On September 13, Wolf & Rose Photography posted a boudoir shoot of Stephanie and Arryn, a young couple from Texas. These photos blew up overnight, with more than 50,000 likes and 70,000-plus shares, and resonated with people from the United Kingdom to Thailand. On top of the captivating chemistry, many others also loved the empowering message of confidence and body positivity these dynamic photos radiated.
How body positivity and social media can affect our self-esteem
Both social and mainstream media have long been reported to cause negative effects one’s self-esteem and , but it’s important to note that they aren’t the direct cause. Rather, it’s suggested that these platforms tend to foster and reinforce unrealistic expectations.
But could diversifying these platforms help off-set unrealistic expectations and create a better environment for one’s self-esteem? According to New York Times, Dove conducted a 2014 study and found that 82 percent of women believed that social media influenced the definition of beauty. But how long this change will take is unclear.
A 2016 study found that 67 percent of American women wear sizes 16 – 18 while The Fashion Spot noted that only 16 plus-size models walked the runway in Spring 2017. So it seems, for now, body-positive stories and overall representation is best found on social media, especially on Instagram. “This is my favorite…,” one user gushes about the shoot. “Nicely done. Very classy. Honestly short, fat, skinny, or tall. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… and if u don't like it. Don't look. Great pics.”
We also asked Stephanie about social media and self-esteem, and her perspective is positive. “I definitely feel like, for people who have a hard time in their daily lives and need something to inspire them, [social media can] do that,” she says. “It can make it seem that they're not the only ones who look the way that I do or not the only ones who have the body type that I do. It's definitely something that needs to be shown, and I think that's a good thing.”
And here’s another inspiring fact: Stephanie didn’t feel nervous about the shoot. “It just seemed natural, I guess, for me,” Stephanie shares. “For him, I know he was a little uncomfortable being shirtless in front of another woman, but he pushed through it.”
And users love seeing that confidence, recognizing it as something to praise when the plus-size demographic is often mocked or used as a marketing tool in mainstream media. “Usually I hate pictures like this, but honestly this is a beautiful photo set, she's modest, even when topless, and these don't scream ‘look I’m a thick woman,’” another Facebook user says. “These scream: ‘I'm a woman in love and with the man I love.’”
“This makes my heart so happy and gives me hope as a plus-size woman…”
When this album went live, there was no public statement or explanation for attention. Viewers saw this piece as a reflection of their own thoughts and commented accordingly. In fact, Stephanie and Arryn’s love created a rare internet phenomenon: they brought out the best of people in the comment section. Some viewers reported having the confidence to do their own shoot. Others found inspiration in these photos, taking them as a hopeful sign to wait for happiness that accepts one for face value.
“This makes my heart so happy and gives me hope as a plus size woman that not all men care about what size you are ❤,” one commenter gushes. This reaction, and many others like it, is key to why it’s important for popular and diverse representation to reach more people. The positive response can make someone’s day, not just Stephanie and Arryn, who were also surprised at the huge response.
“We really did not expect anything to come to this point like it has,” Stephanie says. “When it started getting into the thousands, ten thousand, and twenty thousand, we were just like: What have we done? Holy moly, we've reached a lot of people — I mean, we're happy about it. Every person wants to be able to inspire somebody else. We’re happy — surprised — but happy about it.”
These pictures are also a result of trust, friendship, love, talent, and support. Bria, a skilled photographer and Stephanie’s high school friend, happened to be looking for models for a boudoir photoshoot when Stephanie saw the casting call and responded. The next day, the three of them took to Texas waters for the sunset shoot that would eventually bring hope and happiness to many strangers.
What was it like working with these two?
These two made my job easy. The connection they share is truly inspiring, even to me. It has always been my hope as a photographer to show people the beauty that they hold, and I feel like I've done this here. I am a firm believer in love. Size, race, religion, and sexuality are all things that are at times used to divide us, but at the end of the day, we all just want to be loved. I think that's why these photos have become so popular. Above all else, you can see the love that these two share.Bria Terry, of Wolf & Rose PhotographyAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Celebrate a love that brings positive light
When the internet celebrates and accepts people for who they are, when there’s a positive reaction to a love, no matter what the subjects look like, there’s a good thing going on. And sharing this positivity can help make someone else’s day.
“Their love for one another shines so bright that nothing else in the world matters, especially not the opinions of those who would try to bring them down. You did a wonderful job of capturing that connection,” someone commented.
“I've gotten to the point in my life, if you like what you see, you like it. And if you don't, you don't,” Stephanie tells us. “I personally try not to let people who have negative things to say about the way I look or the way I feel affect the way I see myself, because I know that I'm worth something and I have Arryn who sees the same in me.”
Stephanie’s wise words hit hard in a time when the pressures of being “mainstream beautiful” is definitely felt. In a 2016 study by Dove, 69 percent of women said the unrealistic standards set by advertising and media caused appearance anxiety. But of the women surveyed, 83 percent also reported importance in independence and looking your personal best instead of following someone else’s definition of beautiful. The same percentage of women also agreed that every woman has something personally beautiful about them.
“To me, if you don't have someone who has that for you, if you don't have someone who sees you the way you see you, then you probably don't need to be with that person,” Stephanie advices. “You need someone who sees you in a positive light.”
Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline.com. When she’s not editing or writing, she’s spending time with her cat-dog, going to concerts, and reading books she doesn’t finish. You can reach her on Twitter.