A blogger says she was stopped from taking photos in a bikini at a Las Vegas hotel, despite previously getting permission from the staff.
Anna O’Brien, who runs the blog Glitter + Lazers, says that she contacted the hotel where she was staying ahead of time to set up a photo shoot for her website. The New York-based blogger says that the hotel, which she declines to name, approved her request and said that she could shoot anywhere except the casino floor. She adds that they did not send any guidelines on clothing restrictions.
O’Brien, 33, says that six minutes into the shoot, the security guards “got aggressive” with her and her photographer over her bikini, despite women in “comparable attire — show girl outfits” walking through the same area. They were able to get a few photos, one of which she posted on her Instagram page.
“At first I was embarrassed, then I was upset,” she tells PEOPLE. “I have to say I have done shoots at hotels all over the world and I have never had this reaction.”
O’Brien says she felt like the aggression was related to her body size.
“It’s hard after years of being told plus size women cannot wear certain things, to not have an irrational shame come up when some one of authority questions your right to do a normal thing like wear a swimsuit,” she says. “I am body positive and genuinely love myself, but my past experiences also can’t be erased or forgotten.”
Cosmopolitan contacted the hotel, which said that they stopped O’Brien because she needed additional clearance to take bikini photos.
“All guests wearing bathing suits inside our lobby and casino are asked to cover up. Additionally, Ms. O’Brien never shared with the PR team that she intended to take photos in the lobby in her bathing suit. Had we understood her intent additional clearances to take the photos would have been required and, if permitted, we would have had a PR team member present to staff.”
O’Brien says her frustration lies less with the hotel, and more with the culture around “plus bodies.”
“I am not sure if the incident was intentionally malicious as it was a reflection of what plus bodies aren’t able to be seen as,” she says. “I think in the minds of these guards, a plus size women couldn’t be a legitimate model with clearance. She must be lying.”
She adds that this incident shows why the body culture needs to change.
“I think it just goes to show that a plus size woman wearing what every other woman wears is still foreign and scary to a lot of people,” she says. “It’s a reminder that taking images like this is important — to normalize them.”
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