For International Women’s Day, the body positivity icon and Aerie ambassador on why hitting rock bottom is an opportunity to bounce back
As part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, Moneyish asked some prominent people to share their thoughts and experiences regarding issues important to females. Read more here.
This International Women’s Day, we remind ourselves of what we’re capable of as women.
For too long, we’ve lived with a value system focused on our appearance. But we’re retraining our brains to understand we’re just as powerful as men and can do everything they can. In order to reach our full potential, we need to free ourselves from the insecurities that hold us back.
For me, that journey began at rock bottom. I was about 20 years old, living in London and crying just about every day. I kept being told that I couldn’t achieve my dreams of being in fashion because I was too big to be a regular model and too small to be a plus-sized one.
But the worst time of your life is also a chance to rebuild. It really frustrated me that people in the fashion industry had such strict boundaries as to what looked good. So, I decided to change the narrative and redefine what modeling was: more than being a mere physical set of measurements. I set out to be the best version of myself, rather than compete with models I never could be like. I was changing the way I saw food and cooking things that were nutritious. I found out I could enjoy exercise and not just think about burning calories.
As I started doing things for myself and not the approval of others, my career took off. There was no one else like me in the industry at the time, and I knew that there was a place for a model like me; I just had to work extra hard to prove it. I think my confidence and my ability to connect with so many people really helped me carve out a place for myself. I did a small campaign with Lucky Brand Jeans and a ton of e-commerce with stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s; I booked a great editorial shoot with Glamour Magazine. All of this led to one of my biggest deals, signing with Aerie.
One of the best perks about what I do now is working with the other #AerieREAL Role Models Rachel Platten, Aly Raisman and Yara Shahidi. We became a real sisterhood. We all have something amazing to offer the others and we know the value in working together and lifting each other up. We’re starting to see that when women join forces and become sisters, we become so much stronger. When a woman who feels exiled beforehand is included, she feels worthy. And that has nothing to do with her appearance, but everything to do with what she’s accomplished. With lots of women like that, there’s an energy that makes us unstoppable.
I’m especially excited about the younger girls I meet on the road with Aerie. It can be terrifying to hear a 7-year-old girl with friends calling each other fat, but they’re so much more aware than I was as a child. They ask me questions about getting their friends to know they’re beautiful. I’m generalizing a little, but when I ask women if they have a bikini body, those over their mid-30s say, “No, I’m disgusting.” The younger generation thinks everybody has a bikini body. Thanks to social media, there is the chance to change that narrative.
While Instagram is not always the best place to debate such a complicated topic, I do like to use my Instagram to start a dialogue. I hope that by posting empowering and inspiring messages to all women and men, I can help them begin to open their minds to a new way of thinking and start to think of everybody, including themselves, as equal.
Iskra Lawrence is a body positivity advocate and #AerieREAL Role Model.
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