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Why ‘Shape’ magazine wouldn’t run this weight loss bikini photo

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An Illinois is speaking out after “Shape” magazine reportedly refused to feature her bikini photo.

Brooke Birmingham, 28, lost more than 170 pounds, posting before-and-after photos all over her blog, BrookeNotOnADiet.com. The photos caught the magazine’s attention, and they reached out to her via email in late April.

Birmingham responded, sending back an “after” photo of her in a bikini that showed a layer of loose skin and stretch marks remaining from when she was 170 pounds heavier.

The magazine’s response: Do you have any more “after” photos of you … more covered up?

Infuriated at the idea “Shape” might not be willing to show an honest portrayal of weight loss, Birmingham posted her entire email correspondence with “Shape” on her blog.

In the correspondence, a magazine spokesperson made an effort to explain to Birmingham that it was “editorial policy” not to feature bikini photos as part of “these specific stories.” Working under the assumption that her story was going to be featured on the “Success Stories” portion of Shape’s website – which does indeed include photos of women in bikinis – Birmingham balked at that explanation.

“I am making a fuss about this because I feel like the industry is teaching us to be ashamed of our bodies, even when we’ve done amazing things,” Birmingham wrote in her reply. “I feel like my body is not being shown the same respect that the others on your ‘Success Stories’ section have been shown.”

After sending that email, Birmingham indicated she received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as the “in-between” person between “Shape” and Birmingham. She apologized for offending Birmingham, and said it was now the magazine’s policy to include nothing but fully-clothed photos in their “Success Stories” features.

Perhaps assuming a blogger such as Birmingham could use the magazine’s help, Birmingham said the woman asked her to reconsider, suggesting a story in “Shape” could offer her “great exposure.”

Apparently Birmingham was looking for a different sort of exposure.

“Women today are exposed SO MUCH to what society sees as the ideal body – the perfect hourglass shape with no arm flab, a thigh gap, full lips, perfect breasts, a flat tummy,” Birmingham wrote. “I spent many years hating and hiding a body I was ashamed of because it wasn’t society’s ideal of beautiful. Being asked to send a photo of myself with a shirt on made me feel like I again should be ashamed of my body. That since I have the loose skin, I shouldn’t be in a bikini.

“I wasn’t willing to do that.”

9 comments

  • John Anigav

    Shape magazine is a business whose primary goal is to sell magazines and whose secondary goal is to appeal to its readers. That means that if something is deemed “disgusting” or detrimental to magazine sales, Shape has every right not to publish it regardless of how immoral it may be. By inviting this woman to be a part of the magazine, the editors at Shape are obviously proud of her transformation. But at the end of the day, they are choosing not to publish the picture she submitted because it’s something a large majority of people don’t wish to see. Case closed.

    -John

  • Anonymous

    I would not want to see this pic in a magazine. It’s gross, I don’t not have a perfect body…so I wear clothing that is made for my shape. If she wants to be in a magazine in a bikini get a tummy tuck!

  • Heather

    i do not see anything wrong with her photo and all of u saying she is nasty r the nasty ones for looking ata women who battled her wieght al her life and is ow skinny!! so wht if she has a flabby stomach she is absolutly beautiful in tht pic and if shes not afraid to show her self off then why should it bother anyoe else!!!!!!! Keep up the good work Brooke look amazing!!!!!!

  • Alyssa

    These comments are indicative of why there is need for more stories like this. This photo shows the body of a woman after long-term, positive, lifestyle changes that resulted extreme weight loss, which comes with its own challenges. Being labeled “disgusting” or “gross” should not be among those challenges. To lose 170+ lbs, to become fit, strong and light, to own your health and then be shunned and sent back into the dark is disheartening. I know the next time I see a woman with loose skin and stretch marks, I’ll honor her journey and accomplishments… the last thing I would do is ask her to “cover it up.”

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