23 Times Celebrities Were Our Self-Love Heroes
From legendary tennis player Serena Williams to crooner Sam Smith, here are 22 celebrities who use their star power to be body positivity heroes we all need.
Although celebrities seem to exist on a separate plane where everyone is confident and happy all the time, they’re not immune to self-doubt and insecurity. In fact, being employed by industries that have some of the strictest beauty standards in our society means that they have to work overtime to overcome their body-image issues. Fortunately for us, many celebrities choose to embrace their unique qualities, using their visibility to set an incredible example for everyone else. Here are 20 times celebrities sent messages of body acceptance and self-love, becoming our body-positivity heroes.
1. Laurie Hernandez
If you rooted for gymnast Laurie Hernandez during the 2016 Olympics, you already know her mantra by heart: “I got this.” And if that’s any indication, the 18-year-old athlete has positive self-talk on lock. "Put yourself first," Hernandez told Women’s Health. "I know quite a few people who would rather block out certain parts of themselves than go in and dig deep and figure out, you know, maybe why they are the way they are," she said. But, Hernandez explains, doing so can help you become a better person. “You're helping yourself communicate with others, and you're helping yourself grow," she continues. "I think it doesn't work if you're hindering your own growth."
2. Jennifer Lopez
Nowadays, Jennifer Lopez' curves are just as legendary as hits like "Jenny from the Block," — but at the beginning of her career, the starlet was not immune to the industry's body-shaming tactics. Luckily for Lopez, her family taught her positive body image from a young age, leaving the singer and actress unfazed by the comments. "My mom and my grandmother were the ones who drilled into me, 'This is how we are, and this is what's beautiful," Lopez told InStyle. Talk about family goals!
3. Christina Aguilera
Known to experiment with bold makeup looks, Christina Aguilera went bare-faced for Paper Magazine’s “Transformation 2018” issue — celebrating her freckles and a new self-assured outlook on life. “I’ve always been someone that obviously loves to experiment, loves theatrics, loves to create a storyline and play a character in a video or through stage,” she said. “But I’m at the place, even musically, where it’s a liberating feeling to be able to strip it all back and appreciate who you are and your raw beauty.” Beyond the gorgeous photography, Aguilera also gifted her fans with some words of wisdom: “Be fearless in breaking new boundaries and don’t be afraid to go against the grain of criticism along the way,” she said. “There’s always gonna be those trolls out there or people that have their own definition and ideals of beauty.” Amen to that!
4. Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez is an inspiration to young girls because she can relate to anyone who’s struggled with their body image. In a skin-baring Instagram post, the “Jane the Virgin” star opens up about her battle against Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition which affects your thyroid gland. “As a woman with Hashimoto’s, my struggle with health and weight and body acceptance in this industry has been a loving, painful, growing, exposing, vulnerable and incredible journey,” she captions the Cosmopolitan for Latinas cover photo. “And to come to a place where I love the skin I am in and it isn’t defined by anyone’s expectations or limitations is beyond freeing. I love this picture because I feel like young Gina finally made herself her own hero.”
5. Serena Williams
Earning respect as the greatest athlete of our time (in our humble opinion) hasn’t been easy for Serena Williams. In an interview for The Undefeated, she tells rapper Common that being a black woman kept her under the radar for years. But despite being scrutinized for her race, gender and body type, Williams kept on — and it’s earned her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, four Olympic gold medals and a hell of a lot of self-love. “There was a time when I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body because I felt like I was too strong,” she explains in the interview. “I had to take a second and think, ‘Who says I’m too strong? This body has enabled me to be the greatest player that I can be.’”
6. Rebel Wilson
No one in the film biz is quite like Rebel Wilson. Her loud, unapologetic manner and absolute refusal to follow the rules have made her an indispensable asset to some of the best of Hollywood’s recent comedies. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, she reveals why she’s grateful for her look. “Being unique and different was a really good thing,” Wilson says. “When I walked into my agent’s office for the first time [in 2009], they looked at me and said, ‘Wow, we have nobody on our books like you.’ And they signed me on my second day here…. I feel really lucky to be the body type I am.” We have a feeling that her killer funny bone didn’t hurt her chances of getting signed, either.
7. Sam Smith
When Sam Smith took the stage to accept a Grammy for best new artist in 2015, he unknowingly delivered an inspiring, body-positive message about the music industry: “Before I made this record, I was doing everything to try to get my music heard. I tried to lose weight, I was making awful music,” he says, according to Mic. “It was only until I started being myself did the music start to flow and people start to listen.” In a world that seemingly values beauty over artistry, someone as talented as Sam Smith could have easily been passed over. But he proves that staying true to yourself and not conforming to others’ expectations can lead you to do great things.
8. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox keeps it 100 percent real, educating those around her about her unique experiences. As a trans woman of color, she’s fought against transphobia, microaggressions and traditional beauty standards, bringing light to nuanced issues like passing privilege (a transgender person’s ability to be perceived as the gender the identify as). As Page Six reports, she opened up about her journey toward self-acceptance during a 2015 speech. “Trans is beautiful," she says "All the things that make me uniquely and beautifully trans — my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my deep voice — are beautiful.”
9. Sofia Vergara
“Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara knows her skin doesn’t look like it did in her 20s, and she’s here for it. Last year, the 45-year-old posed nude for Women’s Health Naked Issue. “I told [my rep], ‘I’m going to be 45 years old! Stop putting me in naked things! Let me age with dignity!’ People say, ‘Oh, you look like you’re in your 20s.’ Well, it’s not true. Our skin is different,” she tells Women’s Health. “I had never thought of the word ‘pore,’ then I’m like, ‘Sh*t! What do I do with these?’” But she couldn’t say no to the opportunity. “Here’s a woman, 45, being able to show her body. It’s not like before, when it was just young girls.” Vergara proves that good looks don’t have an expiration date and that women don’t have to look young to be confident and beautiful.
10. Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy Teigen goes through her life without a filter. Whether she’s opening up about getting liposuction in her armpits or being vocal about her battle with alcoholism, the 32-year-old model likes to keep it real. In 2015 she casually posted an Instagram photo of her inner thighs, captioning: “Bruises from bumping kitchen drawer handles for a week. Stretchies say hi!” Then, last January, she posted a Twitter image of her endearing ‘stretchies,’ accompanied by a flippant “whatevs.” Teigen’s “long hair don’t care” attitude toward her stretch marks is #goals.
11. Iskra Lawrence
Since becoming the face of Aerie’s unretouched Real campaign, Iskra Lawrence has been using her platform to slam unrealistic beauty standards and spread body positivity. Earlier this year, she posted a side-by-side photo to show her followers how much happier she is now that she’s embraced self-care. “I thought if I looked like ‘her’ (an unrealistic beauty ideal), I’d be happy, successful and loved. All I found was failure (because you can’t change who you are), emptiness (because my time and energy was being used up trying to achieve something completely self-absorbed and shallow sacrificing doing things I loved) and unhappiness (because no restrictive diet or abusive exercise feels good),” she captions her post.
12. Ashley Graham
Ashley Graham smashed society’s beauty expectations when she became the first plus-size model to appear in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She also appeared in Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel and #PlusIsEqual campaigns, making her certifiably body positive. But when she’s not tackling sizeism in the fashion industry from the inside, she’s using her social media presence to spread body love. Last year, she shared a glamorous photo of herself in a bikini on Instagram. The twist? She highlighted parts of her body that many women tend to hide or photoshop away. “I work out. I do my best to eat well. I love the skin I’m in,” she captions the post. “And I’m not ashamed of a few lumps, bumps or cellulite. And you shouldn’t be either.”
13. Danielle Brooks
“Orange Is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks gave us a much-needed dose of body love last year when she appeared alongside models Ashley Graham, Denise Bidot and Candice Huffine in Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaign, celebrating love handles and stretch marks. “This is my moment to say I’m sorry to my 15-year-old self, to say I’m going to love you whether you fluctuate to a size 4 or go all the way to a 22,” she tells Self in an interview about the ad. “There’s only so much beating myself up that I can take. If I am putting poison into my body, I’m not going to live. That’s not only with what we eat and how much we work out, but with what we’re saying to ourselves. I realized the only way I’m going to be happy is by servicing my body in a way that is healthy.”
Read more: 9 Ways to Clap Back at Body Shamers
14. Chris Pratt
As reported by the BBC, “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Chris Pratt revealed in a 2014 press conference that he knows what it’s like to suffer from body-image issues. “I’m sure I can’t relate to what females go through in Hollywood. I’m sure I can’t. But I do know what it feels like to eat emotionally, and … to be sad and make yourself happy with food,” he says. “And then to be almost immediately sad again and now ashamed and then to try to hide those feelings with more food. I know what that’s like. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s a very real thing.” Though women tend to be more vocal about it, Pratt’s confession proves that anyone can be affected by emotional eating and body-image issues.
