By Marina Liao published
Every year, hundreds of retailers launch new campaigns and, while some get lost in the shuffle, Aerie's #AerieREAL Role Model initiative continues to resonate with fans of the brand. Rather than the usual crew of agency models, the women picked to appear in the ads are "real" in the sense they come from diverse careers and have strong missions to empower other women or better the world.
This year, actress Lana Condor (you might know her as the star of Netflix's To All the Boys I've Loved Before) was selected along with Beanie Feldstein and Ali Stroker, activists Hari Nef and Manuela Barón, Smile On Me founder Dre Thomas, wellness advocate Tiff McFierce, and scientist Keiana Cavé. (They join current Role Models Aly Raisman, Iskra Lawrence, Brenna Huckaby, Molly Burke, and Jenna Kutcher for the spring 2020 campaign.)
As I stepped into Aerie's showroom space above their store in midtown Manhattan to interview Condor, I was greeted by bright lights, the smell of french fries, and chatter. Role Model Aly Raisman casually walked by me and dropped an "I love your denim jumpsuit!" compliment. I had to refrain from shouting "I love YOU" back.
Minutes later, Condor appeared, giving me a big hug as if we were old friends. As we chatted—somewhere in our conversation about Aerie, kindness, and the Oscars—Condor pointed out her broad shoulders. I nodded in solidarity, telling her that a guy in high school said that about me once and I never forgot the comment. Condor jumped to defend all us broad-shouldered folks: "Nope, nuh-uh. Michelle Obama has the strongest, most broad shoulders, so you should [proudly] think to yourself, I have Michelle Obama shoulders."
In that moment, I saw why Aerie wanted Condor. She, at 22, has a level of self-assurance most people don't achieve until their late 20s or 30s. She's down to earth, energetic, and honest.
"Listen, here's the tea," she adds. "I wear Aerie in my real life all the time. This isn't a campaign I'm just doing and leaving. I wore Aerie on the airplane [to NYC] without knowing it. I wear it to different meetings. I love the brand and think it's so cozy, colorful, and comfortable."
As she tells me all this, I believe her. She's real. And she shared a lot more frank thoughts on what matters to her most. Read on.
On What It Means to Be an #AerieREAL Role Model
"It's rare to find a brand that not only promotes such goodness and body positivity, but actually follows through with their words. When I was asked to be a role model, I was like ME? REALLY? It's such an honor, especially when I look at all these women who are all so accomplished. Everyone has created such a positive space for themselves by being themselves. You'll be shocked that people respond very well to that, even though we live in a fairly cynical world. People respond well to kindness and being yourself. It doesn't take a lot to be kind."
On the Campaign Shoot
"Being on set was so refreshing and so wholesome. It was almost as if I didn't know how much I needed that. We have an incredibly diverse group of women and I think everyone here shares the same values [on inclusion]. We're all going to try our best to speak loud and proud about [the initiatives] we care about."
On Diversity in Hollywood
"Aerie has given me a platform to speak my truths, one of which is diversity. I talk about diversity all the time, being an [Asian-American actress] in Hollywood. I was heartbroken when no women were nominated for Best Director [at the Oscars]. That was crushing and I am typically optimistic to a fault. I have seen huge steps in the industry [to address equality] but this was a reminder that we still have a long way to go before there's truly equality and we celebrate everyone. But, I'm excited because [we have movies] like The Farewell and Parasite, and Parasite has a fighting chance [to win Best Picture at the Oscars]."
On What She Wants Her Fans to Know
"Be confident in yourself and radiate your truth. Don't be afraid to take up space. I've said this before and I'll say it again: The people that love you and your [true] self are the only ones you need in your life. You have to also be kind and gentle to your mind. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend, change [whatever negative] narrative or voice you have in your head. I hope everyone will be kinder to themselves and to others. It's not hard."
Shop Her Favorite Pieces From Aerie:
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