As a curvy model, it’s safe to assume Iskra Lawrence has a healthy relationship with her body—after all, it takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there in an industry known for celebrating only the thinnest of bodies. Indeed, Lawrence, who made her runway debut for Chromat in September, is often hailed as an inspiration within the body-positive movement. This is especially true on Instagram, where she shows off her stretch marks and exercise routines in equal regularity to nearly three million followers. But she wasn’t always so confident.
In fact, it took a lot of hard work and self-reflection for Lawrence to become the strong, confident and successful model she is today. In a recent interview with Self, the 26-year-old opened up about the difficulties she faced in the beginning of her career (she started at age 13), admitting at one point, the pressure to be conform made her “obsessed” with her body.
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As a teenager, she explained, agencies often told her that in order to succeed, she needed to lose weight. “I was so confused about why my body was curvy,” she told the magazine. “That’s when I became obsessed with my weight…When I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw.”
Lawrence tried to slim down, but she was still cut from her agency.
Years of dieting, over-exercising, and destructive relationships took a toll on her physical and mental health. It wasn’t until Lawrence discovered plus-size modeling—for which she was deemed too thin—that the pieces began to fit. She recalls, “I was like, ‘Okay, I’m different, and that’s what’s going to make me work’…. I never wanted to diet again. Once I convinced myself that I could do this, I was able to convince [the agencies].”
After her epiphany, Lawrence stopped trying to conform to the standards set by the modeling industry, and instead, focused on keeping herself happy and healthy. She’s also done her part to help others going through similar struggles, launching Iskra’s Army, a national campaign which aims to help teenagers work through their insecurities and self-doubts. Though staying positive doesn’t always come easy—Lawrence admits sometimes she reverts to her “15-year-old self”—for the most part, she’s proud of her body. And she’s had a TON of success because of it. (Maybe you’ve seen her in all those Aerie ads?)
“I never thought I would be here,” she admits. “But why not be ambitious and set goals that scare you a little bit? I’m happy with myself. I respect myself. And I know that no man, no jeans, and no booker is in charge of my future—I am.”
Now that’s something we can all get behind.
Now, listen to model Myla Dalbesio’s powerful body-positive poem: