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/ Source: TODAY
By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

Former Miss America contestant Ashlee Baracy is used to being judged on her appearance. But Baracy, who is now a TV meteorologist in Ohio, was in no way prepared for what happened after she announced her pregnancy on-air in February.

“It started with comments like, ‘I thought your face looked fuller,’” Baracy told TODAY Style. As the WBNS anchor's pregnancy progressed, the remarks became more vicious. “Someone warned me that I was gaining too much weight and to ‘watch my heart,’ and another said I was covering up temperatures on the weather map during my broadcasts.”

Ashlee Baracy likes showing off her baby bump. "I'm growing a miracle," she told TODAY.Courtesy of Ashlee Baracy

Rather than let the criticism slide, Baracy took to social media and posted some of the hateful messages she'd received. One read: “Pregnant or not, buy bigger clothes!!! You look bloated and uncomfortable… it is not likely your dresses will survive another 20 weeks of pregnancy weight!”

Baracy’s fans were appalled. “I couldn’t believe how many people came to my defense,” she said. “It was comforting for me to see how the positivity outweighs the negativity."

It’s not uncommon for news anchors to be shamed for pregnancy weight gain. In January, Houston’s Erica Simon took to Twitter asking viewers to “chill” after receiving tweets about “packing on pounds." Laura Warren in Georgia put a troll on blast for calling her bump "disgusting" in 2017.

“It’s the ugly side of our business,” Baracy explained to TODAY. “Twenty years ago, you had to write in to the station or find a phone number to call to try and get ahold of someone. Now, you can just shoot a Facebook message without thinking twice. I think people could benefit by taking a step back before they hit send and ask themselves, ‘Would I say this to someone’s face?’”

Though Baracy has a “thick skin,” she admits the comments can sting. “You have days, especially when you’re pregnant and dealing with hormones when you start to feel bad,” she said. “I’ve come home and shed a few tears, but for the most part I’ve stayed strong.”

Ashlee Baracy and her husband, Jeff Kunkel, are expecting a boy.Courtesy of Ashlee Baracy

Baracy, who is expecting a baby boy in August, hopes she has inspired a larger conversation about body-shaming. “Adults need to look in the mirror and realize that self-image issues and the bullying epidemic in our youth starts with the example we are setting,” she told TODAY. “If a child hears their parent refer to someone on TV as ‘fat,’ what might the same child think of themselves when they look in the mirror or how will the perceive others and treat them in the future?”