Busy Philipps on How She's Teaching Her Daughters Body Positivity in an Age of Facetune

Busy Philipps has always kept it real. From her late-night show to her social media feeds and revealing memoir, the actress isn’t afraid to tell it—and show it—like it is. So she makes a natural choice for Aerie’s latest, un-retouched “Real Role Model” campaign, which showcases a group of unapologetically authentic women.

The actress and late night host joins previous #AerieREAL campaign stars Iskra Lawrence, Aly Raisman and Cleo Wade, along with actresses Jameela Jamil and Samira Wiley, gold medal Paralympian snowboarder Brenna Huckaby, and motivational speaker Molly Burke in the Spring 2019 ads. “The more women that they [kept] naming, I was like, ‘This is the greatest! Of course I want to be involved with this group of girls,'” Philipps told BAZAAR.com over the phone.

Since going Photoshop-free in 2014, Aerie has committed to celebrating body positivity and diversity in all its ads and imagery. And like the rest of the new campaign’s stars, Philipps is no stranger to speaking out on body image, unrealistic beauty standards, and Hollywood’s complicity.

To celebrate the new campaign, the Busy Tonight host spoke with BAZAAR.com to discuss the effects of Facetune and how she’s raising her daughters to be body positive.

Why was it important for you to be part of the #AerieREAL Role Model campaign?

I was so excited when Aerie asked me to be a part of it. I knew what the campaign was already, and I knew Aly [Raisman] was rejoining it. I’m so inspired by her. But then I heard Samira Wiley, who I’m obsessed with and had just met not that long ago, and Jameela [Jamil], who I also know and love what she does, were joining too. And the more women that they [kept] naming, I was like, this is the greatest! Of course I want to be involved with this group of girls.

What was it like being on set? Was there anyone you bonded with in particular?

It was really incredible. Cleo Wade and I had never met in person, but we have a lot of mutual friends and I’ve always been a huge fan of her as an author. I have her book Heart Talk, and find her to be incredibly inspiring in the work and activism she does. It was awesome to meet her on set, and I actually had a weird work situation that day, and she gave me advice and talked me through it. It was a really valuable day on set, which sometimes you don’t get those. It felt very empowering, and like we were all there to support one another.

You’ve been outspoken about body shaming in Hollywood and online, especially on Instagram. How do you deal with it?

I just call it out for what it is, it’s bullsh*t. The more campaigns we have like Aerie’s Real Role Model campaigns, where they’re showing various shapes, sizes, and types of women that aren’t airbrushed or Photoshopped, the more those images can become mainstream and change people’s brains. These are what real women look like. We have this default setting [of beauty] that’s based off years and years of visual programming of seeing the exact same perfected bodies and faces. We all know that’s not what humans look like in real life.

For my social media presence, I did make a choice to not use apps that would change my body or face or take away a zit or whatever. When I first joined Instagram and I had some friends that really used all of those apps, I was like, “Why? What’s the point?” I want people to get used to seeing what I actually look like. I don’t want them to think that I look like this perfect alien. I’m not. I’m a regular person.

“If we can move away from using women’s appearances and bodies as descriptors for their person, that can be helpful for the young women in my daughters’ generation.”

How do you teach your daughters body positivity as they’re growing up?

I really try to lead by example. That is something that as mothers, and just as women in general, we all need to do. I think a lot about the words I use to talk about my own body in my home, in front of my girls, and how I speak about other women. I’ve curbed commenting on other women’s appearances since I became a mother 10 years ago. It was something I did before that made sense to me to stop doing. We have to reset the norm, and if we can move away from women’s appearances and bodies as being descriptors for their person, that can be helpful for the young women in my daughter’s generation.

It’s especially hard to have young girls and teenagers growing up in the age of Instagram.

I try to be aware of the media and things they’re consuming when I’m not around, but of course you can’t have it all on lock. No one can and parents may think they can, but they’re just delusional. So we try to have a really open dialogue about things. As my older daughter gets a little bit older, I try to listen as much as possible and pay attention. I talk with her and her friends and I listen to the things that they’re finding valuable, and I see if there needs to be any sort of redirection.

We’ve had conversations with my older daughter and her friends about the Internet, and not just safety but also the truth of the Internet, FOMO, and the fact that people use apps to change their faces sometimes on Instagram. The teen stars they look up to might be using those apps, and what does that mean? And what is the person’s value? Does it matter that someone has 2 million followers on Instagram or 25,000 likes? We try to really impress upon them to make their own decisions and to be critical thinkers, but there are different things to be critically thinking about now as a 10-year-old, then say when I was a 10-year-old.

Teenagers having access to editing apps and Facetune can be a dangerous thing for young people growing up.

Yeah and they know all about that. Birdie’s [Philipps’ oldest daughter] best friend is an expert at it. She can take a photo of me and Facetune me into a Kardashian. My daughter understands that’s not real, that there’s real value in being natural and truthful to your own self because your worst goes beyond what you look like, or the shape of your body.

If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Oh man, it’s been such a journey. I would tell the much younger me to really lean into the uniqueness of myself, because ultimately that’s what has brought me the most success in both my career and my life. I think in your late teens, and especially early twenties (when I was starting out in this industry), I looked for a lot of ways to make myself less-than to fit into molds that were not for me. The more I let go of what I perceived as others’ expectations of me, the more I was able to come into my own, and be this 39-year-old f*cking bad-ass I am now.

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