Liz Ariola, 35, and her mom, Barbara Costello, 72, never dreamed they would be the faces of body positivity for a national campaign, but it's a role they are happy to find themselves in ... all while wearing swimsuits.
"I was kind of like, 'I wonder what they want to talk about,'" she told TMRW, adding that she initially gave the brand her mom's email address by accident.
When they followed up, Ariola joked that her mom was 72, but if they wanted her in a bathing suit, she could "make that happen, too!"
And the company was all in.
Costello, known affectionately as Brunch with Babs on TikTok, quickly amassed a following during quarantine after becoming a breakout star for her enthusiastic cooking videos and agreed to join her daughter on the campaign, but the duo had some reservations.
"I’m breastfeeding and I have no pumped milk," Ariola said she told the marketing coordinators at Summersalt. "I didn’t really have child care at that point and he hadn't bottle fed yet, so I said, 'Can I bring the baby on set?' and the brand was on board."
Costello, a mom of four and grandmother of eight, feared being photographed in a two-piece, and wanted to make sure the suits were something she felt comfortable wearing.
Both women said they felt on ease at set, dancing to Taylor Swift music after a visit with hair and makeup. Ariola, who shared that past body image struggles may have previously prevented her from agreeing to this opportunity, said she fed off her mom's energy.
"She went before me and she was in front of the camera dancing in a bathing suit," Ariola said. "There’s a ton of people capturing this and just that energy is contagious. Being able to see her doing this at 72 was inspiring and kind of gave me that momentum to go out."
But when it was Ariola's time to shine, it was also time to feed her son, Scooter. The result? Powerful photos of a postpartum mom breastfeeding her child while wearing a red swimsuit.
Summersalt debuted the body-positive campaign on May 14, which features 24 diverse women in all stages of life donning colorful swimwear, including activist Jari Jones and model Lauren Wasser, who lost both legs to toxic shock syndrome.
“I could not be more proud of what this campaign stands for," Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, co-founder and chief brand and digital officer for Summersalt told TMRW, adding that as an Indian immigrant to the United States in her late teens, she did not see many women who looked like her in advertising. "It’s an honor to bring something like this to life as it sends such an important message to women, but also to younger generations who can see that beauty is not a one-size-fits-all approach. I know first-hand how important it is to represent many communities not normally featured in marketing campaigns."
When the campaign went live, both Ariola and Costello received positive feedback from their respective online communities.
"A mom direct messaged me and shared how her daughter has really been struggling," Ariola shared. "Her daughter is two months postpartum and the mom was at the point where there was nothing more she could do about it. The mom said she saw my post and noticed that her daughter liked it and she started crying. She DM’d me to thank me for putting myself out there and representing motherhood in a real way for her daughter. It was one of the first messages I received and that felt super special."
For Ariola, being photographed while breastfeeding goes far beyond a single photo or campaign.
"So many women are commenting about normalizing breastfeeding, normalize the postpartum body, but it’s so much more about normalizing motherhood," she said. "The journey of getting pregnant, being pregnant, those first few early years ... You think about marketing in general and the real, raw aspects of motherhood are missing."
Both women shared that the ultimate goal was to connect with mothers throughout all stages.
"Babs did such an amazing job at really emulating body positivity growing up and that has been passed down to me and that’s something I want to pass down to my own children," Ariola shared. "Being able to participate with a company who aligned with that was so special."
For Ariola and Costello, who are now featured on billboards in both New York and California, as well as in a full spread in the New York Times, being part of such a diverse group of women felt important.
"I believe you’re never too old to try new things and to continue to embrace life with joy and enthusiasm," Costello said, adding that many of her followers have said the ad gave them confidence. "One person in particular was like, 'You know what, I’m not waiting to buy my suit this year. I’m going out to buy my swimsuit now.'"
Lori Coulter, Summersalt co-founder and CEO, added, “Our summer campaign embodies the very essence of what Summersalt stands for — body positivity and joy. We hope this campaign inspires women to be a little kinder to themselves and dive in this summer.”