What would happen if a mother-of-three stripped down to her bikini in the middle of a crowded marketplace in Boise, Idaho as part of a daring social experiment?
Amy Pence-Brown wanted to find out. The body-positive activist was inspired by a similar experiment conducted by The Liberators International, in which a recovering eating disorder sufferer stood on the streets of London in her underwear and encouraged strangers to draw hearts on her body in support of self-acceptance.
“It was moving and inspirational, but how would it be received if the woman had been less socially acceptable in appearance – like, fat?” Pence-Brown, 39, tells PEOPLE. “And, say, a mom who’s nearly 40 years old? And in a place that was more conservative and less progressive than London, like Boise, Idaho?”
Pence-Brown was inspired to conduct the experiment in her neighborhood after overcoming her own struggles with self-esteem.
“I was a chubby kid turned curvy teen turned fat mother, but have been at peace with my body for many years,” she says. “I was hoping this project would help others do the same.”
While she is now confident in her own skin, Pence-Brown did have to overcome a few fears before stripping down at the farmer’s market on Aug. 29.
“At the time of the performance, I was terrified that no one would stop to draw a heart, that I’d stand there for minutes that felt like hours alone, that I’d be asked to leave by the police, and/or that people would say mean things to me,” she says. “Instead, this simple act of rebellion started a body love revolution.”
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Not only was Pence-Brown covered in hearts and empowering phrases by the end of her demonstration, but several people stopped to dispense words of encouragement during her brave stance.
“I was overwhelmed with warmth, positivity and a faith in humanity that people had heard my voice calling for self-acceptance, and said, ‘Me, too.’ ”
Pence-Brown hopes that everyone who sees her experiment is inspired to love themselves and their bodies.
“All bodies are good bodies, imperfect as we all are,” she says. “Life is too short to go on hating yourself, so start loving yourself where you are right now.”