What happens when a self-proclaimed “fat” woman strips down to a bikini in the heart of a conservative American town? This past August, Amy Pence-Brown – a 40-year-old mom of three kids – did just that. In a daring social experiment, Amy bared all to see if strangers would oblige her in drawing hearts and messages of acceptance on her exposed body.
She put on a blindfold and a black bikini in a crowded public market in downtown Boise, ID. At first, she was nervous that passers-by would mock her or write nothing on her body. She never expected what came next. Within an hour, countless words and hearts covered her skin. Strangers hugged and kissed her, they whispered words of encouragement in her ear, and they cried on her shoulder.
Amy knows who she is and what she looks like — yet she was truly surprised by the response to her experiment. “…you will also see other things in these photos – the sweat running down my rolls of back fat, cellulite (on strong legs that have carried me for four decades), a wonky bikini top with sagging breasts (that nourished three babies), stretch marks (that represent my transition from a chubby adolescent to a curvy teenager to a woman who’s been pregnant four times), and darkly tanned skin (from a summer spent at the Boise Public Pools with my friends and my children),” Amy writes on her blog.
The heart of the experiment, she says, are the things that happened on the other side of the blindfold, and the stuff us viewers never get to see — like the dad who stood in front of Amy with his two young sons, knelt down and said, “This is what a beautiful woman looks like.” Or the teenaged girls who ran up to her afterward to thank her for inspiring them, and for being a role model.
“We can’t truly love one another until we fully love ourselves,” Amy says. “And once we do, I guarantee, that together we can move mountains.”