Even though she doesn't necessarily look like the typical magazine cover model, ultimate fighting champion Ronda Rousey is redefining what it means to be a sex symbol, and she's doing it one burger ad at a time.
In an interview with Elle, Rousey was asked about her recent Carl's Jr. commercial, in which the fighter is featured in a bikini with a giant cheeseburger. Although Rousey acknowledges that her body doesn't exactly look like those of past Carl's Jr. spokesmodels Kate Upton and Emily Ratajkowski, she no longer feels pressured to conform to a slim, voluptuous body type — but plenty of young girls do.
"When I was a kid, the standard that I held myself to was what I perceived the boys I liked to want. If I liked a 14-year-old boy, and he had 50 Maxim magazines, then I would assume I needed to look like the girls in those Maxim magazines if this boy is ever going to like me," Rousey told Elle. "If I see these Carl's Jr. ads, and all these guys are talking about how hot the girl is in the Carl's Jr. ad, and I don't look anything like her, then I figure there's something wrong with me."
That's precisely why ads like those can change redefine female beauty standards for a generation of young women.
"When you're able to change the direction of those and kind of broaden them a little bit and not just show a small fraction of the female population, then it actually changes the standard and makes it healthier for everybody," she told Elle. "I feel like those ads are a real way to kind of change the perception of what is considered desirable in a woman these days."
A poster girl for self-acceptance: The Sports Illustrated cover model has become something of a poster girl for body self-acceptance. In a much-shared interview for UFC's Embedded series in July, she dismissed the idea that her body is too "masculine" to be considered attractive.
"Just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn't mean it's masculine," she told Embedded. "I think it's femininely badass as fuck, because there isn't a muscle in my body that isn't developed for a purpose."
Rousey has also talked openly about her past struggles with self-image, telling Cosmopolitan that she spent her childhood feeling self-conscious about her body not adhering to traditional standards of female beauty. "I grew up thinking that because my body type was uncommon [i.e., athletic], it was a bad thing," she said. "Now that I'm older, I've really begun to realize that I'm really proud that my body has developed for a purpose and not just to be looked at."