In a recent survey commissioned by Dove, it was revealed that 6 in 10 women felt that they had been judged on the appearance of their underarms and 88% of women felt pressure to have the “ideal” underarm – smooth, flawless and blemish free.
It was for this reason Dove felt strongly about creating a campaign that would not only celebrate underarm beauty, but would remove the stigma and get people talking about societal views on the ‘ideal underarm’.
Earlier this year, I auditioned for a part in that very campaign that was taking fruition and the most exciting thing happened….I got the part! The purpose of my part, as a woman with vitiligo, was to show just how diverse women’s underarms can be.
For this campaign, 13 strong women with their own underarm stories came together to prove that you can be confident irrespective of whether you grow your underarm hair, have scars or blemishes, have lasered for years or spray your hair purple (thats what one girl does!) or have vitiligo like myself.
Filmed in East London, the day itself felt like it flashed by in two hours. I arrived at the studio feeling a mix of emotions – excited, a little nervous and overwhelmed by the fact I had been chosen to represent such a big brand in the personal care world. There were moments when I wanted to pinch myself – like when I was sitting in the makeup chair having my hair and makeup done ready to go on set to film the first few scenes followed by a solo interview where I would talk about my experiences with vitiligo.
The set was naturally busy with film crew, makeup artists, photographers, camera crew all working tirelessly to get all the footage they needed to create the final piece…and of course 13 incredible women, including myself from different backgrounds ready to empower others to feel confident and comfortable about their underarms.
Up until when I got the part, i’d never really given my underarms much thought. They were just there! I showed them in the summer and covered them in the winter. They didnt really serve much purpose and I certainly didnt have views on whether I thought they were beautiful or not. However, when this campaign came about and I began to understand the strong feelings people had towards women having ‘hair free’ underarms, I was taken aback. So many people, including men have strong viewpoints on what they should look like! Now, I’ll just put it out there, I shave and have done for years because its my preference. I simply like a smooth underarm. However, I do believe that women should have a choice as to what they do with theres and shouldn’t be judged if they decide they’d rather hold onto their hair and keep it close to their body.
As most people know, vitiligo is incredibly unpredictable and can spread anywhere, including the underarms and my message in the campaign, was that underarms are beautiful irrespective of what they look like.
Dove have long been champions of promoting real beauty. In 2004 they launched the ‘real beauty’ initiative, which was advertised worldwide and included workshops, events, videos and extensive promotion in order to show just how beautiful natural women are. It’s a campaign that is still memorable 15 years later and is a reminder of the importance of diversity and widespread beauty. This campaign, which has been launched alongside the hashtag #ArmsUp is an extension of the already existing campaigns that Dove have created using every day, natural women.
So much goes into creating a campaign of this nature. From the photography, to the interviews to capturing the rights moments on camera, that its hard to comprehend just how hard it is to give everyone screen time and crate a final piece that portrays a strong message. I can honestly say, Dove have done absolute justice with the final piece and I love how they have put the final edit together. The advert itself is upbeat, powerful, fun and really shows a defiant attitude in terms of women making their own choices.
For me, this was another opportunity to push vitiligo into the mainstream, show others that we are worthy of brand representation and of course, normalising vitiligo for all those people that aren’t used to seeing people like us in the media. This was a huge deal for me. It wasn’t just about turning up and playing the part, it was about me opening up once again, sharing my story and proving to myself that this is just another example of me showing the world that I love the skin I’m in….