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Behind Refinery29's mission to represent all women

Refinery29 represents "real" women
67 Percent Project: Refinery29's mission to represent "real" women 05:44

Refinery29 is exploring the often-overlooked 67 percent of women in America who are considered plus-size. Despite being a significant majority of the female population, women who wear sizes 14 and up only make up a reported 1 to 2 percent of what we see in the media.

When the Refinery29 team learned those numbers, they did an audit of their own digital media company.

"Even though we had been really focused on showing real women, we realized that we had fallen short. And for us it was so important to fill that space and to celebrate plus size women and do better by the plus size community," said Piera Gelardi, Refinery29's co-founder and executive creative director.

Dedicated to issues affecting a diverse group of millennial women, Refinery29 is working to change that imbalance with their 67% Project. They aim to display an accurate representation of women on their platform and are committed to breaking down biases of body image.

"We get so many really moving letters from women saying, 'Thank you, I've never seen myself represented in media before. I grew up not seeing someone that looked like me,' and just really a lot of appreciation for being seen and being recognized," Gelardi said.

Piera Gelardi (left) and Denise Bidot   CBS News

History-making model Denise Bidot was the first plus-size model to walk on multiple straight-size runways at New York Fashion Week. She said she has "absolutely" witnessed changing perceptions in media today.

"I started modeling about 10 years ago, and what I find so remarkable is that I've been able to not only be a driving force behind this change we're now starting to see, but also to be able to mold the next generation," Bidot said. "Because now what they're seeing is so different from what we grew up with. We're creating, empowering strong opinionated and confident women. Little girls walking around. So I can't wait to see what that does to them."

However, not all have applauded their efforts. Some critics have questioned whether they're promoting obesity or unhealthy body types.

"We definitely hear that feedback from people, and to me that underscores the bias that we have in our society. Beyoncé said 'Perfection is the disease of the nation. It's the soul that needs the surgery.' And I think that's really true, that bias is really held very deep in our country," Gelardi said. "And what's happening is by really focusing on this standard of beauty that promotes thinness, we leave so many women out and we really perpetuate shame. And I don't think that shame is a motivator for healthy behavior. I think we're talking about health, but what about mental health and the self love that you need to be confident and exist in the world and to heal yourself?"

"I think the moment that women can see themselves in the media and in these features alongside everyone, and we have these diverse campaigns, we create is this internal happiness that starts to seep out," Bidot added. "And I think when we create this generation of women who are supporting each other and who are happy, we change the playing field." 

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