Victoria Arlen spent four years locked inside her own body.
When she was 11, Arlen suffered from a rare illness that left her conscious but in a vegetative state, and once she came out of it, her lower body was still paralyzed, but she regained use of her legs after being told she would live life in a wheelchair.
Arlen, who is 23, has gone on to win three silvers and a gold medal for swimming at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, compete in “Dancing With the Stars,” and become the youngest on-air host at ESPN. And now she’s the face of Jockey’s Show ’Em What’s Underneath, Show ’Em Your Jockey campaign, which is known for highlighting everyday heroes.
“After ‘Dancing With the Stars’ there was a lot coming into my inbox and when Jockey came along I did my research and I loved what they stood for,” said Arlen. “It’s about family and being true to who you are. Obviously it’s a little intimidating to be in your underwear, but for me I have a lot of scars that I used to hide so I wanted to celebrate my body. And Jockey gave me an incredible platform to do that.”
In the campaign, Arlen is featured in portraits and intimate videos wearing Jockey products.
She joins other heroes including Chris Van Etten, a U.S. Marine veteran; Lisa Cusimano, a firefighter; Michael Cottone, an adoptive father, and Michaela DePrince, a war orphan turned ballerina, who have been showcased in previous campaigns.
“Victoria’s unwavering faith and commitment to overcome seemingly unsurmountable challenges, epitomizes everything that the #ShowEm campaign stands for,” said Erica Rendall, vice president of marketing at Jockey. “We’re proud to be able to share Victoria’s story to inspire others to embrace what’s within and never give up.”
Arlen, who has a book coming out in August, said her main message is perseverance. She recalled a moment when she was paralyzed and she wanted to give up, but regained the ability to blink, which is how she began communicating with her family.
“I believe that challenges are like climbing a mountain. You have to keep your eye on the top of the mountain,” said Arlen. “There were a lot of times I couldn’t do it anymore and yet I still did. It was the moment right before I felt like I was losing the fight and then a few days later I regained the ability to blink. Your miracle is always so close, you just have to hold on to it and to never give up.”