Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

TODAY   |  April 29, 2014

Unique mannequins challenge beauty standards

As the “Love Your Selfie” series continues, TODAY takes a unique look at body image with mannequins, raising the issue of whether our body shapes reflect who we really are.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning on "love your selfie," reclaiming beauty. a closer look at body image and mannequins. what you are about to see right now are our doppelgangers, created to see how we look. should we reveal them?

>> okay, let's do.

>> come on over here.

>> according to women's wear daily, the average woman in america is a size 14 , yet the average mannequin is a small 4 or 6. what we see in store windows really isn't a reflection of who all of us really are. could something as simple as changing a mannequin make us change the way we feel about beauty and our own self-perception?

>> we were inspired to find out bay group in switzerland, they made a video of mannequins that went viral last year, honoring people with disabilities . so with the help of denver-based fusion mannequin company, we found a group of volunteers who are hoping to help redefine beauty.

>> so who is donna callahan?

>> donna callahan is a very active female woman in a wheelchair. i got it when i was 3, it's a virus that attacks the spine, and it left me with incomplete paralysis in the lower body. i've done the boston marathon three times. also an adaptive skier. i mono ski .

>> i'm a small man. i'm a small artist. i am a father. i am a husband. i am three foot nine. i use little person . i use person of short stature. i use dwarfism. i am taller than my wife. because she's shorter than i am, she calls me tall boy .

>> i think of myself as a resilient person. somebody that has been through a lot.

>> how did you lose your legs? tell me about that day.

>> i was a paratrooper in the army with the 173rd airborne in afghanistan in 2005 , and the vehicle i was in hit an improvised explosive device . it blew up right underneath me. i have prosthetics. and you can still be an athlete. you still can have physical achievement regardless of what the situation is.

>> desiree hunter is funny, outgoing, gentle giant. athletic. likes to have fun. i'm like 6'1" 1/2. i was always taller than everybody. i knew i had an advantage over everybody. i would totally turn into a different person playing basketball.

>> so who is beth ridgeway?

>> i am a mother. a wife. an entrepreneur. hopefully i want to be an inspiration to my daughters. i've always been plus-sized. it's how i've always viewed myself.

>> it's an emotional thing for you?

>> it is. yeah.

>> there you go. just kind of have fun with it.

>> let's scoot back just a little bit.

>> to create a mannequin that looks like you, what did you think about that?

>> the first thing i thought of is this is totally random, but totally cool. it's going to be a mannequin of myself.

>> everybody is self-conscious about what this mannequin is going to look like.

>> i saw a bit of my cooked legs. the manner in which i stand, it's not like the beautiful mannequin pose.

>> what does this mean for you to be a part of this?

>> i love the idea. it's about image and society. it's about all of the times that i've walked through an airport with shorts on and get stares.

>> what do you hope other people will see when they look at your mannequin?

>> i hope they see the strength and confidence that i bring to people with disabilities .

>> i just hope she looks like a beautiful, strong, plus-sized woman.

>> when you look at store mannequins, what do you see?

>> i don't see me. that's for sure.

>> do you think this will be eye-opening to the public when they see the mannequins in the store front?

>> i hope it draws questions. i hope it engages people and will bring more attention and awareness to body image as a whole in society.

>> getting to experience this with so many others who also have their differences, what do you hope their mannequins say to the world?

>> you have, what, about five different body types . some of us are missing limbs. some of us use wheelchairs. some of us are quite short. some of us are quite tall. some of us are larger. we are not just conforming to the stereotypical body type .

>> and that's what makes us who we are and that makes our lives and our stories unique. by being different.

>> no matter what size you are, you're still beautiful.

>> everybody's perfect the way they are. just be you and love yourself for who you are.

>> and we brought donna, neil , desiree , and beth to meet their mannequins, so to speak, here on the plaza. nice to see you all. good morning. nervous about this at all?

>> yeah.

>> why? you've seen yourself in the mirror 100 times .

>> i'm a control freak , so to not know what's under here and to not know what she's wearing --

>> driving you crazy.

>> let me do the honors.

>> oh! she looks good!

>> she's sporty like you.

>> she's sporty. yeah, i like it. i'll work on my connections to get you guys an updated chair.

>> an upgrade. but she's great. i like it.

>> neil is next. savannah is about to do the honors. are you ready to see neil ?

>> i'm ready. let's do it. what do you think?

>> hopefully they got the abs right. looking good. looks great.

>> looks like a handsome guy.

>> what was the experience like for you, neil , to be part of this?

>> it was actually pretty similar, to be honest with you, to getting fitted with prosthetics. a lot of measurements and photos and things like that. but it was a great experience.

>> wonderful.

>> all right, desiree , let's do you next.

>> okay. wow.

>> she looks good. what do you think? what's it like to see that?

>> it's pretty cool. now i know what i look like in my uniform.

>> does it change at all the way you see yourself? oh, that's me, that's what i look like?

>> it's pretty cool, yeah.

>> what i love about you is you have always been so confident about your height. you and savannah share that.

>> yeah.

>> all right, and finally, beth , you ready?

>> yeah.

>> okay, here we go. okay. what do you think?

>> looks good. it's crazy.

>> i knew it was an emotional experience for you.

>> yeah.

>> to be a part of this. what do you think people get out of seeing these mannequins, beth ?

>> well, i don't know. i just -- i mean, beauty isn't a size or shape. it's your heart and your mind and i hope it opens people's eyes.

>> yeah. we hope it does, too. thank you so much. thank you for being part of this and opening your hearts to us. we appreciate it. we also want to thank fusion mannequin company. we're looking for a clothing or department store who wants to proudly display these mannequins, so if you know of one, please let us know. and tomorrow on "love your selfie" --

>> come over here, right back here. tomorrow on "love your selfie," teenagers who are tackling body image in creative ways.

>> "today's" "love your selfie" is brought to you by dove. dove wants every woman's encounter with a mirror to be a positive affirmation of her beauty.