Maggie_WebMaggie Fazeli Fard has covered just about everything.  From pop-culture to to current events, Maggie has provided her unique perspective to the Washington Post, New York Times, and the BBC.  Today, she’s a part of Experience Life, joining them as their first staff writer.

In one of her more recent posts, Maggie responded to the controversy around comments made by the founder of Lululemon.  Her straightforward and honest writing inspired us here at the SkinLess Project.  We couldn’t help but reach out to this amazing woman and learn more about her story and find out more about her response.

You are a new writer at Experience Life Magazine. Tell us about your background.

I got my start in journalism about 10 years ago at the BBC in London, working as a writer-producer for a very funny, but now defunct, pop-culture TV show. Between then and now, I’ve had the opportunity to work for some small but stellar print and web publications as well as such media institutions as the New York Times and CBS. Most recently, I worked as a breaking news and crime reporter at The Washington Post in D.C. I joined the Experience Life team in October 2013.

Why did you decide to join Experience Life Magazine?

I’ve covered a variety of subjects over the past decade — running the gamut from fine art to violent crime to the reproductive cycles of D.C.’s beloved giant pandas. But my heart has always been in health and science reporting.

I’d been a fan of the Experience Life for several years, appreciating the depth of its content as well as the overall message of positivity and empowerment. When the opportunity came up to join the magazine as a staff writer, I jumped on it.

Why did you decide to be a writer?

I don’t think I ever “decided” to be a writer. I’ve always loved uncovering secrets, solving puzzles and, most of all, telling stories. Given that I had a decent command of the English language, writing was a natural fit. (Over the years, I also toyed with being a novelist, a teacher, a historian, a librarian, a museum curator, a filmmaker — all storytellers in their own right.)

What I love about being a journalist is that all the stories I tell are true — real-life trumps anything my brain could think up — and they happen, for the most part, in real time. I like sharing stories and ideas that give people, myself included, a better understanding of the world we live in.

We loved your most recent piece on Lululemon. What inspired you to write it?

Thank you for the kind words. Frankly, when Chip Wilson’s interview clip began making the rounds on social media, it was hard to ignore. His comments upset a lot of people and it was clear to me and my editors that the conversation was about more than just exercise pants.

We weren’t just talking about quality control and fabric choice; we were talking about what makes a body “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” “real” or…“unreal.”

At Experience Life, we believe that all bodies are “good” bodies. All bodies are “real.” And taking care of your body involves not believing there’s something “wrong” with it, even if the founder of a clothing company thinks there is.

Do you think that women are educated about the products and advertising messages that are targeting them?

I’m hesitant to make a sweeping statement about how educated women are about advertising messages because, honestly, I don’t know. I have some friends and family members who are very aware of the way they are being targeted by ad campaigns, and others who don’t think twice about the way ads plant seeds of “wanting” and “needing” in our brains. Some people simply don’t want to know.

It’s no secret that an extraordinary amount of money is spent on coming up with ways to make people — women, men and children alike — feel like they “need” a product. The most successful advertisements are the ones that are subtle enough to leave us wanting without feeling manipulated.

Women are the reason why companies like Lululemon thrive, why do you think that is?

In my opinion, Lululemon has thrived because it’s done more than simply deliver a product — it created a culture that many women wanted to be a part of.

I remember when Lululemon was first becoming a “thing” in the early 2000s. In New York, where I was living at the time, fans raved about the quality of the pants, which could purportedly stay put through every back-bending, torso-twisting asana you threw at them. Their high price added a sense of exclusivity. The iridescent logo on the lower back accentuated what one New York Magazine article described as “a snug gluteal enclosure of almost perfect globularity, like a drop of water free from gravity.”

That combination of psuedo-spirituality, cache and the promise of a perfect butt — all couched in motivational phrases and pronouncements of self-improvement — proved to be a goldmine for the brand.

