After years of being bullied and feeling bad about her body, 18-year-old Stella Boonshoft did not expect to be overwhelmed with positive feedback after an image she posted on her blog wearing only her underwear went viral last week.
The photograph of the size 16 New York student and the impassioned blog post that accompanied it garnered 270,000 likes, nearly 10,000 shares and over 26,000 comments in only 14 hours. It has since been viewed over four million times.
"I got an outpouring of love, like pretty much instantly, but it was also extremely overwhelming because I made myself so vulnerable on the internet. It's a one-way conversation with people," she told the US Today show.
While the reaction has been mostly positive, Stella's impassioned post has also attracted some negative responses.
"I think people are cruel because they are uncomfortable with seeing images of someone who, you know, is not thin, and they also don't understand what the body acceptance movement is," she said.
Stella said her first reaction was to 'burst into tears' when thousands of people started looking at her picture, but decided to leave the picture online after a flood of supportive comments about the post.
Having faced incessant bullying and being made to feel like her body was no good, the 18-year-old New Yorker has come to terms with her 'imperfections', and decided to share her thoughts online as part of an online positive body image movement.
"WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I'm not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE," she wrote.
Stella went on to dedicate the picture to anyone who had made her feel bad about her body, including schoolyard and social media bullies, her horseback riding trainer "telling me I was too fat when I was nine," the girl from summer camp "who told me I'd be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds, and finally to advertisers who constantly make young women feel bad about their bodies.
"MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me," she wrote.
"For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it.
"Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thing. Who was teased and tormented just for being who she was.
"I'm so over that. THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT."
She hopes the viral post will help other women embrace their bodies, and that advertisers might listen up too.
"Every single day I'm bombarded with images of half-naked women, and they all look the same. They all have the same kind of body type, and somehow that's okay, but, you know, God forbid we put someone like me, who is a (US) size 12 on the billboards."