Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman Is Encouraging Everyone to Get Real

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Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Aly Raisman may have two Olympic games and six medals under her belt, but right now, the retired gymnast’s focus is on using her platform to spread kindness. Though it may sound cliché, since stepping away from the sport in 2020, the athlete has been busy putting in the work to back it up. From her ongoing fight for sexual assault survivors to always encouraging her 2.2 million followers to prioritize their mental health, Raisman has proven that she’s just as powerful off the mat as she is on. Now with the help of her long-standing partner, fashion brand Aerie, she is highlighting the importance of being your most authentic self.

With brands of all sizes now taking steps toward inclusivity, there’s something to be said about Aerie being one of the first in the industry to use untouched photos, a commitment the brand made back in 2014. Since then, the label has continued to spotlight real people in its imagery, creating an empowered community for its customers in the process. Taking this concept to new heights, the brand launched its new #AerieREAL Voices campaign, which features Raisman alongside actress Antonia Gentry, singer Kelsea Ballerini, TikTok sensations the NaeNaeTwins, and wheelchair dance group The Rollettes.

“I’ve been very lucky to work with Aerie for about four years, and each time there’s a campaign, it’s really awesome to be able to meet new people and hear their stories—it’s inspiring,” the gymnast tells BAZAAR.com. “It’s really important for images to just be how they really are—not retouched—because I think it’s really hard to see an image that’s [heavily edited] and creates an unrealistic expectation of what people should like,” she says of her decision to participate in the new campaign. “It can be really bad for people’s self-image.”

Photo credit: Aerie
Photo credit: Aerie

In the last year, the Fierce author has been taking the time to slow down and find ways to take care of her own mental health. “I try to go for a walk outside,” Raisman says about her designated me-time. “If I’m somewhere that I’m able to, I’ll try to close my eyes for 10 minutes and take that time for myself to relax. [Ultimately], I just check in to see how I’m feeling and take it day by day.” She goes on to list other activities like gardening, reading, and playing with her puppy, Milo, as ways she enjoys relaxing.

Photo credit: Aerie
Photo credit: Aerie

However, as much as the 27-year-old enjoys her me-time, connecting with those around her and spreading good vibes is just as important. “It’s really powerful to feel seen and heard,” she continues. “So whether I’m in the elevator or getting coffee, I try to take it as an experience of connecting with someone else, even if it’s just for a moment. I’m not perfect, but I do my best because you never know what someone is going through. A smile might make their day—it might make my day.”

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