Iskra Lawrence says she was a "chubby child." She always loved food, and she says she had a rotund tummy. But at such a young age, it didn't matter to her.
"I really didn't care because I felt so loved by my parents," she says.
As she got older, her interest in fashion grew, and she read magazines constantly. One of them, Elle Girl, had a search for a supermodel contest. Even though she didn't win, Lawrence was scouted by a modeling agency while she was there, and she started doing test shoots and small fashion shows. "I had a taste for this fashion industry that I loved and wanted to be a part of," she says.
But she realized that even though she was a relatively slim girl, she wasn't slim enough. "I remember they would constantly measure my hips like every six months," she says. "And I saw these other models who I aspired to be, and I was like, 'Well, clearly I have to try to change my body to try to be successful.' My body was my enemy, and every day I was going into battle and trying to change my measurements."
It grew into an obsession. Lawrence would weigh herself every day and take her measurements. She ate less calories than she burned, but she still wasn't fitting into sample sizes, and she got dropped from her agency. She applied to eight new agencies and was rejected from every one. They said she was either too curvy, or too womanly, or too mature-looking. "You're always 'too' something," she says.
Four or five years into this battle, she found out about plus size modeling. But when she went to an agency, they said she was too small and she'd have to put on two dress sizes to qualify. This was the nail in the coffin for her, she says. The industry had to change.
"I just spent five, six years sacrificing so much to try and fit into that one ideal, that one small standard, and I was never good enough," Lawrence says. "And it was just frustration that turned into motivation.... That became my ammunition, all the people that told me I couldn't."
Lawrence wanted to prove there was a different way to tackle this business. She started taking care of herself mentally and emotionally. She realized, for example, that working out could be about more than just being skinny - it could be about self-empowerment. When she began to love her body as it was, she started booking more clients because there weren't other models her size.
"If you start talking to yourself in a loving way you're going to feel so much better," she says, "and your life is going to be so much happier."
Check out Lawrence's new fitness and lifestyle website, Everybody With Iskra, here.
Interview by: Jason Ikeler
Additional reporting by Liz Narins
Senior Video Producer: Jason Ikeler
Shot and Edited by: Gigi Pena
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