Open letter to Ralph Lauren


Sent 11/29/2009

Ralph Lauren – CEO
Scott Myers – Marketing Director
Michael Morelli – VP of Advertising
David Lauren – SVP of Advertising
Laura Johnson- Public Relations Manager
Trecia Laird- Senior Marketing Manager

Hello Mr. Lauren,

To introduce myself to you, my name is Darryl Roberts and let me start off by saying I used to wear Polo Shirts when I was in high school. Back in the Stone Age before laptops, cell phones and You Tube. The Polo symbol represented elegance and a certain kind of refinement. That’s how I remember you. A class act. A gentleman’s gentleman.

That’s why it’s a little hard for me to understand your present stance against women. What, I can already hear you saying, am I talking about?

If you believe for one second that your personal views and the views/advertising of your company aren’t perceived as the same, you’re absolutely wrong.

Let me explain myself if you don’t mind. I spent the last 5 years making a documentary called America the Beautiful, that deals with America’s unhealthy obsession with beauty. The film has screened in 187 cities in the US and played in 7 other countries.

While traveling with the film, thousands of women have told me that the images of the super skinny models in magazines make them feel bad. I can hear you thinking, Well why don’t they put the magazines down if they make them feel bad?  That is a worthwhile conversation to be had later. For now we have more pressing matters to attend to.


When this incident first appeared in the press you thumbed your nose at us all and said Filippa Hamilton violated her contract. After getting better council, you realized this debacle could hurt your bottom line, and you gave this statement:

For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.

After being forgiven for this hideous infraction against women, what do you do? You do it again. The mainstream press doesn’t know about this one yet, but I do…


This is horrible Ralph. But instead of cutting your losses while you’re ahead, what do you go and do?

You do it a third time! UNBELIEVABLE!


I see the man in the picture hasn’t been drastically distorted. Just the women.

I get about 500 emails a week from young women complaining about images just like these Ralph.

If that doesn’t move you, here’s an email from a concerned father that I received 4 days ago:

Hi Darryl,

I met you last year in Naperville, IL at the Candle Light Vigil at the Arabella House and we talked briefly afterwards. Last night my wife, XXXX and I watched your film. It is the most awesome movie that I’ve ever seen. The amount of time, sweat, blood, and tears that you put into this has probably changed your life forever.

Our 22 year old daughter, XXXXXX has been trying to deal with bulimia, addictions, abuse for the past 5 years. She somehow survived an attempt on her life 3 years ago (200 extra strength Tylenols) and has been in and out of 3 treatment centers since then. This disease has completely fractured my family. I have two other kids that have given up on their sister. My wife and I are hanging in there together. We have exhausted our home equity and retirement accounts trying to keep her alive, but we have become enablers. This beast has such a strong hold on XXXXXX that I don’t think that she wants to get better any longer. We gave her a deadline of Nov 28 to seek a structured treatment program or she is no longer able to live with us. On top of this her employer is going to give her a choice today of going into a treatment program or being fired. This is probably going to put her over the edge. I’m feeling so desperate and I can’t do anything about it. Even if I had unlimited resources, it would not help until XXXXXX decides she wants to recapture her life. She is a former high school scholar athlete and earned a basketball scholarship to XXXXXXX College before her addictions took control of her life.

I’m sending this note to you because I feel that you are making a difference by preventing some young women from the illnesses that my beautiful daughter, XXXXXX, has become a victim of.

I really appreciate your hard work and vision!


But wait, it gets even stranger…

I recently found out that you have a niece, Jenny Lauren, who suffered from a horrible eating disorder. Your niece was so lonely and afraid during her terrible struggle that she wrote a book called “Homesick.”

In case you’ve forgotten about your niece and her struggle, here are some quotes from her book:

I am twenty-four years old, and for a year I have been in physical discomfort. That is 365 days with my butt twitching and an inability to contract my gluteus maximus muscles…365 days of wanting to jump out the window, 365 days watching the entire lower half of my body turn into jelly and atrophy. This is a sick joke.

I’m trying so hard not to lose my mind…

…after such pain, I need a tangible answer.

Ugh, and taking a shit (vulgar no matter how you put it) is like giving birth, with the baby’s head getting stuck for hours.

