Blonde, beautiful, with a body to die for, you might not think curve model and social media sensation Iskra Lawrence would have any body hang-ups. But just like the rest of us, she's had to learn how to stop looking for the flaws in her body and think of all the amazing things it can do. After being told that she was 'too big' to be a model, Iskra now boasts over 2.7million Instagram followers and is the face (and body) of Aerie lingerie, and wants to inspire women of all shapes and sizes to love their bodies.
Here are Iskra's top tips and tricks for dealing with negative self esteem, whether you're at the gym, can't fit into your jeans or even when we're naked in front of the mirror...
How can we be body positive when our jeans don’t fit anymore?
I have a mental gratitude diary, taking me away from ‘it’s the end of the world, my thighs are too big!’ to ‘wait a second, what am I grateful for? What has my body achieved today? What have these thighs allowed me to do?’ rather than ‘they can’t fit into my jeans’. It’s really turning that mindset around. I totally validate anyone breaking down if their jeans don’t fit, but there are worse things going on and thank God we’re healthy and alive. I always bring it back into perspective.
What about when we’re shopping for bikinis?
When you try them on, you’re doing it for you, and it’s in a changing room or at home. But you know that you have to show the world, so what I always do is think ‘I’m going to be somewhere nice, I’ll be on a beach, thank goodness my life is so amazing. I’m going to spend my time enjoying that sun and I’m not going to let my body hang-ups hold me back from having a good time’. It’s a conscious thing to let go and relax. Throw that towel down, get out there and live! People won’t even notice your body.
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How can we feel confident around friends whose bodies we envy?
You think your friends have the perfect body, but they’re probably thinking the same about you. You have to get away from that, because you can never be them and they can never be you. You have to think ‘I want the best version of me, that’s achievable’. Visualise the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, because there’s nothing stopping you from doing that. If you’re trying to look like someone else, you’re constantly going to fail.
If we’ve just started going to the gym, how can we not feel embarrassed?
Start small and easy, sometimes without a personal trainer who is going to throw you in at the deep end. I took a few of my friends to the gym, and we worked out slow and steady. We did 20 minutes on the treadmill to warm up, then started with squats, lunges and triceps. Start off really basic and set realistic goals and reward yourself. Even gold stars! It doesn’t matter if you went for ten minutes or two hours, you were there.
How can we feel body positive when someone is shaming us on social media?
Block that person on social media, delete the comments and don’t get involved – they’re keyboard warriors! Someone who’s never met you that is judging you is bonkers. I’d use that experience to speak out and do something positive. It also proves to myself that I’m not letting that person affect me, because you are so much more than someone else’s opinion. Surround yourself with good people, friends and family in the real world, that’s what matters.
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How can we feel good about our bodies when we’re naked in front of the mirror?
That’s where body positivity starts. Look in that mirror and pick out three things about your personality that you love, not even physical - you have so much more to give than your body. Then think of seven physical things you like, so your dimples or eyes. Whatever those things are, say them out loud or write them on PostIt notes and put them on the mirror. We need to work on the relationship between our minds and our bodies.
You’re so motivational, but do you ever feel insecure?
Luckily, not really anymore, but there will be days. I was in LA a few months ago and my boyfriend said ‘why don’t you treat yourself to some nice jeans’. I’ve never had designer jeans before, so I tried some Balmain ones. The woman gave me a 29 waist, but I knew they wouldn’t fit. I tried them on and they only came up to my knees, it was frustrating because I was hot and I couldn’t get them off, and there was a moment where I went back to my 16-year-old self, asking ‘am I too fat?’ I do slip, but you have to have tricks to think your way out of that. It’s going to take a while to feel positive every day and pick out the things you like about yourself in the mirror, not the flaws, but change happens gradually.
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Is body positivity why you got involved with Aerie?
I saw the Aerie unretouched campaign when I was in the UK, and I thought ‘wow’. I wanted to be involved so bad. Within six months of moving to the US, I had my casting and I got it.
Did you ever imagine that working with Aerie would be this big?
Not to this extent, but I knew it was going to be big. I couldn’t believe that I was going to be on a billboard in Times Square. After being told I wasn’t tall enough to be a model or not the right type, I was happy they got to know me and not a set of measurements.
How did you keep motivated when people were saying you couldn’t make it?
It was tough for the first five years, it doesn’t make sense for brands not to represent the people buying their product. I was stubborn, and the more rejections I got, the more I wanted to prove them wrong. I live to deliver on what I say I’m going to do. Make your dreams verbal, or physical, on a vision board, and tell people about them – eventually, you will do it.
How often do you feel terrible about the way you look? Maybe it's time to start realising how gorgeous you really are, inside and out.