November 18, 2016
Bella Hadid's Nike Ad: Perfection In Advertising Is A Problem And Needs To Be Addressed [Opinion]

Bella Hadid's Nike ad is getting skewered by the public because many are noticing the model appears much too thin to be considered athletic (think of Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, and Hope Solo), and some people probably think she looks too skinny to be even considered healthy.

It all started when Meryl Davis, an Olympic gold medalist figure skater, took to Twitter to criticize Bella Hadid's Nike ad. The reason she called it out is because she does not agree with sports-related corporations, such as Nike, using non-athletes to promote their brands, as reported by E! News. Davis's followers naturally agreed with her and many of them responded with the concern that the new Nike spokesmodel looks too thin in the ad.

I have to admit that she does look underweight in the ad, and not at all does she personify fitness or athleticism. This, however, does not mean she's not a very attractive young lady, whose look is better suited for high fashion and editorial content. I'm sure she's a photographer's dream.

Bella Hadid's Nike ad is far from the first to draw public disapproval for promoting "unhealthy" and/or "unrealistic" expectations of women. In April, an ad by Gucci was banned in Britain after people expressed ire at it featuring an underweight-looking model, according to The Huffington Post.

In 2015, also in the U.K., a Protein World ad was banned after a large number of Brits complained that it "objectified women," as well as promoted idealistic aims for weight loss, according to The Guardian. The ad features an attractive, thin, busty blonde in a bikini. To the left of her are the words "Are You," and to the right of her it says, "Beach Body Ready?"

Bella Hadid's Nike ad has more similarities to Protein World's ad than Gucci's, as the former two are encouraging athleticism, though do not show traditionally athletic bodies of female form. Does it bother people more that supermodels are being used in sports-related advertising, like in the case of Meryl Davis, or are people more bothered by the quixotic nature they promote?

As it turns out, I am able to share a unique perspective on this issue, as I'm a survivor of anorexia, and "unrealistic" advertising of the female body poisoned my mind quite a lot during the years I battled the disease.

I think it's common knowledge that Bella Hadid's Nike ad, like all advertising, is a computer generated creation. No human is as perfect as they're tailored to look in magazines, billboards, and the like, so they must be perfected. This obsession with perfection, I believe, is noxious to the developing brain of an adolescent.

Bella Hadid's Nike ad
Bella Hadid sporting the Nike symbol in New York City on July 13. [Image by Star Max/IPx/AP Images]

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), marketing images, like the one in Bella Hadid's Nike ad, play a huge role in how we see the world, often setting unhealthy standards of beauty that have the power to impact us throughout our lifetimes.

"The effect of media on women's body dissatisfaction, thin ideal internalization, and disordered eating appears to be stronger among young adults than children and adolescents. This may suggest that long-term exposure during childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for the negative effects of media during early adulthood."
This is a huge concern in the society we live in, because let's face it, there are not a lot of unattractive, non-ideal celebrities out there. Do you think Kim Kardashian, who is essentially famous for being famous, would be as well-known as she is if she wasn't easy on the eyes?

When I was an adolescent, my idea of beauty could not have been classified as healthy, and because of my belief that "skinny equals pretty" I starved myself and lost around 40 pounds, becoming significantly underweight at the age of 15. I stunted my own growth, thanks to malnourishment, which bugs me to this day.

I'm not suggesting there were not other factors at play in my case, but negative body image was a big one for me.

I find myself feeling encouraged by the collective annoyance that Bella Hadid's Nike ad conjured up among the online community, because it means people are recognizing the negativity the marketing niche is capable of spreading.

Hadid and Nike, however, are far from the only companies and models promoting unattainable images of beauty. I happen to think it's not as bad as it was 20 years ago, but it still has a long way to go. It's not limited to portrayals of skinny females either. According to NEDA, men's muscle magazines provide the same kinds of quixotic goals and expectations. The perfection of advertising also plays a role in the highly successful field of plastic surgery.

Bella Hadid's Nike ad, despite what people think of it, does have the potential to do harm. Young women and girls compare themselves to the models they see in advertising, often coming to the incorrect conclusion that they're imperfect for not being able to achieve the same look, when nothing could be further from the truth.

[Featured Image by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]