Aly Raisman has never been shy about discussing her own body image issues — even when posing nude for Sports Illustrated and speaking candidly about menstruation in her partnership with Playtex Sport. Now, she’s taking her body positive platform a step further, teaming up with Aerie and Special Olympic gymnast Chelsea Werner to encourage a better bra-shopping experience for women of all shapes and sizes.
Raisman, 24, tells PEOPLE that she often felt “self-conscious” when shopping for bras in the past, adding that her “short and muscular” frame made the experience challenging.
“I remember walking into other stores at a young age and as I am waiting to try on a bra, I was surrounded by all the same body types and I didn’t look like the models. I was short and muscular and I felt that my muscles weren’t feminine enough,” she recalls.
The Olympian has been outspoken about body positivity in recent years, cementing herself as a powerful voice in discussions about women’s issues. With that, there was no question about joining #AerieReal for its latest campaign: “Aerie Bras That Make You Feel Real Good.”
The initiative includes a new bra collection and an in-store experience aimed at encouraging a more positive bra-buying environment. Beginning Thursday, the American Eagle brand will launch the new bra collections which feature garments with 36-degree stretch, softer fabric, j-hooks and removable padding.
Aerie is also introducing a massive shopping overhaul to make buying bras easier and more comfortable for shoppers everywhere. The overhaul includes a company-wide “body confidence training program,” an encouraging fitting room experience, and a new, less invasive way to determine bra sizes.
“We hope that when a girl or woman puts on her bra she remembers her store experience as positive and empowering and every morning when she puts her bra on, she remembers to love her body and focus on what she loves about her body,” Raisman, an #AerieReal Role Model, tells PEOPLE.
“I don’t want any young athlete to ever walk into a store and feel that their body type isn’t feminine. No matter what you look like, your body is unique. If we all had the same body type, it would be so boring!”
Along with several everyday women, the campaign features #AerieREAL Role Models including Iskra Lawrence and Raisman and even highlights Werner, 25. In June, the women teamed up for a photo shoot ahead of the launch. Pictures show Raisman and Werner smiling and confident as they posed in the Aerie undergarments.
“I’m proud,” Werner, who has Down syndrome, tells PEOPLE of being part of the body positive campaign. “I love it. ”
She says it’s been difficult for her in the past to find bras that fit her petite, muscular frame, but, she adds, Aerie’s latest collection has provided the perfect fit. Her mother, Lisa Werner, says she’s proud that Werner is part of the campaign for a brand so committed to diversity.
As for Raisman, she says that lending her voice to the powerful body positivity movement doesn’t mean she’s exempt from struggling with self image.
“It’s important to me that all women and girls know that just because I pose in a bra and underwear, it does not mean I always feel confident about my body,” she says. “Everyone should be proud of their bodies no matter what size they are, period.”
The campaign is Raisman’s latest effort to highlight women’s issues and use her platform for change. Earlier this year, she opened up about the sexual abuse scandal surrounding convicted child molester (and former USA Gymnastics doctor) Larry Nassar at an Aerie Real Role Models Campaign Launch event.
Raisman revealed that Nassar abused her several times beginning when she was 15. She confronted the abuser during his January sentencing and has since urged USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take steps to prevent sexual abuse in the sport.