Anyone who has used London Underground of late will probably be familiar with Protein World's controversial 'Beach Body' advert looming over station platforms and carriages.
The ad, which stars bikini-clad Australian model Renee Sommerfield, asks whether commuters are "beach body ready" in a promotion for weight loss aids.
Backlash began earlier this week, with body image campaigners and feminists criticising the ad on social media. Now, the adverts are being vandalised and women are posing next to the campaign in their bikinis to show that "all bodies are beach body ready".
While Protein World have been actively engaging with the backlash (more on this later), Sommerfield has remained silent - until now.
Speaking exclusively to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, she says the controversy surrounding the advert was only brought to her attention on Friday, but has labelled the backlash "very contradictory".
"I think nearly every ad campaign you have ever seen is open to interpretation. But saying the ad is body shaming by body shaming the image is very contradictory," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle exclusively. "Two wrongs don't make a right."
The 23-year-old vegan, who has been retweeting tweets that support the campaign, says she believes in body positivity.
"I agree that ALL bodies are 'beach body ready'. Skinny, curvy, muscular, petite, tall, short, young and old. Confidence is beautiful no matter what size you are.... Your reflection doesn't define your worth."
She also says that she works hard to look the way she does.
"I am a real person behind the image. I work very hard and live a healthy and active lifestyle which is why Protein World chose me for their campaign. I couldn't work every day as a full time model by starving myself, dieting or not looking after my body. Nourish your body, be kind to it and it will love you right back, no matter your size," she says.
"Protein World's intention is to motivate and inspire their consumers to be the best, healthiest and fittest version of themselves, not to advertise that you have to look a particular way to be 'beach body ready.
"The real goal should always be health, not body size."
Protein World's response however has not been as... ahem... graceful.
In tweets seen by HuffPost UK Lifestyle, the official Protein World account told one tweeter to "grow up", while the CEO Arjun Seth has called others "crazy". Both accounts have also been blocking users who have tweeted to criticise or question the campaign.
"We are a nation of sympathisers for fatties," a spokesperson for Protein World tweeted to Juliette Burton after she signed the change.org petition calling for the removal of the advert. "Why make your insecurities our problem?"
Burton, who has suffered from body dysmorphia and eating disorders, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "They are out to attack, subtly, women's self confidence. And men's. They are out to undermine how we feel about ourselves. I felt shock that they would be so disrepectful and so rude.
"I also felt sorry that they are so out of touch. They could make millions if they tuned into the future attitudes of bright young women who deserve to know they are perfect and incredible as they are - and deserve to place health above appearance."
HuffPost UK Lifestyle contacted Protein World on Friday to explain their social media strategy and are awaiting comment.
But Richard Staveley, head of global marketing for Protein World, did tell HuffPost UK Lifestyle on Thursday that the adverts are here to stay.
"We absolutely have no intention of removing the adverts because of a minority making a lot of noise," he revealed.
"We now run Britain’s largest protein facility, selling our products in over 50 countries to more than 300,000 customers. Most of them are women. How could we possibly be sexist?
"It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren't focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger. Renee, our stunning model (inside and out by the way and falsely assumed as photoshopped!), falls well within what the British government deem to be a healthy weight (based on the BMI system)."
The advert is currently being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
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