In 2010, Odessa Cozzolino had a vision—what if women could band together to produce a crowd-sourced database of images of female bodies unmanipulated by media forces? She wondered: would it be possible to create a safe, online space where women could browse pictures that their peers took of themselves to gain an empowering assessment of the wide variety of bodies out there in the world?
As a photographer, Cozzolino had noticed that women had been demoralized by the influence of advertising and media. These forces perpetuate poor body image and mandate only one particular model for women: tall and thin; usually Caucasian; with flawless skin, narrow shoulders and hips, and large breasts. The use of photographic enhancement tools like Photoshop just make things even worse. They take women’s bodies and craft them into semi-fictionalized forms that do not transparently reflect the body that had posed in front of the camera. Only a very small proportion of women can fit this advertising- and media-preferred look in a natural or healthy way.
Cozzolino saw the damaging effects of a sense of failure in achieving this cultural ideal in the comments and body language of the women she was photographing. She did some research into body image issues, especially body dysmorphia. Cozzolino discovered that women rarely saw themselves clearly. She believed that if women could see themselves objectively, in the form of a stranger with the same statistics, perhaps they could be more realistic about their own body. With the rise of social media and crowd-sourced, internet-based projects, she realized she might be able to make a difference.
Taking a leap of faith, she came up with the name “My Body Gallery”. After securing the domain MyBodyGallery.com, with start-up spirit she hired “a guy in his garage” to build the initial website. Going live in February of 2010, the website took off wildly. It drew international media attention from mainstream to niche outlets alike, including Good Morning America, Jezebel.com, and the Huffington Post. Ever the savvy businesswoman, Cozzolino realized the site’s traffic could support enough advertising revenue to transform what began as a labor of love into a sustainable small business.
In 2014, MyBodyGallery.com had become successful enough to add a part-time employee to oversee operations. Creative and Marketing Director Anna Friedman came on board sustaining the company’s commitment to women in leadership positions. Friedman’s role has continued to evolve for the company to take on tech leadership roles in addition to marketing ones. Under her guidance, the website has adapted to constant changes in online advertising revenue, the move to a preference for responsive design, and a larger engagement with websites on mobile devices. While adapting to these ongoing tech challenges, it has stayed solidly in the black.
Today, MyBodyGallery.com can boast of visitors from every single country in the world—16 million unique visitors in all. The site has averaged 3 million pageviews per month over its lifetime. Its nearly 75,000 registered users have uploaded over 30,000 images that fit the publication guidelines (and thousands more that didn’t). It has consistently operated profitably, covering all expenses and being able to invest in improvements such as a recent responsive redesign for improved mobile functionality. In a comparison with 21 women-run startups in a recent January 2017 Business Insider article, MyBodyGallery.com ranks higher in traffic than most of them on Alexa.com.
The long-term success of MyBodyGallery.com demonstrates that greater-good projects can be financially sustainable using digital advertising as a means of covering necessary costs. It is also a testament to women-owned-and-operated tech projects and the power of crowdsourced content to inspire and aid people all over the world.
Corporate history compiled June 15, 2017
If you'd like to share this document as a pdf, you can download it here.
For more information, contact:
Creative and Marketing Director
The My Body Gallery project needs real Women! We need your help to develop the project and build a collection of photos that will help more women see themselves more clearly. Upload a picture of your full body. Our photo submission process also allows you to block out part of the image to protect your identity, if you wish. Please note that you must be 18 to upload a photo.