What the backlash against Maya Jama's 'body positive' Adidas campaign really means

Presenter Maya Jama is a real talent.

She’s also widely regarded as extremely beautiful, with a body type routinely held up as the ‘ideal’ for our current social expectations of what women ‘should’ look like.

Which is why the announcement of her new campaign with Adidas Swim hasn’t gone down as well as the brand might have hoped.

The ‘My Body, My Swim’ campaign is being fronted by four personalities and influencers, with Maya at the forefront alongside the likes of Chessie King and Nadya Okamato.

The campaign’s message is one of “body positivity", with copy from the launch reading:

They all fell in love with water at a very young age. 

In a tub as a toddler, playing in the pool on a hot summer day, or jumping from massive diving boards in the Swedish sea. Back then, their body was the least of their preoccupations. 

But for Maya, Jada, Chessie and Nadya, unrealistic beauty standards and anxiety soon got in the way.

Sharing the collection on social media, Maya wrote that it was: “Celebrating body confidence whilst swimming. It’s important to love and accept our bodies no matter the shape or size our bodies are powerful & WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL”.

Jama's intentions were clearly good.

But the entire campaign has not gone down well with some social media users who say Adidas is co-opting the message of body positivity without actually showcasing people who represent it.

Some expressed it more bluntly.

It was pointed out that Maya is the person with black heritage featured in the campaign shots and represents a light-skinned ‘ideal’, while other bodies, less celebrated by the mainstream, don’t get a look in.

This isn’t the first time that brands commodifying the body positive movement (BoPo) have been criticised for moving it away from its original purpose.

As body positivity went mainstream, in the last few years it's been used to sell everything from diet books to fast fashion.

In the process, BoPo has been massively diluted as brands attempt to continue casting conventionally attractive models while simultaneously trying to appear representative – even when they're not.

Which is the accusation being levelled at the Adidas launch.

Someone even compared the choice of Maya to lead the campaign as “all lives matter[ing]” the BoPo movement.

As someone else put it, Maya fronting a supposed ‘body positive’ campaign could seem similar to “when millionaires tweet ‘money isn’t everything’”.

Maya and her co-stars have yet to comment on the blowback, but indy100 has reached out to Maya’s reps for comment. If she responds, we'll be sure to update you.

Either way, the ultimate decision-making lies with the brand – and perhaps Adidas might think more deeply about the way that they associate with movements for their marketing campaigns?

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)