The other day I was thinking about body confidence and I thought back to 10 years ago. In my junior high days, Nike ran a print ad campaign called “My Body Parts”. It was a series that focused on different parts of the female body and celebrated them. 7th grade me loved them because they were eye-catching, witty and celebrated parts of me I was still learning to accept.
I remember going into junior high where things felt very different to elementary school. We had a gym uniform and had to change in and out of our clothes before and after class. All of a sudden I began to feel really self-conscious about my body, like never before. I was growing and changing; wearing a proper bra, I got my period, my thighs kept growing and I had the stretch marks to prove it. I use to get up at 6, 6:30 in the morning, do stretches, then go into the living room and put on an Abs/Buns of Steel or Pilates VHS very quietly and do the routines. Then I would walk a kilometre to the bus stop to take the 30 minute bus ride to school. How I dressed and how I looked suddenly became that much more important.
During those days, I was an avid magazine reader, with subscriptions to Teen Vogue and Seventeen. I use to read them religiously, analyzing every outfit, trying to recreate looks and styles as best I could. I would even make collages from the ads and stick them in my locker.
So when I was flipping through these magazines and saw this Nike ad, I fell in love. Each picture was bright and clever, telling me why that body part was awesome. I loved them so much that ripped them out and stuck them to my wall. I was a hurdler in track and field at the time as well, and to jump over the hurdles you need big, strong thighs. My knees and legs have always been covered with cuts and scraps and bruises, a testament to my activity. And whether or not my butt was big, I felt like it was, and it definitely wasn’t the sought-after standard it is today. I felt like these ads spoke to me, and honestly just helped me see myself in a different light, as someone who was strong, athletic and fine the way she was. 13 year-old definitely needed to hear that.
So this might be a little love letter to Nike and to myself. Although I might not be anywhere near athletic now, they still resonate with me and I’m glad for that. If these ads were printed nowadays they might cause a ruckus for not representing the “real” woman or all types of women, as if one picture could somehow do that. Nike sells athletic wear and the women in these ads are athletes – even if they were trying to sell me shoes. Because they helped me love myself more, without me spending a single cent.
images from: nikeblog.com