How Spain's Beach Body Campaign Went From Empowering To Problematic

“I don’t know how to even explain the amount of anger that I’m feeling right now."
Spain is promoting body inclusivity
: Spanish Equality Ministry
Spain is promoting body inclusivity

Three women have accused the Spanish government of using their images without permission in a recent body positivity campaign, including one who says her prosthetic leg was edited from show.

Last week, Spain’s Ministry of Equality launched a creative summer campaign aiming to encourage all women to go to the beach. A promotional photo showcased five women with different body types, ages and ethnicities having fun on the coast.

“All bodies are beach bodies,” Ione Belarra, the minister for social rights in Spain’s Socialist-led Podemos party, said. “All bodies are valid and we have the right to enjoy life as we are, without guilt or shame. Summer is for everyone!”

At first, the campaign was hailed as “body positivity at its finest” on social media, but the celebrations soon turned sour.

Though the campaign image appears as an illustration, three women have accused the artist of using their images without permission.

British model, influencer and amputee Sian Green-Lord, says she only found out about the campaign when friends messaged her about it. The illustration on the far left bears a striking resemblance to a photo she shared on Instagram in May, though her prosthetic leg has been altered.

“I don’t know how to even explain the amount of anger that I’m feeling right now. There’s one thing using my image without my permission. But there’s another thing editing my body,” she said in a video posted to her Instagram stories.

She isn’t the only women to claim their photo has been used without permission. Nyome Nicholas-Williams, another British model, has pointed out the woman in the yellow bikini bears a striking resemblance to a photo she posted in May.

“Great idea but poor execution!” she on Instagram. “This is now the second time this has happened to me! It happened in 2020 when an illustrator used my likeness to sell products. The thing is I’d never say no if it’s for a good cause but come on, ask for my permission. This is so frustrating!”

A third woman – cancer survivor Juliet FitzPatrick – has also said she thinks the woman who has had a mastectomy may have been based on her.

What happened “seems to be totally against” the theme of the campaign, the 66-year-old from South East England told the BBC. “For me it is about how my body has been used and represented without my permission.”

The artist who created the illustration, Arte Mapache, has since tweeted a public apology for using the images and a typeface she thought was free.

“After the justified controversy surrounding the image rights of the illustration, I have considered that the best way to alleviate the damage that may have arisen from my conduct is to distribute the benefits derived from this work in equal parts between the protagonists of the poster and buying the typography license,” she said.

HuffPost UK has contacted Spain’s Ministry of Equality regarding the accusations and has yet to receive a reply.