For its second-annual Body Issue, Weight Watchers magazine wanted to examine beauty in a new way. “So we decided to discuss what members talk about quite often: visibility,” explains senior editor Katerina Gkionis.
The resulting cover story, “See Me Now,” features fresh, breezy portraits and upbeat profiles of a wide range of Weight Watchers members, from a 24-year-old woman who changed her eating habits after suffering from a rare form of pancreatic cancer that left her body scarred from multiple surgeries, to 38-year-old Justin Brown, who notes that men suffer from the same body issues as women, to millennial Samantha Rayburn, who was born with only two fingers on her right hand.
“We found the members through our own social media tool on the Weight Watchers app called Connect,” says Gikonis. “There, members share their successes, their triumphs, their feelings. Through Connect, we were able to find inspiring members to represent this story.”
An assignment like this calls for a photographer who can make regular people—meaning those who are not accustomed to photo shoots—feel comfortable and get great images in the process. It also calls for sensitivity. The magazine chose Melanie Acevedofor the job.
“I’ve ALWAYS loved Melanie’s work, so I was thrilled to get to work with her,” says photo director Marybeth Dulany. “I was inspired by the shoot she did for Darling magazine, and I wanted that same kind of feeling and emotion to come through in our story. Melanie has the ability to capture the beauty and joy in each one of her subjects. You feel like you ‘know’ each one of them.”
For Melanie, the shoot was an opportunity to contribute to a visual narrative that is close to her heart. “I’m so moved and so proud of Weight Watchers for celebrating these extraordinary women,” she says. “We are surrounded by images of the ideal woman,’ and it is so disheartening for all of us mere mortals to be told to look toward this ideal.
“Now more than ever,” she continues, “it is time to celebrate the AUTHENTIC in each and every one of us. The more the media gets on board with this idea, the better off we will all be. We are paving the way for the next generation of women to expect to see variety and uniqueness everywhere, not just once in while when some magazine wants to be edgy or hip to show a plus-size girl or an older woman.”
Rayburn, whose portrait appears on the magazine’s cover, is so thrilled with her photos that she sent us a selfie posing proudly at a local newsstand where Weight Watchers is on sale. “Hands down, the shoot was the best day of my life!” she says. “It was beyond a pleasure working with Melanie. It made me want a career as a model, and then I remembered how much I like pizza and burgers and I retracted that thought!”
“I find these women way more inspiring than any 20-something fashion model, and much more compelling to look at,” notes Melanie. “It was amazing to see these people, who have overcome so much, be so confident and secure in who they are. They have accepted themselves—that’s real love, for sure. What an example they are to us. Bravo, Weight Watchers, bravo!!!!!”