization on our extra-special printers and more DIY fun, our new stores are Aerie like you’ve never seen it before. Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, NC is home to the first all-new Aerie, and there are more new designs coming soon! We talked to the brains behind our amazing new store design—Senior Director of Aerie Visual Lauren Cabral and Senior Director of New Store Design and Fixtures Michael Smith—to get the story behind our new design and her ideas for future Aerie homes. Read on for more!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

Yes, our new stores come with an Insta-ready wall!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

How would you describe Aerie’s new market store design? 

LC: Our overall concept is based off of an indoor market…it’s BRIGHT, comfortable, open and welcoming.

MS: All stores are designed to showcase product and should at the very least provide a pleasant and convenient  shopping experience. However, in my opinion, the best stores designs are an embodiment of the brand, reflecting the aesthetic and attitude of the product while engaging the customer at an emotional level. We want our Aerie girl to feel at home in the store. It should be her oasis at the mall – a place to hangout, relax and shop with friends. After all, the space was designed for her.

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

What is your favorite part about our new stores? 

LC: I need to pick the top 3— it’s too hard to pick just one.

  1. The storefront! Our experience bar in the window brings a fresh & fun approach to the leaseline that we hope our customers will LOVE!
  2. The fitting rooms! They are designed to feel like a really cool mid-century modern apartment. It’s very cozy in there. ☺
  3. DIY and personalization!  We’re excited to bring seasonal concepts to life in a new way through custom printing on the Anajet printer and our DIY market table.

MS: If I have to pick one, I think it’s the fitting room area. I hope that we have provided a place that, while still integrated into the sales area, feels like a sanctuary. We combined the architecture with visuals to create a more relaxed space where our customer can interact with her friends and the sales associates. It’s a space where she is encouraged to try new things.

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

What do you hope to bring to Aerie stores in the future?

LC: Creating new, exciting DIY opportunities and events are at the top of the list! Oh, and can’t WAIT to ADD more Aerie stores!!

MS: I’ll wait for our Aerie Girl to tell me. The nicest thing I heard about the new design was from a sales associate in our Crabtree store. She overheard a customer say that she wanted her first place to look just like the store.Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in visual design?

LC: Good design is all about problem solving; it needs to be beautiful and functional.  Attention to detail is super important too—working through a project to understanding symmetry, color and contrast are all key—but must be carefully curated to avoid clutter and overload.  Lastly, be prepared to be wrong; you never know till you try!

MS: Inspiration is everywhere; never stop looking, never stop learning, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you see something you like, make a note or take a picture. You don’t know where the next great idea is going to come from – and you never know when something that you saw 10 years ago is going to inspire the perfect fixture.

Also, it’s not just about going to a good design school. Sometimes it’s about real work experience and learning from the people you meet along the way. I spent 5 years in design school but never felt like a real designer until my first season as a Christmas extra in a large department store. I was surrounded by incredibly talented people who had limited budgets and a deadline. Best experience ever….

Introducing... An All-New Aerie Store Design!

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Real Talk With Iskra: Spark x Iskra Fragrance

Introducing… Spark x Iskra! An extra-special new collaboration with #AerieREAL Role Model, Iskra. Her first fragrance comes in a eau de parfum, and a special self-care kit that also includes a bath bomb and candle. We can’t get enough of this scent for spring! Read on to see what inspired Iskra to create this new scent.Real Talk With Iskra: Spark x Iskra Fragrance

How did this amazing new fragrance come to be?

I’ve been working with Aerie for 4 years. Over the years my role as #AerieREAL Role Model has grown and I’ve had the opportunity to work on new and exciting projects with them, this fragrance is one of those! I have such a strong connection with Aerie and their consumers, I really felt like I could create a fragrance that the Aerie fan base could connect with and love. It’s amazing to be part of Aerie campaigns and be behind the camera. To create something with them from scratch was such a fun and exciting experience!

Spark x Iskra’s notes are fresh watermelon, delicate jasmine and cozy vanilla. What was the inspiration behind choosing these notes?

When I was deciding which scents I wanted, the most important thing to me was to make sure the end result was something that made women and girls feel confident, happy, empowered to be themselves, express their uniqueness, and to have a ton of fun doing it! Somehow, the notes of fresh watermelon, delicate jasmine and cozy vanilla did just that. I am so excited for people to try it.

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Tell us about the bottle & design of the fragrance. What’s special about it?

Like everything I do with Aerie I want the product to be totally unique but also really accessible for my followers. I think the bottle and its design captures the feeling I want people to have when they wear my fragrance. What’s unique is the stickers that come with the bottle. The stickers can be used to customise the bottle so it reflects your personality, so you can have a one-of-a-kind bottle just like you are one of a kind!

The Spark x Iskra collection features a fragrance, scented bath bomb and candle. Can we look forward to seeing more of your signature products in the future?

Creating these products was so much fun. I absolutely loved the process. It is such a cool experience creating something tangible from scratch that people will be able to actually use and I definitely would be interested in expanding on that. That said, right now I am really focusing on the launch of the Spark x Iskra collection and excited to finally share my fragrance with my followers and the Aerie fans!