What DIDN’T Kesha do last year to empower women? On top of releasing new music for the first time in years, she remained vocal about her legal battle against former producer and alleged assaulter Dr. Luke and stepped up alongside other members of the #MeToo movement to challenge society’s patriarchal norms. The “Praying” singer is also down to dismantle oppressive beauty standards. In 2016, she posted a photo to her Instagram profile to show her followers that thigh gaps don’t matter. “No thigh gap here,” she captions the post.
16. Dascha Polanco
Though Dascha Polanco is best known for her role in “Orange Is the New Black,” she’s made waves in the fashion industry as an advocate for more inclusive sizing. After stunning the crowd in a bodysuit at last year’s New York Fashion Week, she penned an essay for Today on how she came to love her thighs. And, boy, was it full of wisdom! “If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I’d tell myself: Screw everybody else and just focus on loving yourself. Love can’t be found in others. It starts with you. You exude it, and then you receive it,” she writes. “This is mass. This is volume. This is strength. This is what makes me Dascha and what makes me unique from anyone else.”
17. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has been a bastion of body positivity and mental wellness for years. In her 2017 documentary, “Simply Complicated,” the singer opened up about her ongoing battle with disordered eating, showing fans that it’s OK to be a work in progress. In an Instagram post earlier this year, Lovato flaunts her happiness, charging past hesitations about her looks. “So I’m insecure about my legs in this picture, but I’m posting it because I look so happy. And this year I’ve decided I’m letting go of my perfectionism and embracing freedom from self-criticism,” she writes. We’re proud of you, Demi!
18. Channing Tatum
Changing Tatum proved to be an unlikely ally to body-love proponents when he admitted in an interview with Reuters that his shredded “Magic Mike” physique is far from reality. “My ‘Magic Mike’ body … lasts for about five days, like when we’re shooting. You time it until that day, and then you lose it immediately,” he says. It turns out not even Channing Tatum looks like Channing Tatum, so we can all cut ourselves a break.
19. Mel B
What does Mel B — aka Scary Spice — really, really want? For women to embrace their bodies, duh. In 2016 she posted a revealing photo to her Instagram profile, writing: “As a woman, I embrace my flaws, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. Might as well, I’m gonna be in it for the rest of my life. I’m the kinda girl that has absolutely no desire to fit in. Ladies, we gotta love the skin we are in #feelinmyself.”
20. Soledad O’Brien
As a broadcast journalist, Soledad O’Brien knows what it’s like to have her looks scrutinized by anonymous viewers. But the 51-year-old CEO of Starfish Media wants people to know that her body wasn’t just made to be looked at. “The day that I felt most proud — and it really changed … how I felt about how I looked — was when I had my first child,” she tells Refinery29. “I gained a ton of weight. I gained 50 pounds with each kid, so I was big. And I was just like, this body is for something, not just wearing my bikini.”
21. Sasha Pieterse
Last year, “Pretty Little Liars” actress Sasha Pieterse opened up about her struggled with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance that caused her to gain 70 pounds in two years. In the face of harsh criticism and body shaming she has remained positive and inspiring. In 2016, she penned a letter to her Instagram followers to share her wisdom and advice. “I decided … to love myself the way I am now,” she writes. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve myself. It means that I am making a point to love myself at every stage and chapter of my life.” Pieterse gives us a realistic way to love ourselves, demonstrating that wanting to improve on something doesn’t mean we can’t also love our bodies the way they are.
22. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson is no stranger to the body-positivity movement. According to an interview she gave to Ellen DeGeneres on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the “Since U Been Gone” singer has been facing criticism as long as she’s been in the spotlight. But that hasn’t stopped her from learning to love and understand her body. We are who we are. Whatever size. And it doesn’t mean that we’re gonna be that forever,” she tells DeGeneres. Our bodies change with time, and as we pass through phases, she pointed out: “Sometimes we’re more fit. Like, especially me. I’m such a creative person that I yo-yo. Sometimes I’m more fit and I get into kickboxing hardcore. And then sometimes I don’t, and I’m like, ‘I’d rather have wine.’”
23. Christie Brinkley
When 63-year-old model Christie Brinkley was asked to pose alongside her two daughters in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, she embraced it as an opportunity to fight ageism and inspire older women to love themselves. “In a country that’s very ageist, people love to put you in little boxes,” she tells People. “Women feel very limited by their numbers. On a personal level, I thought, ‘If I can pull this off, I think it will help redefine those numbers and remove some of the fear of aging.’”
What Do YOU Think?
Who is your body-positive hero? What messages have helped you to accept and love your body? Share in the comments section!
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