When Idaho blogger Amy Pence-Brown saw a body-positive video that went viral this August — the one where a woman stands blindfolded in her bra and underwear in the middle of London's Piccadilly Circus area, asking people to write hearts on her — she loved the message, but had questions.
Jae West, a member of Australia's The Liberators International and eating disorder survivor, went through with the stunt to promote body acceptance. As the video shows, passersby were quick to support her and drew hearts on her body. But Pence-Brown, founder of the Facebook group Boise Rad Fat Collective, a group comprised of women of all sizes discussing issues pertaining to women, wondered if the public's reaction would have been different had it been her, not West, standing out there half-naked.
"How would it be received if the woman had been less socially acceptable in appearance, like, fat? And, say, a mom who's nearly 40-years-old? And in a place that was more conservative and less progressive than London like, say, Boise, Idaho?" she wrote on her blog.
Pence-Brown had to find out. She boldly volunteered herself and planned to conduct the exact same social performance art piece as West.
On Aug. 29, 2015, she ventured out around noon into Boise's downtown Capital City Public Market in just a swimsuit.
This time, as a plus-size, older woman in a rural, traditionally conservative area.
She also created a sign, just like West's, which explained her mission.
"I'm standing for anyone who has struggled with a self-esteem issue like me. Because all bodies are valuable. To support self-acceptance, draw a '<3 'on my body."
Within minutes of stripping down to her suit, a woman came up to her and grabbed her hand. She told asked if she could give Pence-Brown a hug and told her she was brave. The both cried.
"By the end of my fifty minutes of continuous public support, there were dozens of words that covered my body, and even more hearts," she wrote.
She even got an ice-cold lemonade placed beside her.
One dad knelt in front of her and said to his two young sons "this is what a beautiful woman looks like."
Some of the words included were "badass," "hope," "strong," "you are beautiful," "god bless you," "power," "big love" and "inspire."
"We can't truly love one another until we fully love ourselves," she wrote. "And once we do, I guarantee, that together we can move mountains."