Where will you wear the Spark x Iskra fragrance? Comment below & tell us!

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Real Talk With Jordan Jones of Packed Party

We talked to Jordan Jones, founder of the MOST fun Packed Party gifts brand. Find out how she started her business in her apartment and read about her must-haves for your holiday parties this season. Check out our fave Packed Party items at our Spring Street Pop-Up and at Aerie.com now!

 

How did you come up with the idea for Packed Party?

The idea for Packed Party came to me in a dream in 2013. I had moved to San Francisco not knowing anyone, was sort of feeling sorry for myself one evening in my apartment and called my mom who told me I was having a Pity Party for myself and to go to bed. Thank goodness I listened to her because I went to bed and woke up from a dream about sending a physical Pity Party to myself. I scoured the internet for anything like it and there was nothing that existed so I wrote a business plan for Packed Party right there and sent it to my dad the very next day.

 

What advice do you have for girls who want to start their own companies?

If it’s an idea you’re truly passionate about, dive in head-first fearlessly. No one can stop a woman with passion. I loved Packed Party from the night it came to me in my dream, I knew no one could do it better than me at 23 and today at 27 I still believe that. I have a passion for making people’s days and giving great gifts so I’m truly doing what I love. There will always be nay sayers or people who will try and get in the way, but when you know in your heart of hearts you’re the person to do the job and you love it, there’s no stopping you.

 

We love the Packed Party Pom Pom Magnets! What do you love most about the pom trend?

Thank you! Me too!! I am a pom pom fanatic. I have been since I was little weirdly so it makes a lot of sense so many of our fall + holiday items have poms on them! I think details are incredibly important so adding a pom to anything makes it a little bit better and pops it!

Real Talk With Jordan Jones of Packed Party

Packed Party is our go-to for unique gifts! What are your must-haves for the ultimate holiday party?

I love a good holiday party! I love creating a great tablescape story and always look to my friend Darcy Miller for inspiration in this department. As far as the actual place setting I love putting a staple in place people can keep with them like a Disco Drink or some sort of fun gift with someone’s name attached to it. Can never go wrong with a disco ball on the table, right?

 

What makes you #AerieREAL?

I pride myself on keeping it very real with people. Everyone who knows me knows where they stand with me, I have a lot of trouble hiding my emotions, ha. My mom raised me to be really confident in who I am and never sort of “pretend” to be anyone else so I don’t wear much make-up and that’s sort of set the tone in our office – we’re all about keeping it easy, natural, and functional. No one here is trying to be anyone they’re not which I love. Being a Party Girl means being confident in the skin you’re in and owning whatever it is you’re dealing with like a Pity Party, celebrating yourself for that big raise at work with a Yay, You, you-name-it.

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Meet The #AerieREAL Girls Behind The Real Me Collection

The softest second-skin bras take REAL work! We asked Senior Designer, Lyndsey, and Merchandise Manager, Brittany, to tell us how our Real Me Collection came to be. In a bralette and lightly lined and unlined bra fits, Real Me is one of our most versatile collections yet. Read on to find out why Lyndsey and Brittany love this collection, and why you will too!
Meet The #AerieREAL Girls Behind The Real Me Collection

What inspired you and the team to design the Real Me Collection?

Lyndsey: We wanted to make the ultimate #AerieREAL collection, bras so effortless you forget you’re wearing them! Comfort was a key focus when creating Real Me, these are our lightest bras yet with the attention on every component to be ultra thin and smooth, with just the right amount of coverage for every day, great support and a natural looking shape, Real Me lets the the real you shine!

Tell us more about the colors that make up the collection. What inspired them?

Lyndsey: We created a beautiful palette for Real Me, inspired by cosmetic tones and pretty neutrals. All Aerie girls can find a great option for their skin tone. We wanted to give Real Me an extra special signature detail with pretty rose gold tattoos!Meet The #AerieREAL Girls Behind The Real Me Collection

What makes the Real Me Bra your new everyday bra?

Brittany: I’m personally a HUGE Sunnie collection lover & customer, BUT after trying on the Real Me collection, I’m in love! I get even more comfort, more softness, in even more beautiful colors!! It’s so “barely there” that I wore it to bed the other night, because I forgot I had a bra on! It’s so easy to outfit too – its smooth surface easily allows me to layer it under my favorite tee or oversized fleece going into fall!

Tell us your favorite style and color! 

Lyndsey: Oooh hard to choose! My absolute favorite is the Real Me Bralette in Chestnut! It’s so effortless you can wear it with anything and the color is so pretty I love to show it off 🙂

Brittany: The Real Me Unlined bra is my hands-down favorite style because of the sleek and modern silhouette. It gives great lift while still being so dreamy and comfortable. My favorite color is Confidence – because it blends right in to my summertime tan!Meet The #AerieREAL Girls Behind The Real Me Collection

What Real Me style are you loving? Comment below and tell us!

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