Body positive ESPN shoot garners praise around the world

  • 28/06/2018

A US softball player has gained international praise after an inspiring body-positive photo shoot for the annual ESPN 'Body Issue'.

The magazine's yearly special issue always attracts attention, featuring athletes posting nude or semi-nude. In the past ex-All Black Malakai Fekitoa and tennis player Serena Williams have featured.

This year photos from Lauren Chamberlain's shoot have been re-posted worldwide.

"It is safe to say that this was more than just a photo shoot," the softball star wrote on Instagram.

"The softball star told ESPN she hoped these photos would create "honest conversation about our bodies, whatever they may look like, and that there is not one universal way to be".

The issue also made history by featuring a same-sex couple on the cover for the first time. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and basketball player Sue Bird appear nude together on one of the issue's 10 different covers.

Chamberlain told ESPN she agreed to the shoot to send a wider message about female athletes. 

"I said yes for the girls around the world who might see the issue and see someone who looks like them - someone who's thicker, bigger, not as jacked as the typical athlete - and that could give them that boost to love their bodies."

Chamberlain said that like many women, insecurities about her body began at high school.

"Any time I went against my body and didn't give it what it needed in an attempt to achieve a societal norm, I let myself down," she said. "Sometimes, in high school and early college when I was dealing with insecurities about my body, not eating was disrespectful to my body. Not giving it what it needs to perform in order to achieve a certain look.

"If we're being honest, it just became stupid at a certain point. You're after this unattainable look, this Instagram look, and it's not achievable. I still deal with that insecurity. How am I not shaped and curved like that Instagram model? But you know what? She can't hit a ball like me or move like me. She can't do what I can do."

A number of women from around the world, including actress Amy Schumer, have praised Chamberlain's shoot, admiring her humour and physical strength.