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Gillette image of plus-size model in bikini sparks outrage

  • Gillette is under fire for tweeting a photo of a plus-size blogger to promote its razors.
  • Critics accuse the company of glamorizing an unhealthy condition for profit.
  • The razor maker says it is committed to representing women of all shapes and sizes.

Gillette is making waves with a photo it tweeted of an obese woman posing on a beach in a bikini, with her curves and cellulite on full display.

The razor maker last week posted the image of Anna O'Brien, a plus-size fashion, fitness and lifestyle blogger, under its @GilletteVenus handle, captioning it, "Go out there and slay the day." Some Twitter users said the ad glamorizies obesity and that Gillette is "irresponsibly" promoting an unhealthy lifestyle for profit.

"This woman will die of heat disease before @potus completes his second term. I hope she's just as happy and carefree for her last 6 years of life. Everybody should live themselves, but lets not call it healthy," one twitter user wrote.

Some commenters defended O'Brien while keeping their aim focused on Gillette. "There's no reason to be rude or unkind to someone who is obese and there is no reason @GilletteVenus should be encouraging life threatening obesity. This would also be true if they used an anorexic model. I wish the model they used well but Gillette should know better," @robbystarbuck said.

O'Brien's Instagram account features a number of images of her wearing skimpy clothes, including a shot of her posing provocatively in Times Square in nothing but a bikini.

View this post on Instagram

Yesterday I did the scariest thing I have done in my 30+ years... I stood in times square in a bikini and posed for a photo shoot. In the beginning I felt really overwhelmed. Not because I was mocked, but because I was so extremely sexualized by a few men who were watching. What was so ironic to me was that to the right of me were two nearly nude women covered only with body paint and no one felt the need to yell or scream what they wanted to do to their bodies. But to me, a plus woman in a swimsuit, the things that were said were so graphic it made me sick to my stomach. One man said he felt justified in saying what he did- because “plus women don’t know they’re ****able.” Let me be very clear here: a plus size woman’s worth, or any one woman’s worth for that matter, is not contingent on someone wanting to have sex with them. You don’t exist to pleasure someone else... you exist to change the world. #plussize #timessquare #selflove #selfworth #brave #fearless 📸 @larabellenewyork

A post shared by Glitter (@glitterandlazers) on

The company's effort to promote inclusive notions of beauty seemed to have backfired, with some users writing that they would no longer buy from Gillette.

"Wow, this is so unhealthy! Obesity causes cardiovascular diseases, type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, depression & certain types of cancer and death. Why would you show younger girls a picture like this? Another reason not to purchase your products! @lovinbeauty wrote.

"Please stop. Promoting this is dangerous. Being unhealthy is not a good thing," @BrennaSpencer said, addressing the company directly.

Other twitter users equated celebrating obesity with promoting bad habits like smoking and alcoholism.

"She lives out loud"

Citing its women-focused brand, Gillette responded to the widespread criticism: "Venus is committed to representing beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and skin types because ALL types of beautiful skin deserve to be shown. We love Anna because she lives out loud and loves her skin no matter how the 'rules' say she should display it."

More than one-third of American adults are considered obese. That can cause coronary artery disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis of the knees and other joints, as well as fertility problems, according NYU Langone Health. Obesity can be caused by genetic factors as well as people's exercise and eating habits.

Experts believe Gillette intended to make a splash by wading into polarizing territory among a new generation of consumers who view brands as extensions of themselves.

Is the Gillette commercial on "toxic masculinity" misunderstood?

"This wasn't the case a decade ago, but you have a new generation of consumers that actually care about things and want to see brands take positions," said Arun Lakshmanan, marketing professor at the University at Buffalo School of Management.

Still, Gillette could benefit in the long run, he said. "They are probably calculating that they will be on the right side of the numbers in terms of people who feel positively rather than negatively about the company."

"At the end of the day, this increases the memory and recall of the Gillette Venus brand," Lakshmanan said.