I can’t exercise at all, can’t even walk comfortably.

I would panic most mornings and rush up to 87th Street and Park and sit and wait in Dr. W’s office, sometimes for hours, to see him. As I sat there holding my breath and clenching my legs together to stop the twitch, I’d rummage through the pile of magazines, flipping through all the fashion ads. Oh, there’s Uncle Ralph with his two dogs in a Purple Label ad. Whadda ya know, there he is again. Not his face but a Ralph Lauren fragrance ad with a young beautiful couple wrapped in velvet and in love. The good life, huh?…things to aspire to. Reminding me of everything I hated, everything I loved, everything I wished I could be…but that was then. Look at me now.”

Ralph, I’m writing this on behalf of 100,000 parents and young women and we’re requesting that you stop. Give it a break. Put a lid on it. No more empty apologies. No yadda, yadda, yadda. Just stop!

Tens of thousands of parents and young women have emailed me asking what should they do. Should they stop buying your products? Should they picket outside of your flagship NY store?

I don’t know the answer to that question Ralph. What would you have them do?

What I’m hoping by writing this is underneath your desire to make even more millions and make the Ralph Lauren empire even bigger, that you have compassion. That you remember the pain your niece went through. That you care about all the young girls out here struggling and dying from eating disorders. That you actually care about all the young women with a low self-esteem from body image issues.

I realize that images like yours in magazines aren’t the only reason that girls get eating disorders and feel bad about their bodies, but they are a factor.

Why be like the rest of the designers Ralph? Wouldn’t it really make a statement if you did things differently. Show us that the Ralph Lauren brand stands for something more than photoshopped skinny models. Show us that you really care about the people that buy your products.

Until you do, I won’t buy anything with the RL logo on it. You can take that to the bank. I was shopping for bedding accessories and furniture yesterday at Bloomingdales and I saw an entire section of your products. I walked right past it. See, I actually care about the young girls suffering out here.

So, what’s it going to be Ralph? It’s your conscience. Your decision.

Respectfully yours,

Darryl Roberts

13 Comment(s)

  1. This was an amazing piece, and really put a twist to my day. Our college is actually showing your documentary this Thursday, and I absolutely can’t wait to watch it! :)

    W | Dec 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. Darryl – RL is now on my do not buy list! Tell what can I do to help!

    Molly Walker (Boca screening) | Dec 3, 2009 | Reply

  3. This airbrush insanity needs to stop.

    Just last month, the creases in a baby’s cherub-like arms were photoshopped away. [ ]

    Thank you for your advocacy–loved your documentary.

    Evelyn Tribole, MS RD | Dec 3, 2009 | Reply

  4. I have not yet seen the documentary, but am hoping to get to see it soon, and I am very thankful that it was made.

    As far as the RL ad and firing of Filippa Hamilton goes, I was upset and saddened by both. I did not know about the subsequent ads, and now that I do, I find those appalling, as well. I did write to ANAD after the first ad to make sure that their eating disorder recovery advocates were aware of it. I also told as many people as I could about it (& I know a lot of people in person and online). I asked that they boycott RL products and I am doing so myself, even though I used to like RL products.

    As someone who spent 20 yrs battling eating disorders, and who after recovering became a counselor to help others with them, I have had plenty of interactions with people with eating disorders, education about eating disorders, and personal and professional experience with them.

    I can say with certainty that the images and attitudes presented in the media most definitely have a negative impact on the body images of even completely healthy women (and men), and they play a huge role in both helping to cause and perpetuate eating disorders. No, they are not the only cause; not by any means, but they are a very big one. For this reason, I am very committed to advocating against ads portraying unhealthy and far too thin models, and I will continue to avoid products by those generating such ads, unless they change.

    Tammie | Dec 3, 2009 | Reply

  5. Stop hurting our children and all women. Please use real women as your models. Until then, I will not be buying Ralph Lauren products.
    Thank you.

    Judy Macks | Dec 4, 2009 | Reply

  6. HELP ME FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF. LET ME SEE THE WOMEN I LOOK UP TO AS PEOPLE I DON’T HAVE TO KILL MYSELF TO BECOME. Please. When I see those models, all I see is how much of a freak-show I am. I am only 16 years old.

