photo: Aerie

Two years ago, American Eagle lingerie brand Aerie created a campaign featuring un-retouched models. It was a bold move in a society where heavily photoshopped and airbrushed advertisements are the norm.

"This is now our brand," Aerie's senior director of marketing Dana Seguin told Fastcocreate.com at the time. "It's not a seasonal campaign for us. It is now how we're talking to our customers."

The advertisements feature fuller women in underwear and bikinis — some with cellulite on their legs and bottoms. In one of Aerie's Instagram posts, two women lounge in beach chairs. The woman on the left has thick legs and a fuller figure. "How do you get a perfect bikini body? Put a bikini on your body," the post reads.

Though it's not the first company to tap into real body types, Aerie is the most recent example of how body diversity actually sells. In March, Jay Schottenstein, chief executive officer of American Eagle, reported sales growth within the company to the tune of 36 percent in the first part of 2016.

“Initiatives to strengthen our merchandise and improve operational execution fueled strong results,” he said in a release.

Related from Vivala: The Boom in Diverse Dolls: Why It's Important to See Ourselves Growing Up

Schottenstein added that the company’s focus in 2016 will center on “continuous merchandise improvements, elevating our efforts on customer acquisition and optimizing the strength of our operations and brands.” Representatives for Aerie did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Posts by real women rocking underwear or swimsuits with the hashtag #AerieREAL are still going strong on Twitter and Instagram. The body-positive messages are filled with self-love and strength.

“I went to the beach today and wasn't too self conscious to eat in my bathing suit!!” tweeted one user with the hashtags #progress, #AerieReal, and #selflove.

Research has long suggested the detrimental effects of highly idealized images on women. According to a 2011 story by The New York Times, "such images, research suggests, contribute to eating disorders and anxiety about body types, especially among young women."

For many women today, the case for Aerie and un-retouched advertisements is about representation, which can be the driving force behind why body diversity sells. It's been proven that diversity matters — in Hollywood, in the dolls you buy — and in advertisements of women's products such as the underwear Aerie sells.

Nina Agressott of Tampa says she’s more inclined to buy something from a company that has unphotoshopped advertisements because it helps her relate to the product more.

“If the model has a similar skin tone as I do or a similar body type, I can better visualize how it may look on me,” the 32-year-old part Colombian, part Puerto Rican says. Agressott feels that photoshopped advertisements are deceitful and demonstrate how shallow our society can be.

"I can't photoshop my body in the fitting room . . . I need to see what flaws the model has as it helps me relate more to what is being advertised. I have seen some advertisements (that are probably still somewhat photoshopped) that show a 'chicho' or cellulite . . . if I can relate to where the model has these things on her body, I can better assess how it may fit on me."

For Agressott, who wears sizes 10 to 14 for bottoms and dresses and size large and extra-large for tops, body diversity definitely sells.

“I appreciate seeing a woman who resembles my body type in advertisements. In general, I think body diversity has come a long way and is slowly representing people of different body types, skin tones, gender representation, etc,” she says. “My thought is that the U.S., in particular, is hopefully embracing all of the beautiful diversity that we have. To those who can relate to it and who embrace it, I think it does sell.”

Cheers to #AerieREAL Swim Break!

A photo posted by aerie (@aerie) on

Christy Laureano, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, says she believes advertisements are photoshopped because "they wish to portray a certain look to people" — and that this certain look should be achieved for someone to feel good about themselves.

"But unfortunately not everyone can look like that and no one should be told how they should look on the outside," the 30-year-old says, adding that she'd like to ask those behind these advertisements why do they have to show her something "fake" to sell their product.

"Wouldn't it be better to show your product on someone real with flaws and imperfections? Because we all have them. We try to hide from them, but they are still there. Owning those flaws and showing people how you have overcome them is what sells. Show me something real and I'll listen."

Laureano wears sizes 20 to 22 in pants/dresses and says she once saw a Dove ad with girls of every shape and color.

"I will always remember this commercial because it stood out. It was real," she says. "I particularly am not a small, skinny person. I am plus size and am very insecure about myself. But when I see ads with plus-size ladies celebrating themselves and their beauty, it gives me inspiration to go out in the world and be myself and not what someone wants me to be. All I know is I would rather buy something from someone I can relate to, and not someone created by a computer."