Clad in colorful, frilly tutus, dozens of San Diegans gathered for a group run Saturday in response to a recent blurb published in SELF magazine that slammed the tutu trend by mocking a photo of a San Diego cancer survivor who ran a marathon wearing one of the skirts.
The “Joyful Tutu Run” was organized by Girls on the Run San Diego, a charity that sponsors exercise and confidence-building programs for young girls. Tutu-clad participants gathered at 8 a.m. at Torrey Pines State Beach and ran to take a stand against the negative blurb printed in the magazine.
“We, instead of bringing each other down, want to make the choice to celebrate our differences. What makes us strong, what brings us joy, and this morning, tutus are bringing us all joy,” run organizer Annie Sawyer told NBC 7.
“We are choosing to make a difference and to turn it into something beautiful, instead of something negative,” she added.
Participants were encouraged to snap photos of themselves in tutus during the event and post them to social media using the hashtag #tutusrock. Those who weren’t able to make the run at Torrey Pines were encouraged to run wherever they were, wearing tutus, too.
Amy Jerome, executive director of Girls on the Run San Diego, said runners should be able to wear anything they want, tutus included, without being made fun of.
“I feel really strongly about the fact that we should be able to wear anything we want if it helps us be active and strong. Wear a tutu; wear whatever you want and fell really good about yourself while you’re doing it," said Jerome, as she geared up for Saturday's run.
Bill Best, a Girls on the Run board member, also sported a tutu and ran alongside his daughter.
“We want to make something positive out of this. [I want to set an example for my daughter] and show her that it’s fine to be strong and take a situation and make it positive,” said Best, adding that real men proudly wear tutus.
Tutus became a hot topic that garnered national attention earlier this week when NBC 7 broke the story about SELF magazine making fun of the fashion trend in the running world.
San Diego runner and cancer survivor Monika Allen told NBC 7 the magazine sent her an email asking to use a photo of her and her friend, Tara Baize, which showed them wearing tutus while running the L.A. Marathon.
Allen gave SELF permission to use the picture, but never imagined it would be used to make fun of tutus.
The photo (see right) was published in the magazine’s April issue, in a section called “The BS Meter,” with a caption that mocks the women’s outfits.
"A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC's Central Park, and it's all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster," the caption reads. "Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it."
Allen said she was “stunned and offended” by the blurb and the manner in which the magazine chose to use her image.
Turns out, that photo was taken during a very difficult moment in her life.
The marathon came right as Allen was in the middle of chemotherapy. She made the tutu herself through her company, Glam Runner, and said the cute outfit gave her motivation to get to the finish line.
“The reason we were wearing those outfits is because this was my first marathon running with brain cancer,” Allen explained.
Allen and Baize make the tutus in their spare time. They donate money from sales of the tutus to Girls on the Run, the charity that organized Saturday’s event. Over the past three years, Allen said she’s raised about $5,600 for the nonprofit by making and selling around 2,000 tutus.
Allen said the snub from the magazine was very frustrating.
"I feel like we were misled in providing the picture. Had I known how the picture was going to be used,
I wouldn't have wanted to send it,” she told NBC 7 earlier this week.
After the story broke, it went viral. Millions of people saw it online and expressed their support for Allen and disappointment in SELF magazine.
On Thursday, amid growing backlash on social media, SELF’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, offered a personal apology to Allen, releasing this statement to NBC 7:
"In our attempt to be humorous, we were inadvertently insensitive. I have sincerely apologized both directly to Monika and her supporters online. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and would like to cover her good work in a future issue. We wish her all the best in her road to good health."
Danziger also took to her Twitter page to say sorry.
"@glamrunner apologies from me and @selfmagazine. We applaud you for supporting girls & wish Monika speedy recovery: http://t.co/2iq4SAzWA9," she tweeted.
Allen said Danziger’s apology didn’t really address the core issue, which was that she was misled into allowing the magazine to use her photo. She said she wouldn't have said yes to the request if she had known how her photo would have been represented.
“She hasn’t addressed the fact that we were misled in the request for the photo to be used in a snarky post,” Allen said, adding that the magazine didn't ask for the story behind the tutus either.
She said it shouldn’t matter whether or not she’s a cancer survivor. What matters is that the magazine blurb was negative and hurtful, no matter who was on the other end.
Baize agreed and told NBC 7 she was also put off by the magazine’s actions.
“[Monika] is really inspiring and just to turn something we did into something people would laugh at. It was hurtful. And I’m glad that people are really responding positively to us,” said Baize.
And that positive support doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon.
Before the tutu story made national news, Allen’s Glam Runner Facebook page had about 1,000 likes.
As of Saturday afternoon, the company’s page had nearly 35,000 likes and endless messages of encouragement, such as this post: “You are awesome and inspirational! I love the tutu!”
Other posts include photos of people from around the country proudly wearing their tutus.
Allen attended Saturday's run and got a chance to witness more of that solidarity for tutus. After a group warm-up session, she thanked everyone for coming out and participating.
“This feels amazing. I’m just overwhelmed by all of the support that we’ve received, as Glam Runner and also as part of Girls on the Run. It’s just wonderful to see everyone running out here in tutu, just having fun and being healthy," she said.
Allen said seeing so many people come together was truly touching.
“I can’t believe what this has turned out to be, and it’s just become such a positive thing,” she said, holding back tears. “I just want to thank everybody for turning this into a positive event. The magazine article was a negative thing for us; we were embarrassed. Just to see the outpour of love from everybody is just really touching.”
Allen hopes her story will encourage others to be themselves, no matter what others think of them -- and be nice to others.
"Don't judge people. Be nice people. You don't know what their story is," she said.