Gisele Bundchen, Brazilian-born supermodel and former Victoria’s Secret star, has signed a multi-year contract with Under Armour, a sport and fitness apparel company. She is part of their “I Will What I Want” campaign. If the title seems vague to you, don’t bother to try to get clarity by looking up the video Under Armour posted on their website to promote Ms Bundchen’s contribution to their campaign.
I’ll spare you the pain of having to view it for yourself by summarizing it here. Just as I’m sure both Bundchen and Under Armour were banking on, when news of the contract hit the public, many took to Twitter to post their thoughts on a supermodel signing a deal in an industry that is normally the domain of athletes and high profile fitness experts. Also predictable, most of the comments are rather negative. The video shows snippets of Bundchen running through a series of workouts. (I confess, I couldn’t stomach the entire video. Of the 3 minutes or so I did watch, she performed a kickboxing segment, planks and push-ups on low-hanging gymnast rings and a yoga-inspired balance pose on one leg.) She’s in a room with slate-colored walls and, as she is performing her workout, actual Twitter comments about her are superimposed in white letters on the walls behind her. In other words, this campaign is all about Bundchen. This isn’t about inspiring girls and women to be strong or to reject the false and impossible body-image messages that are constantly bombarding them. It’s about revamping her image. And, she has a lot to revamp. While the people whom she is answering back to in the video are referred to as “haters”, there are many of us – mothers, daughters, sisters, women in general – who have valid reasons to dislike and reject her messages.
Let’s begin with the industry she began in – modeling in the fashion industry and becoming most famous for modeling lingerie. This industry is the absolute antithesis of the women’s fitness industry. While the fashion industry continues to airbrush and computer-edit waifish girls with surgical “enhancements” for our consumption, the fitness industry is trying to teach girls that it isn’t about how your body looks compared to others or what size you wear. It’s about eating well and exercising for strength, health and well-being. While the fashion industry is still marred by eating disorders and unhealthy habits, the fitness industry challenges us to push ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally to achieve what we didn’t think we could and build our self-esteem and self-worth in the process. If Ms Bundchen wanted to get on board with that message, I may have been willing to listen. She could have come to our team and been an asset. Instead, she’s using this to answer to critics and, once again, try to show girls that they can never be as perfect and wonderful as the beautiful Gisele Bundchen. In case you don’t remember or aren’t aware of other areas of Ms Bundchen’s life that other women (or humans, for that matter) have failed to live up to in her reckoning, here is a sampling:
- In Harper’s Bazaar UK she said, “I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”
- In Vogue: “I think a lot of people get pregnant and decide they can turn into garbage disposals. I was mindful about what I ate, and I gained only 30 pounds.”
- She is known to have had natural births at home for both of her children. She posted a blog on her website that claimed hospital births were “violent” and “like a mass production of babies.”
- Following a Super Bowl loss by the New England Patriots, a team quarterbacked by her husband Tom Brady, rather than ignore a bunch of low-life heckling football fans, she chose to respond with a profanity-laced assignment of blame on her husband’s teammates. All caught, of course, on the heckling fans’ cell phones.
Sorry, Under Armour this woman and her campaign with you aren’t inspiring to me and I won’t be exposing my daughters to it. I’ll be sure to avoid your label when purchasing their gym clothes and sports gear. I much prefer the messages of Athleta’s Chi Blog, where they asked ordinary women to enter images of their yoga poses in interesting places in a contest. Or Dick’s Sporting Goods “Why You Run” campaign – these stories are all real and full of people far more worthy of our admiration and inspiration. Nike, long known for their “Just Do It” message have adapted it specifically for women. I get it, Athleta, Dick’s and Nike are already doing the ordinary-women-are-the-stars marketing campaign and you wanted to do something different. So why not female athletes – amateur and professional? Wanted more star power than that? How about famous, beautiful women who are sending healthy messages to girls and women? Off the top of my head: Mindy Kaling is publicly proud of her body in the face of constant public ridicule; Colbie Caillet’s “Try” video is a must-see for all girls; Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” may be riotously raunchy, but it is about acceptance of the beauty of your body just as it is.
Perhaps if Ms Bundchen would have been willing to strip off her make-up just as Ms Caillet did or revealed an un-edited photo of herself as Jamie Lee Curtis has done, she wouldn’t have so many so-called haters. It was an opportunity for her to show women that she, like all of us, has flaws but we are stronger and better than our flaws. Instead, she has chosen to continue to give us the unrealistic and false picture of perfection, except now with an added in-your-face middle finger to all of us who reject that picture. All I can say is: Under Armour, thanks, but no thanks.