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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Real Talk With Erin Drischler Of The Garment Project

Erin Drischler founded The Garment Project, a non-profit that aims to empower women recovering from eating disorders by providing them with new, size-less clothing, individualized for their healthy bodies and lifestyles. We got to know Erin and the story behind her incredible non-profit—read on for more.

Real Talk With Erin Drischler Of The Garment Project

 

What inspired you to start The Garment Project?

I wanted to start telling a different story. There were so many years where I felt stuck in a loop as the ‘sick girl’. I decided that I want to be a voice for those who feel that same hopelessness. For me, clothing and sizing was a huge part of my eating disorder recovery. Returning home from treatment to a closet full of clothes that didn’t fit my body or soul is a struggle that not many in recovery think of prior to it staring them in the face for the first time. Between my fiancé, Jordan, and myself, our careers, hobbies, and talents seemed to give us the expertise needed to try to make a difference.

We recognized that there needed to be a way for someone to maintain their focus on recovery and not their size, even when finding new clothes. We decided that partnering directly with treatment facilities would give us the information we needed about each candidate Garment works with in a private and healthy way. From there, we needed to give each individual a unique shopping experience. Garment created an online tool that allows us to make a new, personalized shopping page for each candidate containing only items in our inventory that we believe matches both their needs and lifestyle. With the help of hard-working and talented people, we believe Garment will change the recovery process and a lot of lives along the way.

Can you tell us a bit more about the power sizing in clothing can have over women and what they can do to overcome it?

Each time I went through treatment, I would learn new skills or bits of information that would improve some of my behaviors and way of thinking. I would usually leave with a feeling of confidence and that I had worked hard to make important changes in my lifestyle. Yet I would find myself in the same place: back at home, day one of no longer having the security of an inpatient treatment team, trying to get ready for class. I was alone in my room staring at a closet full of clothes that no longer fit my body or recovered lifestyle. It was a terrible feeling.

For a long time I used clothes to fuel my eating disorder. It isn’t uncommon to use clothing sizes as benchmarks. I kept and used my old clothes as a means of body checking, or seeing if weight had been gained or not. After several cycles through the treatment loop, I had been convinced to throw away my scale. My eating disorder didn’t need a scale anymore because I had my ‘sick clothes’. I remember one dress in particular that would reveal my current weight based on how it fit. I didn’t have the financial stability or even the courage to box everything up and start over.

Clothing and fashion are personal and powerful ways to express yourself. It is exciting and the easiest way to express your individuality. I was missing the thing I used to love about getting dressed each day. I wanted to be able to pick my outfit based on my mood or whatever side of my personality was stronger that morning, but I was stuck with a wardrobe that had so many negative associations attached to it that I couldn’t feel confident about anything that I had to choose from.

What’s next for The Garment Project?

We are focused on bettering our service and expanding our reach. This year, we are going to be working hard to spread our message and let people know that we’re a resource for people who have done amazing work for themselves and are learning how to lead a healthier life. Of course, Garment is always learning and growing too. It’s a priority for us to be able to expand our service to men and hopefully we’ll make significant progress on that this year as well.

What makes you #AerieREAL?

It took a few years of practice and slips, but I have a completely new relationship with food, my body, and myself. My eating disordered thoughts once consumed my life, paralyzing me from living a life I was proud of. I am three years into recovery and I still feel pride and excitement when I catch myself in control. I eat when I’m hungry and until I am full, and I always order exactly what I want. When I look at a photo of myself, I no longer examine every dimple or imperfection. I am able to see the happiness on my face because that’s what is most important to me now. I learned how to be more patient with people I care about, and forgive others when they might not have met my expectations. The food finally came second to the relationships, which was one of the most important steps in accepting my recovery.

Living this recovered life had not only led me to accept my body and soul, but truly love and embrace what I have to offer. I’m proud of my recovery and the messy, motivating experiences I went through. It is important to us that we be champions of recovery and show those that are struggling how beautiful recovered life can be.

