Two weeks ago, Rebecka Silvekroon’s life took an unexpected and crazy turn after a photo she innocently took almost 3 years ago went viral, out of nowhere, catapulting her into the international media spotlight. The photo, which has now received more than 1 million “likes” on Facebook, was of a “fuller-figured” mannequin she saw at a Swedish department store. She took the photo back in October 2010 and immediately posted it on her personal blog for only friends and family to see with a positive note about how “real” and healthy the mannequin looked.
Suddenly finding her photo (and herself) at the center of an accidental social and traditional media frenzy and subsequent global debate over the unhealthy and unrealistic look of mannequins, the 29 year old project manager and blogger from Sweden thought, “I should do something useful with my 15 seconds of fame”. And she did.
On March 20, Rebecka created the site SwedishMannequins.com, not to capitalize on her new found “celebrity”, but rather to keep the important discussion and debate going that her photo serendipitously sparked. She’s using the site as a platform to engage people across the globe in continued conversations about body image and how women (and men) are portrayed in our public spaces. She has made it her mission to challenge what she calls “the unhealthy ideals” that currently exist in the fashion and retail industry.
One section of the site includes a growing gallery of mannequin images that Rebecka has taken herself or found on the internet. She encourages visitors to submit their own photos, which she will publish to the site in the hopes of creating an image library of mannequins from all over the world. Her goal here is to use these images to get the attention of retailers, clothing companies, and mannequin manufacturers and cause them to rethink the unrealistic and one-dimensional body type images they are perpetuating by their own decision making.
She explains, “I want to talk to manufacturers of mannequins – how do they think and why do they produce dolls with absolutely crazy thin waists? I want to talk to clothing companies and ask them why they buy the skinny mannequins, it must be possible to make a choice!”
We applaud Rebecka for taking on such an enormous challenge and salute her efforts to harness the power of her unintended fame to fuel an important cause for the greater good.
Through an incredible twist of fate, her picture has certainly proven to be worth well more than a thousand words.
So How Does A Personal Photo Suddenly Go Viral After Three Years in Obscurity?
While Rebecka is still uncertain as to who first came across her photo and took it from her personal blog, she knows her now infamous mannequin shot made its public debut somewhere on Facebook. One of the first Facebook page posts she is aware of was by Women’s Rights News on March 12 and things just exploded virally from there.
It’s interesting to mention that when the photo first went viral, the media was reporting that the mannequin was from H&M and not the Swedish department store Åhléns where Rebecka actually took it.
She chalks the misinformation up to a non-Swedish speaker’s sloppy fact gathering. In her original blog post about the fuller-figured Åhléns mannequin, she made a passing negative comment about the super skinny mannequins used by H&M. Someone probably read H&M, erroneously linked it to what was in the picture and ran with it.
To clarify, Rebecka provided this correct English translation of what she actually wrote in her native Swedish on her blog:
“Look what I found at Åhléns! The mannequin on the right actually resemble the size of a real person. So nice! She is still slim, but it looks healthy. I like. At H&M on the other hand I saw a completely crazy skinny mannequin. I forgot to take a picture, but yikes. Absolutely terrible, the waist was like the size of my shin.”
As a result of that initial bad reporting, H&M was contacted by media. The retailer explained that it wasn’t their mannequin and that they didn’t know where it came from. That caused newspapers such as The Washington Post and others to conclude that the picture was, in fact, “a hoax”.
To put a final end to the mystery, Rebecka swooped in and emailed several newspapers and reached out to others on Twitter with the real story. Most media outlets have since updated their reports with the correct information.