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Plain Jane website debunks myths about body image

Two years ago, 45-year-old actress Jamie Lee Curtis posed bluntly for More magazine, in a sports bra and spandex underwear-without makeup, special lighting or air brushing-in defiance of Hollywood’s standard for physical appearance. Little did Curtis know the full impact her decision would make.

Jessica Devaney, a first-year at Lake Forest University’s masters program in North Carolina, was so impressed with Curtis’s statement that she decided to take similar action.

“[Curtis] just said ‘I’m not going to contribute to the body image problem anymore,'” Devaney said. “I thought that was really novel and inspiring. How much more moving would it be if it were peers that had that same mindset of who they were.”

Devaney started by involving her friends, including fellow visionary Kristin Bryant, in brainstorming design and researching for a new website: www.noplainjane.org. The group compiled alarming statistics of national body image problems, made a list of actions to take to improve self-image (including: “send your razor on a vacation” and “boycott diets”) and, like Curtis, posed for their own bold pictures to decorate the site.

Next came the actual web design. “We wanted it to be strong and bold and we wanted it to be a motive,” Devaney said. She added that the group used their own artwork for the logo and backgrounds and chose earthy tones over the typical feminist template of hot pink and black.

Though it could be mistaken for one, noplainjane.org is not meant to be a feminist site.

“There are so many gifted women that are trapped in self-loathing and lack of acceptance of who they are,” Devaney said, explaining that this “trap” is sometimes called “the corset” by feminists.

“[The corset] takes a lot of their energy away from whatever else they would be devoting it to,” she said. “It just saddens me and I want to do whatever I can to affirm the dignity of every woman.”

Devaney takes her convictions farther than self-esteem improvement.

“I won’t purchase magazines that I think perpetuate this body image standard like Vogue or Glamour, that have things on the cover like ‘how to please your man’ and ‘lose 10 lbs in one hour,'” she said. “I think that’s important too.” Devaney also avoids any product that particularly objectifies women in its advertisements, and refuses to use deodorant spray. “It tells women that they have to smell like flowers, which is ridiculous,” she said.

For those seeking a launching pad for such activism, noplainjane.org is open to web-forum discussion and more postings of personal Curtis-like pictures. For this reason, Devaney hopes to get her website further publicized, and not just in her home town. Her hit list includes talk show-hosts Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres.

“Why not?” she said. “Everything’s worth a shot.”

Until then, the website continues to get more traffic with time. Besides Ellen and Oprah, there is another celebrity who Devaney is hoping will soon notice her site. Though Curtis has proven to be a hard person to reach, Devaney has not given up trying to contact her inspiring role model.

“I’m sure [Curtis] would love to know that she inspired many movements,” Devaney said.

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