"American Able" Ads Really Get Real

Julie Ryan Evans

Photo from HollyNorris.ca/americanable
There's been a trend lately of showing "real" women in advertising and in magazines, which is great, but they don't go much beyond a makeup-free face or a plus-sized body. Photographer Holly Norris really gets real with her American Able campaign, featuring her disable-bodied former roommate, Jes.

The photographs mirror with a satirical wink ads by American Apparel, known for its racy hipster shots of supposedly "real" women.

"‘American Able' intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media," Norris states. "I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘everyday' women who are employees, friends, and fans of the company."

I admit the pictures are a little startling at first, but they shouldn't be. Advertisers shouldn't overlook this segment of society, nor should society. Unfortunately, too often we both do, especially when it comes to the sex-sells fashion world.

Whether any woman should be sexualized to sell consumer goods is another question, but if it's going to be done (and it obviously is), then this disable-bodied demographic should be included.  

So I love this in-your-face message, and I love Jes's perspective on modeling for the ads.

"I guess I love modeling because I feel like I embody a piece of that stare in my own work. That ‘I see you lookin' at me' stare," she told WornJournal.com. "I know I don't look like a stereotypical model, and I like my body, but I get stared at a lot, in a different way. So when I pose, I have the opportunity to engage with my voyeurs. Or act indifferent about their gaze. Or make them question the politics in their stare. Or seduce them. Or pierce them. It's really fun."

I think American Apparel would be wise to buy the photographs from Norris and use them in a real ad campaign.

What do you think of the American Able ads?

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