 

Want to learn more about The Garment Project? Check out their website here.

 

 

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Real Talk with Hannah Skvarla from The Little Market

Hannah Skvarla co-founded The Little Market to empower women and support brighter futures for the artisans around the world. We talked with this #AerieREAL Role Model about her non-profit, the positive impact she’s making on the world and what it means to be #AerieREAL. Read all about it below!

Real Talk with Hannah Skvarla from The Little Market

You are Co-Founder of The Little Market. What inspired you to start a non-profit?

Lauren and I have always felt a responsibility to help others. We love traveling and have had the opportunity to meet incredible women who are surviving and thriving because of the help of nonprofits. When we travel, we love to visit local marketplaces and support local artisans.  We realized that if we could bring these handmade products to a wider audience, then the artisans would be able to support themselves and their families while making their beautiful goods.

In 2013, we founded The Little Market, a nonprofit, fair trade shop with a collection of artisan-made goods from around the world. We ethically source products from 60 artisan groups in 28 countries. By bringing these beautiful artisan-made goods to customers, women can support themselves and their families while preserving cultural techniques that have been passed down for generations. Through The Little Market, we can empower women around the world, without a limit by geography.

We work with artisan groups from marginalized, rural communities to share their beautiful products with a wider audience. We seek out partnerships with artisan groups that follow fair trade practices and empower women. Many of the artisan co-ops and social enterprises provide much-needed resources such as job and skills training, access to education, and family healthcare. Every purchase of fair trade goods creates sustainable jobs and a positive, long-lasting impact. By shopping fair trade, our collective efforts generate meaningful opportunities and help to combat poverty, empower artisans, and create social justice.

Being a nonprofit was a clear decision for us because we started it to help others, not to personally gain. As a nonprofit, all profits are dedicated to expanding operations and reaching more artisan groups.

The Little Market is fair trade. Why was this business decision so important to you?

Every purchase of fair trade goods creates sustainable jobs and a positive, long-lasting impact for artisans and their communities. Fair trade ensures that marginalized producers earn a fair, sustainable wage, work in safe and supportive environments, implement environmentally conscious and sustainable practices, and preserve their cultural identity. Through fair trade and equitable trading partnerships, artisans and other small-scale producers have a platform to sell their goods for a sustainable price. It is very important for us to ensure our products are made while following fair trade principles.

We love hearing concrete examples of the positive impact fair trade has on the artisan groups we work with. Earning a fair income means that artisans do not have to keep their children home from school to work to supplement the family income — this allows the children to go to school, often becoming the first in their family to attend middle or high school. Many artisans can purchase more nutritious and healthier food, which leads to fewer medical problems like worms.

Personally, when thinking about the importance of shopping with purpose, I love the quote by Anna Lappé that says, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” With each purchase, a vote is casted. When purchasing items that are fair trade and ethically made, you are valuing the well-being and story of the individual behind a product. As conscious shoppers, we can make a positive impact through fair trade, ethically sourced goods and show respect for human rights.

Real Talk with Hannah Skvarla from The Little Market

What makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model?

I believe in the power behind empowering women, using our voices to lift each other up, and speaking up against injustices. I love the message and mission behind #AerieREAL — it is incredibly important for women to support each other. Women are one of the most underserved populations. For instance, with the current pay gap, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in the United States; this is greater for women of color. Women face a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence. And we are underrepresented in government. Knowing the disparities and inequalities women face around the world, we founded The Little Market to empower women in marginalized communities. When we have opportunities to earn a sustainable income, we can work toward a brighter future for themselves and their families. I am honored to be an #AerieREAL Role Model and to support authentic beauty and women empowerment.

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

Encouraging women to stand together and to feel confident and comfortable is very important to me. Growing up, I remember feeling like I would never look like the women I would see in magazines or on TV. The images and messaging that I was exposed to through media made me feel like women were valued based on their looks. As a mother to a little girl, it is more important to me than ever to tell girls and women that they are beautiful just as they are. Each of us is different and that’s what makes each of us uniquely beautiful.

