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It took stripping down to her Calvin Kleins in front of a camera for Brenda DeRouen to love her body again.
And now, the single mom's sexy photo-shoot — in which her stretch marks are on full display — has gone viral, empowering women and reminding the world that every body is perfectly imperfect.
DeRouen, 26, had a baby when she was 17 years old, and despite being a generally positive and upbeat person, a part of her has always struggled with self-acceptance and body image ever since, she told TODAY.
"There are stretch marks on my stomach, and I hadn't come to terms with that," she said. "I hadn't embraced that part of myself. So I went on this little journey and I was like, you know, it's time to get over it."
DeRouen, author of the Oh! Brenda blog, wanted to write a post about self-acceptance, and she figured the best place to start was with her own confidence issues. She teamed up with photographer Deun Ivory for the photo-shoot, which took place last weekend in Houston where both women live.
"Our goal was basically to empower women to not be afraid to reveal themselves and embrace those features that society deems as imperfection," Ivory told TODAY. "It was really organic — we put on Beyonce and Drake and it was just amazing."
It was DeRouen's idea to wear Calvin Klein: "It's comfortable, it's sexy, you feel good in it," she said.
“The media has made it seem like you have to have the perfect body,” DeRouen added. “You have to have abs and nice boobs and a big butt now. And in real life, there is no perfect person. There’s no person who looks like the people we see on TV. I don’t see those types of women. I see women who look like myself.”
“We’ve kind of brainwashed ourselves with this idea of perfection,” she continued.
Almost immediately after the images went viral, many compared the photo-shoot to Kendall Jenner's popular Calvin Klein's ad campaign. But DeRouen and Ivory say they weren't intending to recreate Jenner's image — in fact, they weren't even familiar with it.
"We went to Google it and we were like, oh wow, this is crazy," Ivory said. "We had no idea Kendall Jenner had a photo like that!"
And their goal isn't to knock bodies like Jenner's, either.
"She's beautiful and she's owning her body and she's confident in her skin," DeRouen said. "I'm not hating on that; I think that's awesome! That's what I want for other women. To feel comfortable and confident in their skin, and to know there is no such thing as a perfect body."
"Confidence is the best accessory a girl can wear," she added. "That confidence and that energy — people will see that and notice it, and that's what makes someone beautiful."
Both Ivory and DeRouen have been flooded with comments from women thanking them for the images.
“I know what viral means, but to experience it myself is just a whole different level,” Ivory said. “I’m so excited.”