UK student works with body-positive movement as Aerie model

An Aerie ad with Paige Isaac as the model was displayed on a billboard in Times Square in New York City, New York. Photo provided by Paige Isaac | Aerie

Allie King

Paige Isaac, a UK junior, lives a double-life, working as a student studying marketing and digital media and design and as an Aerie Real model and NEDA spokesperson.

“I have been following [Aerie] for so long, and they just continue to grow and grow and grow,” said Isaac as she described her admiration for the company.

Earlier this year, Isaac sent a video in to an open casting call by Aerie for an upcoming campaign. The company was looking for participants who wanted to be a part of its new body-positive movement.

The Aerie Real campaign celebrates “girl power, body positivity, and no retouching,” according to its website.

In the taped-video application, Isaac explained why she wanted to be part of the campaign: “If me being in this campaign can help at least one person with their recovery, like the other untouched models you have put out there have helped me, that would mean that this campaign was worth it.”

Isaac said her own struggles inspired her to become involved with body-positive movements.

“I’ve really struggled with an eating disorder for a while. I’ve struggled with bulimia. I’ve struggled with OCD… I’ve struggled with body dysmorphia for a long time,” she said.

In regard to her recovery, Isaac said that it is a difficult question because recovery is not a “linear process,” meaning there have been a lot of ups and downs. She admitted she has had a few relapses, some during the summer going into her freshman year at UK, and the summer break going into sophomore year.

“I was a mess,” Isaac said.

Soon after being accepted by Aerie, the company flew Isaac out to AE headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they shot her Aerie Real pictures. The Aerie Real campaign pictures went live in July of 2018, even though they did not announce their campaign details until August.

When the original photos from the campaign were dropped, Isaac’s pictures were not used anywhere.

Later, Isaac drove to Nashville to see Iskra Lawrence, a well-known Aerie Real “RoleModel.” She had the opportunity that day to meet Lawrence, along with a few other members of the campaign. One of the others that Isaac met that day was Hillary Bacon, a girl with a tattoo matching Isaac’s: the NEDA sign.

NEDA — or the National Eating Disorders Association — is the largest nonprofit supporting those affected by eating disorders. According to its website, NEDA’s vision as a company is “envisioning a world without eating disorders.”

Lawrence took a photo with Bacon and Isaac that day, showing their NEDA tattoos, and posted it to Instagram, with an inspirational caption stating that she was “proud to travel around the world meeting NEDA warriors and [eating disorder] survivors.” This put Isaac on the map for all things Aerie and NEDA.

Aerie supports NEDA as its philanthropy. They create and sell clothing in which 100% of proceeds go to NEDA. They also have activities in-store that shoppers can do to donate to NEDA.

“If you post an untouched bikini picture, they will donate $1 per picture, up to $30,000 each year. They hit their mark every year,” said Isaac.

Aerie sponsors every charity walk put on by NEDA and sometimes sets up stations at these walks which help raise money for the cause as well as bring the community together in one event. Along with the short walk, there are fun stations with different activities set up, including yoga and do-it-yourself crafts.

Two weeks after Lawrence’s picture on Instagram, Aerie asked Isaac to participate in a discussion panel in Chicago, where the company flew her out to. Isaac met people high up in both companies, Aerie and NEDA, one of which was Jessica Hickman, the National Walks Manager, who mentioned that Isaac’s Aerie Real photo might be used for the NEDA walk in New York City.

Isaac made a last-minute decision to go to New York City for the upcoming NEDA walk where she found that she was the face of that event by seeing herself on a billboard in Times Square. While Isaac was in New York, she was invited back to NEDA headquarters where she met more of the NEDA team, including the CEO, Claire Mysko.

Being born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Isaac wants to see more inclusion in her town.

“If anyone is going to get more diversity out there or create more opportunities for people who don’t necessarily have opportunities it is going to be the people who are leading the student body right now,” said Isaac, regarding the student government.

As for the future, Isaac is working with Hickman, from NEDA, to bring a NEDA walk to Lexington in the spring.

“I am just going to being active with NEDA. I am going keep doing as much as I can with Aerie. I am going to just keep working within the body-positive movement,” Isaac said.

She is confident that she will go back to NEDA’s headquarters. She also has plans to attend three NEDA walks in the spring in Lexington, Nashville and Indianapolis.

To learn more about eating disorders and the Aerie Real movement, visit as well as

Isaac had words of encouragement for people struggling with body image.

“There are going to be ups and downs. If you do happen to relapse, the fact that you are recognizing that you are and that that is not good means that you are already better off than you used to be,” she said. “Take it one day at a time.”