The SweatShop Health Club Takes on the ‘Swimsuit Issue’ Body

Are the women portrayed in the annual Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Issue” realistic role models for young women and girls?

Not according to Gayle Winegar, founder of the SweatShop Health Club in St. Paul, who employed Maccabee to launch her “Take Back The Beach” campaign that challenged the body images published in Sports Illustrated.

Our secret weapons included the SweatShop’s “Body Image Survey” (prepared in affiliation with the non-profit Melpomene Institute) and the creation of a full-color “Real Swimsuit Calendar, “ a 12-month parody that defiantly featured women of all shapes, sizes, muscle tones and ages.

Kicked off with a “Take Back The Beach” rally and highlighted by a 288-square-foot outdoor billboard depicting nine ‘Full Monty’-inspired men with sombreros strategically hiding their manhood, the campaign swept the local media (from the daily Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press to Minnesota Sports magazine) and then exploded nationally with coverage in Fit, Fitness, Mode and Forbes magazines. What’s more, the campaign elevated Winegar’s role as a body image spokeswoman in trade publications Club Industry and Club Business International and led to her being invited to star in a 60-minute America’s Health Network TV segment, “Women and Children First.”