She loves to eat a double cheeseburger from In-N-Out with Thousand Island-doused french fries. She purposefully points out her stretch marks, and she even snaps a picture of her Monistat prescription. She’s a woman who, against the odds, isn’t afraid to put on some healthy pounds and post unflattering pics of herself au naturale—and her counterculture moves are becoming popular. She’s the “real girl,” and she’s popping up everywhere.
Realness wasn’t marketable until very recently. Now we see supermodels who admit they wear granny panties, actresses who talk about their love of pizza, and pop stars who talk about farting. That’s remarkably different from the consistently sexy, heterosexual, airbrushed, pristine celebrity of years past.
The greatest example of the real girl rise is Chrissy Teigen—a model who challenges the standard mold. Teigen is still a long way from the proud, cellulite-dotted stomach pouch-wearing women of the real world, but in the industry of modeling, she is revolutionary. She demonstrates an unrestrained and unfiltered approach to modeling reminiscent of a young Tyra Banks: boisterous, not afraid to eat the catering, open about her body. It helps that she’s also married to John Legend, who is incredibly supportive, embracing Teigen’s openness about their high profile relationship. See: a photo of Legend’s butt on Instagram and a video where he grabs at a plate of chicken wings balanced on Teigen’s butt during a photo shoot for her upcoming cookbook.
Teigen is not alone in taking ownership of who she is, weird antics and all. She’s joined by the full-eyebrowed Victoria’s Secret rebel Cara Delevingne, who has been praised for speaking candidly and unapologetically about her bisexuality. Then there’s Shay Mitchell, the Pretty Little Liars star who asked fans on Instagram for advice on an In-N-Out order. And of course, there’s no denying actress Jennifer Lawrence is among the real girls, especially after telling Jimmy Fallon on national television about puking during an Oscars after-party.
But the real girl sensation isn’t just making room for new talent, it’s also providing established stars with a new opportunity to show more of themselves. The music videos for Beyoncé’s 7/11 and Nicki Minaj’s Feelin’ Myself are prime examples of this change. Beyoncé’s 7/11 shows the star and her backup dancers snapping selfies and joking around in a hotel, with an authenticity that makes the video feel like a sneak peek into a Beyoncé sleepover. This similar feeling of personability is found in Minaj’s Feelin’ Myself, where Queen B herself and Minaj share a Big Mac and candy. Though both of these videos also include fabulous clothes and new choreography, they maintain an air of undeniable authenticity that hasn’t existed before. Beyoncé’s glitzy, airbrushed and meticulously planned Single Ladies video is a far cry from the laid back feel of her recent work—but it’s the most holistic version of herself that fans have seen thus far. These are women who work against conventional standards of beauty and star behavior. In a way, their actions represent a slow rise of behavior subversive to the gender norms that have contributed to sexism for years.
The impact these changes have in presentation and action are impressive, considering how influential pop culture is on our lives. Every day women are heavily scrutinized by themselves and others based on the images of celebrity women—comparing themselves to contoured, edited versions that are basically unattainable. This comparison results in poor body image and low self-esteem. To combat this, even seemingly small acts do big things. Seeing an actress who allows herself to indulge guiltlessly is healthy for average women who might think they just have poor restraint. Posing in granny panties tells average women that they don’t need to fit anyone’s mold of sexy at the cost of comfort. The images we see are still controlled, but I don’t care if that picture of Chrissy Teigen with brie smeared on her face was staged—it still closed the gap between me and her by miles.
The real girls like us, like you and me, are still far from represented in the media. But some female celebrities are starting to change the narrative of what is normal and beautiful. It’s annoying that we’re starting out so small—proving that girls also eat burgers, have hair, and live their own wonderfully unkempt lives. As inconsequential as those things seem, the pervasive feelings of self-consciousness and inadequacy all result from a lack of seeing those “normal” things portrayed in the media. Real girls, rise.