Amy Pence-Brown said she was there for anyone who struggles with self-esteem. She stood on a crowded Boise street in a bikini. The story from Idaho Public Radio’s Alyssa Charlston (3:20).
It was a busy Saturday at the Capital City Public Market in Boise on August 29th, as a 39 year old woman stripped down to nothing but her bikini.
Not what you expected, right? Neither was the case for hundreds of onlookers, as they passed and read the sign at her feet that addressed the issue of body image, and prompted any supporters to draw a heart on her exposed skin.
The skin of Amy Pence-Brown, an Idaho alum who spoke on campus November 17th as part of a brown-bag open forum this week, is a self-proclaimed “fat feminist mother” who became famous after posting a video of her radical social self-love experiment. She was inspired by a similar experiment conducted with a younger, thinner woman in London.
Popular online News outlets like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed reposted the video, and it went viral, helping Pence-Brown’s message reach over 200 million views.
And it’s not just the popularity of the video that was surprising. She says the warm manner in which her message was received shocked her as well.
Amy Pence- Brown: “I wasn’t intending it to go viral, but people picked that up, all across the world, and I think that they picked that up, too, that the kindness, that we as people, are kind, if we see each other face to face, and people are ready to be educated, or they’re ready to be kind to one another if you give each other the chance.”
Though most would agree wearing a bikini in a public place, submitting yourself to harsh criticism, is brave, Pence-Brown says the most braved part of her outfit was the black blindfold she stared into for the hour-long trial.
Amy Pence-Brown: “But I couldn’t tell that much. I had no idea if it was little girls were writing on me, I had no idea if it was men, unless they talked, and so it was overwhelmingly warm, and I tried to stay so focused on that moment, because that’s all I had were those stories, and that feeling, that physical feeling.”
Speaking to a room of about 20 people at the University of Idaho Commons, Pence-Brown’s story drew tears from just about every eye, whether it was because of her shocking boldness, or the physical, supportive responses from random bystanders.
Perhaps the fact that people are so pleasantly surprised by the kind reaction Pence-brown’s body experiment received is part of her motivation to increase self-love in today’s society.
She believes impossible standards set through social media and online anonymity for mean comments are strong factors in low self-esteem. But, there are solutions.
Amy Pence-Brown: “Nobody can do it for you, that’s the hard thing. It’s hard work, and it’s just you. And it has to come from within you, and it takes a lot of work sometimes, for some people it’s a harder struggle and every day can be a struggle. I really do think that education and following people on Instagram, and doing small things every day, like getting rid of that scale, putting it in the garage, or buying clothes you love, something that makes you feel good about yourself.”
At the end of Pence-Brown’s video, a quote reads across the screen :”In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
You can be sure that Amy Pence-Brown believes rebellion looks riveting on everyone.
This is Alyssa Charlston, reporting.
Posted November 21, 2015
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Amy Pence-Brown on Twitter: @IdahoAmy