'Dear Khloe Kardashian, you are beautiful': Women share vulnerable photos in body-positive response to photo drama

Elise Solé
·5 min read
Fitness influencer Maria Kang launched the
Fitness influencer Maria Kang launched the "Dear Khloe" challenge following Khloe Kardashian's photo controversy. (Photo: Facebook/Maria Kang)

Inspired by Khloe Kardashian's unedited photo, women are sharing their filter-free pics in the #DearKhloe movement, created by "Fitness Mom" Maria Kang.                    

This week, California fitness influencer Kang, 41, shared a Facebook photo of herself paddleboarding while wearing a bikini. "Dear Khloe Kardashian, I hated this pic of me when I saw it," she wrote in the caption. "My biggest insecurity growing up was my 'thunder thighs' so I always posed and positioned myself in ways where neither I or my followers saw it." 

Kang, who is known online as "Fitness Mom" or "No Excuses Mom" added, "When I read the story of the beautiful, unfiltered and unedited image that was accidentally posted and later legally scrubbed from the internet, it made me sad."

Earlier this month, a seemingly-unaltered image of the 36-year-old reality star posing in a bikini during a Palm Springs, Calif. getaway was shared on social media by an assistant, then promptly erased, sparking legal threats toward those who shared the image. Despite praise of Kardashian's natural beauty, she responded to the supposed backlash by posting an "unretouched and unfiltered" Instagram video of herself wearing underwear, writing, "My body, my image and how I choose to look and what I want to share is my choice" adding that she faces "pressure, constant ridicule and judgment" as a public figure. But her defense didn't sway critics who claim the Kardashian-Jenner family helped create untenable beauty ideals.   

"This was a great opportunity for you to stand out from your peers who market unachievable and highly- edited bodies and STAND UP for all the impressionable young women, insecure moms and not-so-perfect bodies out there," Kang wrote to her 306k followers. "You have nothing to prove, not to us, not to your family or to yourself. #dearkhloe you are beautiful."

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"To all ladies who are tired of the fake facade of social media, let’s put ourselves in her shoes and post a picture we don't like but we ACCEPT of ourselves," Kang added. "Let's share who we really are…what REAL really looks like. Share your unedited pic for you, share for your daughters, share for everyone who needs to see an image online and feel good, not bad, about themselves."

In a "liberating" move, Kang went first. "I usually don't wear shorts or short dresses," she tells Yahoo Life. "But people said I looked beautiful and that I had strong legs. That energy helped shift my own self-perception." Photos stacked up under Kang's post — one woman who described her thighs as "thick" shared a full-body shot taken on a morning run. "We are our own worst enemies sometimes," she wrote. Another posted a selfie writing, "I've got the stretch marks from having three kids too. But now? I love myself so much…"

"Strong and unfiltered," someone captioned their bikini photo

"I was a gymnast, a soccer player, a marathoner and now a surfer at 48," a woman wrote. "I have always had thick thighs. I have never been embarrassed about them. My stomach is another story. That said I love being a physically strong woman."

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Kang says Kardashian's unedited photo was gorgeous — but that's not her point. "Khloe promotes Good American jeans [a size-inclusive clothing brand] and hosted Revenge Body [a television show billed as the "ultimate makeover of the exterior and interior"], so body positivity is her thing, but this was a slap in the face."

"At the same time, I resonated with her as a woman — we all have friends who have posted unauthorized photos of us," she says. "So while we may feel Khloe looks perfect, it doesn't matter. It only matters what she thinks." 

Kang admits to "personal evolutions" since rising to prominence in 2013 with her “What’s Your Excuse?” meme. The image she posted of herself, wearing a sports bra and shorts surrounded by her sons, then ages 3, 2, and 8 months, vilified Kang as a body shamer ("People really put me down for being healthy," she responded that year). 

Regardless, the mom used the catchphrase for the “No Excuse Mom Movement" (her fitness support community with more than 360 worldwide locations) and her non-profit organization Fitness Without Borders. She even issued a revised 2018 meme titled "What's Your Reason?" to motivate women to reach their health goals. 

Kang also started sharing personal stories, with an "unapologetic," unedited bikini photo that reflected her 10-pound weight gain in 2016 and an open letter when she removed her breast implants after experiencing symptoms of breast implant illness

"I regret ever thinking they weren’t good enough," she wrote on Instagram in 2019 after the procedure. "…For years after I struggled with binge eating, bulimia, body dysmorphia and depression. I felt disconnected in the objectification of my body." 

She continued, ⁣"I was stuck in the social media world, where fake physiques are rewarded, 'liked' and valued. I feared my husband’s opinion. I liked how I looked in clothes and swimsuits. I was vain. And I own that."

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