Gender-free model Rain Dove and boxer Heather Hardy are fighting for better beauty standards after being criticized for their looks

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated July 01, 2016 04:00 PM

Model Rain Dove grew up hearing that she looked “boyish and ugly,” often getting mistaken for a man.

“When someone thinks of the term, ‘pretty girl,’ they don’t typically think of someone who looks like me,” Dove, 26, says in a new ad for Dove beauty products focused on rethinking traditional beauty standards.

Rather than wallow over her looks, Dove developed a thick skin.

“I always had this attitude of, ‘They don’t get to tell me how I live my life,’ ” she says.

That attitude helped when, after losing a bet, Dove went to an open call for runway models, where they cast her after mistaking her for a man.

“[I had] two choices. I can say one – I’m sorry, there’s been a huge mistake and I’m a woman and I’m really sorry for wasting your time, or I can own it.”

Dove chose to own it, and didn’t tell them that she’s a woman until after the show. She now works as a professional gender-free model in New York.

“I may not be the conventional girl, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a pretty girl. Or that any girl isn’t a pretty girl,” Dove says. “This is what a pretty girl looks like.”

Boxer Heather Hardy had the opposite problem. She started kickboxing as a way to get in shape after having a baby, and soon won her first fight after joining a team.

“Early on in my career, before people knew who I was, I used to get off the scales at the weigh-ins and people would look at me and think of me like, ‘a little blond girl with pigtails, aw, she can’t fight.’ ” Hardy, 34, says in another video for the campaign. “And then I’d go in that ring and win.”

Even now, as a professional boxer, Hardy still hears that she shouldn’t fight because of her looks.

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“You can’t go anywhere without hearing, ‘Oh, you’re too pretty to fight. You’re going to mess up that beautiful face.’ My face has nothing to do with my boxing,” she says.

Hardy and Dove, along with seven other women, joined Dove’s campaign #MyBeautyMySay to show that beauty shouldn t be up for criticism.

“We want women to challenge this behavior that has unfortunately become commonplace in our society,” Jennifer Bremmer, Dove’s director of marketing, says.

“Beauty isn’t something that I feel, it’s just something that you are, it’s something that comes out of you, it’s not something that you’re wearing,” Hardy says. “I can still be beautiful with my black eye.”