    Please stop this Ralph Lauren. Make a change in this world.


    (P.S.)- Beautifully done, Darryl. You are such an inspiration to the future of America.

    Molly | Dec 8, 2009 | Reply

  7. Darryl, This was forwarded to me by a friend who lost her daughter to suicide last summer after 6 years of struggling with anorexia and bulimia. I have never seen your film and am wondering how I would go about getting a copy for a private screening. I would like to invite a group to see it and possibly rent out the local theater for a private party. How would I get in touch with you to discuss this further. I am glad this came across my desk. Your note is powerfully written. Can’t wait to see the film now!


    Anne Farrington | Dec 10, 2009 | Reply

  8. Being the mother of 2 girls (5 & 2), I’m already concerned about how the media affects their self-image and even more so as they get older. I am outraged by what is portrayed as beautiful and personally view models as show in RL ads as freaks. This isn’t normal or something to aspire to! I won’t be buying RL products for my family again unless there is drastic turnaround in how women are portrayed. There are other options — look at the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.
    Thank you for taking up the cause Darryl, on behalf of me and my daughters.

    Irene Bruggeman | Dec 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. It is heartening to me to see any media recognition of the body hatred and self hatred perpetuated by said media on women. The sad fact is that there are billions of dollars of profit to be made by keeping women feeling unhappy and indeed desperate about how they look.
    How can I find out when and where your film is showing?
    Thank you for your efforts.

    Ronda Wood | Dec 15, 2009 | Reply

  10. Thank you for this. Wow. I overcame anorexia and exercise bulimia 5 or 6 years ago. I watched my body atrophy in such a short amount of time. I eventually snapped out of it and woke up one day… I don’t even know how. I’m just lucky. The thoughts never really go away, but it gets easier for me day by day. I can’t even admit that this even happened to me, although people that knew me 5 or 6 years ago definitely assumed I was going through something. I’m happy you wrote this letter. Thank you Darryl.

    Lynne | Dec 15, 2009 | Reply

  11. The women in the ads look like reflections in funhouse mirrors. Strange that even the people who designed the ads would think that’s a good idea.
    This stuff is damaging to girls. You’re in denial if you say otherwise. You’re deflecting blame if you list excuses such as “everyone does it.”
    Go ahead and have healthy, attractive people in your ads. But let them be real people, for crying out loud!

    Beverly | Dec 16, 2009 | Reply

  12. Such an inspiring article and applies to not just Ralph but so many mainstream fashion/media companies projecting the image that skinny size zero is beautiful. I would say I am relatively strong as a person and can see that this is just wrong and I try to not let it affect me, but after years of being force fed this image of what beautiful is you have brainwashed even me into believing that I am ugly and this kind of woman is something to aspire to even if it actually is VERY unhealthy.
    Every time I look in the mirror I hate what I see, so much so that I actually phisically feel sick. I hate how I look and I cannot help my shape but I will never look like these models even if I stopped eating, my bone structure is just not like a mans or a teenage childs.
    I am 24 and my confidence has gone from being strong and rebbelious to a Prozac’ed up councilled messed in the head young woman who compares herself to the women on TV, films, Models. It even effects men to you know, you think by portraying this image of skinny to be beautiful it makes relationships so god damned hard as I feel some men are distracted now of this image of the perfect woman and I see so many young girls trying to copy this to appeal to men, it’s so wrong.
    I am bi sexual as well so personally, I like a woman to have some bouncy meat on her! It’s sexy and healthy, a stick insect that I could break is definatly not sexy really but if you see it every day it starts to affect how you think, it’s such a confusing world, no wonder there are so many messed up people. No one knows who they are anymore.

    Misty | Dec 27, 2009 | Reply

  13. This is ridiculous. Again people with issues blaming anyone they can so they don’t have to take responsibility for your actions. I have OCD which caused 37 years of misery in my life. Addtionally I struggled with an eating disorder because of it. It is Chemical people. Get help, I did, but that was my responsibility and I am so tired of people blaming everything on the media etc. It it was not Ralph Lauren then it would be something else. I love this company and will buy even more Lauren products………..Get over yourselved peopl

    Been There | Jan 11, 2010 | Reply

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