Who is your role model and why?

I have always been fascinated by Jane Goodall. Jane has always done things that prior to her work people believed were impossible. She worked jobs that no woman had ever worked before. Before her years of research, scientists did not believe that animals had emotions. She discovered the complex social behaviors and personalities of chimpanzees during her 50 years of observing them. For instance, her research uncovered that chimps can not only use tools, but they can make them as well. Observations like these led to rethinking our connections with humans and animals. She has been dedicated to activism from animal rights to environmental causes.

As an animal rights activist, she speaks up for those without a voice. I have always believed that it is our responsibility to use our voice to speak for those who don’t have one. Many women around the world are treated as if their voices do not matter. We have learned that when a woman has her own income, this can change. Several of the inspiring artisans we work with have shared with us that now that they have a way to make money, domestic violence has decreased and men treat them more equally.

Jane Goodall has not only made breakthrough discoveries through her research, but she has also taught us the power of using our voices to make a difference. She found causes she was passionate about at a young age, bravely set out to pursue her research, and reshaped our understanding of the connection between humans and animals. We can all learn the power of following our passions, using our voices, and showing compassion for others from Jane Goodall.

 

What makes you an #AerieREAL Role Model? Join the movement and share your story!

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Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

“It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s ok. Be kind to yourself.”

Rachel Platten is #AerieREAL!

This singer-songwriter and wave maker has fought hard to follow her dreams, and she uses her voice to uplift herself and those around her. When she’s not touring and sharing her songs with the world, she plays a first-hand role in the healing power of music by singing to patients at local hospitals.

With years in the music business, Rachel knows first-hand how hard it can be to reach your goals, and she also knows how amazing it is when you realize what YOU can do.

We asked Rachel to describe her personal style in 3 words. Her response? She can’t! “My personal style is whatever I wake up feeling like that day. I can’t pin it down for anyone.” Shop Rachel’s faves and see more from all of our #AerieREAL Role Models here.

Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

Rachel’s words to live by? “Everything comes from a place of fear or love. Choose <3.”

 

Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Rachel Platten

Join the #AerieREAL movement! Share what makes YOU an #AerieREAL Role Model with us.

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Get To Know #AerieREAL Role Model Aly Raisman

“We’ve all been through something that in the end, will make you a stronger person.”

Aly Raisman is #AerieREAL!

Aly is a gold medal gymnast and fierce survivor. She has competed in and won world-class gymnastics competitions, but it’s her bravery and strength in sharing her own story and advocating for her fellow athletes that makes Aly a true role model for every single girl.

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As a gold medal winner, Aly knows how it feels to win, but this #AerieREAL Role Model believes that your true character shows through when you’re forced to deal with the losses in your life.

“It’s really empowering to be in your bra and underwear and it’s just the real you. It’s no retouching.” Aly is all about pieces that make her feel comfortable and confident. Shop her faves and see more from all of our #AerieREAL Role Models here.

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Aly’s words to live by? “Fierce. Kind. Humble. Love.”

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Join the #AerieREAL movement! Share what makes YOU an #AerieREAL Role Model with us.

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Love The Swim You’re In Is BACK!

For the third year in a row, we want #AerieREAL girls everywhere to LOVE THE SWIM YOU’RE IN! Last year, you helped us raise more than $15K for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Check out some inspo from the amazing photos YOU posted last year.

This year, our campaign is back and bigger than ever! This spring and summer, we’ll donate $1 (now up to $25,000!) to NEDA for every unretouched swim photo or video you share with #AerieREAL. Start sharing and YOU could be featured on social or in our store windows this spring and summer!

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and start sharing! Tell us why you love the swim you’re in, and encourage your friends to share, too. Because EVERY body is a perfect beach body..

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