ESPN Magazine recently published "The Body Issue" featuring some of the most well-toned, perfectly proportioned, athletically ideal human forms on the planet. However, what makes the issue exceptional is that so many of the forms they feature are not what society tells us is "ideal". While the fashion world would have us believe that skinny, pale, and pouting is perfect, these muscular, sun-kissed athletes prove that isn't the case at all.
Kudos to ESPN for featuring a fabulous Serena Williams on the cover in all her brown and beautiful buff, but even more for the shot of Sarah Reitnersen, the first female amputee to finish the Ironman competition. The photo of her wearing nothing but a thong and her prosthesis is the exclamation point on the statement that a body does not need to be perfect to be beautiful.
There are several terrific articles of special interest to nudists: "No shirts, No shoes, Lots of Service" about nude volleyball and "Bodies We Want" and "More Bodies We Want" featuring a wide array of athletes from different sports in the nude and near-nude. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of six-packs and hard bodies featured on the pages of this magazine. However, there are two things that make this issue truly extraordinary: it wasn't intended to be, nor does it come off as, remotely erotic AND many of the athletes that they chose to feature are not what pop into our minds when we think of "beauty" as defined on the catwalk.
There are photos of a 6'2" tall female rower, a sumo wrestler, a jockey, and a table tennis player. The soccer, baseball, and rodeo athletes are not those we ordinarily see in underwear ads, yet they are stunningly beautiful and confident and inspiring.
In addition to the print issue, the ESPN site features a few videos on the making of the issue that provide us with insight into what the athletes thought about stripping down for the shoots. Some felt vulnerable, some felt proud. Some were anxious while others couldn't wait to get their clothes off. I found it interesting that, despite their power and wealth and fame, their feelings were just like everyone else's the first time they experienced nudism.
I wish every kid in America could see this magazine. I wish they could realize as the athletes on these pages do that fitness, energy, and power are beautiful and that a sense of teamwork and personal accomplishment can work miracles on a person's sense of self. Buy a copy of this issue and share it with a kid - it's that good.
Log on and click around for a while. Hopefully, the positive feedback and media attention that ESPN is receiving from this issue will encourage more publishers to take a chance on stepping outside of what's expected and into a comfortable place in the lives of their readers.