For the past 15 years, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has been working tirelessly to help young people build body confidence and promote an overall positive relationship with their appearance.
Although this educational project has been around since 2004, the issue of body positivity remains an urgent one as more than 50 percent of girls still suffer from low body self-esteem. These confidence problems range from withdrawal from social activities to poor academic performance to eating disorders.
As part of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, Dove partnered with the Cartoon Network series “Steven Universe” in 2018 to present a six-part animated series focusing on the core factors that influence girls’ body confidence. The series was written and directed by “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar, who implemented the latest academic understanding on how to impart body positivity to young people in these specialized clips featuring familiar characters from the show.
Episode 2, “Competing and Comparing Looks,” employs a “behind-the-scenes”-type approach, in which Smoky Quartz (voiced by Natasha Lyonne) and Sardonyx (voiced by Alexia Khadime) are shooting a public-service announcement about body confidence. The big twist here is while they are trying to talk about how their differences make them unique (Sardonyx has four arms; Smoky has three), Smoky gets self-conscious over Sardonyx’s ability to rotate her body 360 degrees—and runs off the set.
The real PSA occurs when Sardonyx comforts an embarrassed Smoky, who admits to comparing herself to her 20-foot-tall friend, and has trouble thinking of herself as equally “amazing.” But a few words of encouragement from Sardonyx, and the realization that even her pal’s giant frame causes limitations too—she can’t fit into Smoky’s dressing room—helps Smoky reconsider her perspective.
Smoky comparing herself to Sardonyx is a theme that transcends the fictional world of “Steven Universe”: Whether you have two arms, three arms or four, feeling inferior to someone else is a universal issue. What happens next, however, will hopefully be one of the driving forces toward eliminating low self-esteem in young people.
Sardonyx makes a point of encouraging Smoky’s self-confidence, voicing her desire to see her friend show off all of her own incredible assets, like her “triple-handed yo-yo tricks.”
“I’d hate to think comparing yourself to me might have hurt your chance for you to be you!” she tells Smoky, sending the message to kids that, no matter their shape or size, they deserve to celebrate their body for what it can do, not only what it looks like.
The Dove and Cartoon Network body positivity campaign ran on Cartoon Network's global linear and digital channels across 12 countries, was published on YouTube, and both Cartoon Network’s and Dove’s social channels. The partnership between Dove and “Steven Universe” received a 99 percent positive sentiment across YouTube and Twitter, as well as more than 63 million organic impressions across social platforms. The campaign also reached 12.8 million young people in the span of less than a year, with the cartoons demonstrating a high message recall and likability, per qualitative testing with children 8-11 years old.
"Steven Universe"’s relevance and core values of inclusion, diversity, empathy, and purpose, combined with its passionate, global, multi-generational fans were key factors of what made this partnership so special. By leveraging "Steven Universe"’s one-to-one relationship with its fans, Dove successfully was able to bring core body confidence messages into the conversation.