American Eagle’s intimates brand, Aerie, has always been a leader in featuring real, unretouched women in their product campaigns. They do a great job of not making the individuals featured seem like outliers, or the spotlighted exception to the traditional model – rather, they’re there. They’re featured in ads and product listings, no big deal, as if they were the norm. Because, guess what, they are the norm.

Photo Credit: American Eagle

So this week when we tapped into our social feeds, we were super excited to see a face we recognized right there on the product listing, our friend Gaylyn Henderson of Gutless and Glamorous. There’s no denying Gaylyn is gorgeous and brave and strong and unashamed. She’s the perfect representation of ostomates and IBDers for a spot like this. We’re SO proud of her and so overjoyed to see a company like Aerie include her among others with varying diseases and disabilities in their product features.

Having women like her featured is a total worlds-collide moment. (Seriously, I already own that bra! I loved it before, and now I love it even more!) It’s taking a connected, engaged, empowered online, and sometimes real-life community of those affected by ostomy, Crohn’s, and Colitis, and combining that message with a pretty regular, everyday thing – shopping for undergarments online. And it’s not making an overly big deal of either. It’s saying ‘here we are, we’re all just humans, and we’re all in this together – from living with incurable diseases, to managing the most mundane tasks. The separation is closing, for us, and hopefully, for the general public. After all, living with a complex condition doesn’t stop when we have to do seemingly normal things.

Women like Gaylyn, and this placement, are also an incredibly powerful marker of the progress that we’ve all made with awareness. Yes, we’ve still got miles to go, but let’s stop and look at the miles we’ve already come – IBD and ostomy awareness is at a point where a large corporation like American Eagle came across a girl like Gaylyn, and gave it the green light. Even in real campaigns such as this, it’s still taken strides for their creative team to feel excited and empowered enough about this. About re-routed intestinal systems and external appliances made to hold human waste, normalized on a smiling, confident woman with really, really cute intimates. Stop and consider this, you guys. We’ve come so far, and this is amazing in its own right, but also such a beacon for progress in awareness.

Today it was our girl Gaylyn. But tomorrow it could be you, or you, or any of us. We’re all chipping away at better awareness and acceptance. Whether you’re featured in a national campaign, or finding the courage to show your ostomy or scars at the beach, or figuring out how to explain your disease to just one other human – we’re all in this together. The more advances, big or small, that we make, the easier it gets for all of us. We hope that you’re feeling the same vibes we are when we see this. The no-shame, confident, handling-whatever-life-throws attitude that Gaylyn’s leading us all with.

Now hold on, we’ve got to grab our wallets and get to the mall.

Gaylyn is included with other real, strong women in their latest #AerieReal campaign.