Lululemon made its fanbase feel valued. It made them feel good about themselves and empowered them to strive for better. (All while outfitted in full Lulu garb, of course.) Granted, the limited sizing and exorbitant price tags likely made many other women feel left out or disrespected. But the foundation of positivity was the antithesis of the issues Lululemon is dealing with today. It’s probably a big reason why the response to the quality-control problems and controversial statements has been quite so negative.

Why do you think women are attracted to companies that make them feel not good enough, is it a vicious cycle?

Companies are successful because they fill a need. Whether that need is real or fabricated by the company or industry is debatable, but the need/desire/craving has to be there.

When you suggest that someone “needs” something, you imply that something is missing — that a person’s life, looks, behaviors, etc. are somehow lacking or, as you put it, not good enough. It is a cycle that all of us, consumers and producers, are a part of. I’m not sure I’d call it “vicious” and I don’t think it is a phenomenon specific to women.

How can women make an impact on the companies that disrespect them?

It really comes down to how and where we choose to spend our money: Stop shopping at stores you don’t want to support. Seek out companies that align with your taste and your principles.

With companies like Lululemon and Abercrombie & Fitch dominating headlines, it’s easy to feel like there are no alternatives with a positive mission or message.

But there are some lovely under-the-radar companies, many of them small or online-only businesses that truly support women. (My current favorite is Paisley Print Boutique (paisleyprintboutique.com), an online marketplace that carries brands founded by women and gives back to organizations supporting social justice, sustainability, and marginalized populations.)

Shopping around and asking questions is really the best way to find a source you feel comfortable with.

Have we seen this before? Women call out companies that put out messages that are inappropriate but then women shop there again. Why do you think that is?

Inappropriate messages aren’t necessarily an impetus to change a behavior. A woman might feel like she doesn’t have an alternative, or maybe she just really likes the product. A pair of great workout pants may mean more to her than some comments by a stranger.

You thought the issue was important enough to write about. What would you say to someone who thought this was much ado about nothing?

I would ask him or her to consider the people whose feelings were hurt by Chip Wilson’s comments. It’s easy to dismiss his statements as “just words,” to dismiss the people who felt insulted as “oversensitive.” But words are powerful, and they have the ability to build someone up or tear them down.

Whether it was intentional or not, Wilson made negative, inappropriate comments about women’s bodies. I frankly don’t understand why we as a society even need to discuss whether or not that was okay.

We received an interesting comment that disagreed with my stance that body-shaming is never okay. The commenter wrote that some people are so overweight that they cannot fit into the sizes offered by Lululemon; Lululemon is not obligated to cater to all sizes, and by wearing the clothes anyway, larger people risk the pants pilling or being see-through. The commenter also expressed concern about rising obesity rates.

It’s true: Lululemon does not cater to all body shapes and sizes, nor is it obligated to do so. Wearing the wrong size could lead to pilling and other problems. (Note: These issues were also reported by women wearing the right size and by customers who owned previous versions of the same pants, suggesting that this was a new quality control issue.) And it is generally agreed upon that obesity is something to be concerned about.

Still, none of that makes Wilson’s comments appropriate. Even couching the situation in an apparent health concern doesn’t help. There is simply no excuse for being unkind.

Lastly, how do you see the trend in consumer industries and the media and their depiction of women changing?

I guess I don’t, not in any tangible way at least. At any given moment, one look is “hot” while another is “not.” The specifics of what is considered attractive in the eyes of advertisers may change — tall vs. short, slim vs. curvy, boobs vs. butt — but there is seldom room for more than one ideal in the media.

It makes sense from a marketing perspective if the goal is to sell a product by selling a “need,” that idea of not being good enough. It’s pretty sad that we are being sold one ideal and that it is focused completely on the way we look.

I don’t mean to let companies off the hook, but I really just don’t think they’re going to change their ways. My hope is that we as women can support each other — not just for what we look like, but for the way we think and what we’re able to do.