Jillian McClary and Jenn Gregory at Halifax Boudoir recently joined forces to create a truly body positive advertisement.
Their ad is unique in many ways, one being that it isn’t promoting plus-size fashion. Its goal is to empower women of all sizes to expose their beauty through the eye of Halifax Boudoir’s lens.
With a population of just short of 1 million residents in Halifax, the exposure this fantastic duo has received thus far is inspiring!
Jillian is one of the founding members of Bodypositivity.com and has been instrumental in our tremendous growth in only 2 short months! She is a bright, energetic and positive woman whose laugh and smile are contagious.
She has expressed her appreciation for this site and its community for giving her the confidence to apply to the ad placed by Halifax Boudoir.
While her partnership with Jenn’s photography studio would eventually prove to be life changing, Jillian’s body positive journey didn’t start there.
Jillian McClary battled with a constant feeling of not being good enough.
“I am not exactly sure where and when that feeling started for me,” Jillian shared. “All I know is that it seemed to get intense as days went on.”
While some days were easier than others, she couldn’t shake that sense of unworthiness many of us know too well.
Working in the cosmetology industry as a hairdresser, Jillian was able to speak with many clients and soon realized she wasn’t alone in her body image issues.
“Some people feel they aren’t good enough more than others, but every single person has insecurities,” Jillian said.
Jillian quickly came to the realization of how much the media is to blame for so many women not feeling they meet the unrealistic beauty standard found in advertising.
“I always knew I didn’t fit the mold of ‘beauty,’ but I didn’t know the effect I was letting the media have on me,” Jillian admitted.
Refusing to conform to these unrealistic standards, Jillian familiarized herself with the body positive movement. She told us that due to the positive support and strength of the body positive community, she was inspired to change for the better.
Taking to Instagram, she found women that were brave enough to open up about stories that were similar to hers.
Jillian began to find strength in her shared struggle.
“I have been implementing body positivity in my life for approximately two years. I have gained more confidence in who I am,” Jillian said.
After discussing goals and the desire to feel more empowered by accepting themselves, Jillian’s cousin encouraged her to enter a model search contest she had discovered through social media.
“Help us find the next face of Halifax Boudoir!” the advertisement read. “We are kicking off a very exciting ad campaign and need a model! We are only accepting applications for the next 24 hours, so message us right now…”
“Without hesitation, I entered… not believing I would win!” Jillian admitted.
Jenn Gregory, President and Principle Photographer at Halifax Boudoir Incorporated, however, had another idea.
Jenn received 300 contest entries in just one hour and was forced to remove the post.
“Jillian applied and we could tell immediately that we loved her,” Jenn said. “She was beautiful, exactly what we asked for in the ad and she looked like one of our regular clients.”
It was important to Jenn that the contest winner represented the type of women her photography studio usually worked with because they typically don’t use anyone under a size 10 for ads.
This makes sense because the average woman is anywhere from a size 10-18.
Jenn started her own business in 2009 because she was a fan of photography her whole life.
A few years photographing models and portraits helped Jenn discover her passion for boudoir photography. Deciding to focus solely on that, Halifax Boudoir was born as well as her knack for creating gorgeous body positive images.
“I was just tired of seeing ads with unrealistic people,” Jenn said.
“Yes, there are tons of beautiful women who are a size zero, but there are just as many, if not more average sized and curvy women in the world who look amazing as well who should be promoted just as much as the smaller girls.”
Much like Jillian interacting with her clients, Jenn’s clients helped her to delve deeper into the body positive movement.
“So many of our clients come in to their shoot with low confidence and think/speak so negatively about themselves and we want to help change that,” Jenn expressed. “So many women starve themselves, are depressed and commit suicide because of all the bullshit beauty standards right now. We want to overcome that and promote loving yourself at any size.”
Even Jenn’s beautiful contest winner Jillian needed help to overcome those ingrained standards. She attempted to back out because that feeling of not being good enough momentarily took control.
After explaining that she was indeed more than worthy of being this contest’s winner and that she was exactly what they wanted, Jillian realized she couldn’t have asked for a more understanding, empowering person to work with.
Just two days after being informed she was the contest winner, Jillian’s photoshoot took place.
Jillian McClary went on to own the camera.
“Usually I would have liked time to prepare,” Jillian admitted, “but coming as you are was the entire point!
I was nervous and scared because although I had more confidence than in previous years, winning this contest meant that my picture would be plastered on busses in my city reaching 3 million people!”
In addition to a 1-hour photo shoot with Jenn at Halifax Boudoir and a complimentary hair and makeup session, Jillian would become the face of Jenn’s company through social media and the Halifax transit campaign.
On December 28, 2016, the billboard sized result of Jillian’s photo shoot was seen for the first time on the back of Halifax city busses with the photography studio’s new slogan, “Be Empowered.”
“I think that focusing on showing that you are great now and not 20 years or 20 pounds ago, is the right message to send… especially to young women these days,” Jenn said. “Going forward, we’ll be using Jillian again for an upcoming video promo that we’re shooting in the next few weeks. She is so positive and fun to work with.”
Before discovering body positivity, Jillian gave much of her control over to her insecurities, allowing them to make her decisions.
Fear of being made fun of or failing completely forced her to avoid taking risks.
That same woman currently has her face and body gracing the entire public transit system in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Now more than ever, Jillian is embracing her imperfections and holding her head up higher everyday.
Jenn and Jillian hope to inspire with their images. They hope everyone who sees them realizes that anyone and everyone can be confident at every size.
Seeing diversity in advertising is one of the first steps in creating a society that embraces all body types.
There is no single body type that indicates a person’s value, beauty, or chances of being successful.
Jillian McClary is definitely proof of that being that she is now the first plus size woman to be advertised on a bus in the city of Halifax.
“I would not have been able to find my way through without wonderful support from my family and friends,” Jillian said.
“I thank my husband Derek for loving me for who I truly am, my daughter Eva for opening my eyes to the love I can feel, Jenn Gregory at Halifax Boudoir for believing in me, and the body positive community for introducing me to like minded people.”
“Sometimes you learn about who you are by taking a step out of your comfort zone,” Jillian expressed.
“I went from being a young, overweight, insecure girl that was made fun of and picked on everyday, to finding the strength to rise above the hate and find self worth.
I want the young people that are suffering as I did to hear this and know that they are wonderful and worthy just as they are. People will judge you no matter what, so forget everyone and be yourself!”