Back in January, Adidas launched an artsy, feminist campaign featuring incredibly badass women like Dej Loaf, Hannah Bronfman, and Adwoa Aboah. The initiative championed being original, being yourself, and not being ashamed of it. In the follow up campaign, Now, the brand is taking the mission one step further with its newly-released Superstar ads.
In one particular shot, 26-year-old Swedish model, photographer, and artist Arvida Byström is seen wearing different shades of pink head-to-toe, save for her grey classic three-stripe Superstars. When Adidas shared the image on Instagram, the brand noted that Byström is “known for her photography, which questions femininity and gender standards using so-called ‘girly’ aesthetics.”
Despite this, commenters on the social media site began attacking the model for her decision to leave her legs unshaven for the image, putting them on on full display. And though negative statements like “the most disgusting thing on a woman is hair on her legs,” were left, others responded to the harsh criticism. One user wrote: “It's crazy that this has over 19,000 comments of ppl shaming and talking about this women's body hair when previous posts before didn't even reach 600 comments. STOP BEING ANNOYING YALL and keep ur negativity to yourself.”
The criticism got so bad, though, that Byström took to her own Instagram account to speak out about the backlash. She shared the same picture as Adidas, writing: “My photo from the @adidasoriginals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week. Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair.” She went on to describe the sort of vitriol she’s received: “Literally I've been getting rape threats in my DM inbox," she added. "I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to not possess all these privileges and try to exist in the world. Sending love and try to remember that not everybody has the same experiences being a person. Also thanks for all the love got a lot of that too.”
Despite criticism, Adidas tells Refinery29 that it stands by its casting choice: The company said it is “honoured to work with creators like Arvida for their creativity, diversity and unique ideas. We lend the breadth and depth of our brand to give our collaborators a platform for positivity, discussion, and change.”
We’ve reached out to Arvida Byström for comment and will update this post if/when we hear back.