Iskra Lawrence is a model on a mission. The 25-year-old Brit is the face of Aerie, a U.S. lingerie brand that doesn’t retouch its images, proudly stating on its social platforms, “Why retouch beauty? The real you is sexy.” We caught up with Lawrence to find out how she is helping young girls feel more confident in their own skin, why she wants the fashion industry to drop the plus-size label once and for all and the challenge she wants you to try to feel more confident today.
Keep scrolling to read our exclusive interview with the model everyone’s talking about.
BYRDIE UK: You used to be a swimmer. Do you think that helped you have a positive relationship with both food and fitness?
ISKRA LAWRENCE: Swimming taught me so much—appreciating my body for more than just its appearance and allowing me to achieve my goals. That food is your fuel, and if you’re not nourished properly, your body won’t perform as well as it could. Also, it taught me self-motivation, dedication and that you get out what you put in.
BYRDIE UK: What exercise do you do now that you’re not swimming so much?
IL: I love exercise. I treat it as a reward to myself because of how good my body and mind feel after training. I like to keep things interesting by trying new classes or new routines. I’ve had a go at most things; I especially like boxing, yoga, Pilates, weights and HIIT. I take my skipping rope everywhere and aim to train three times a week. Even if I don’t make it to a gym due to travelling and working long hours, I’ll do abs on the floor in my hotel room!
BYRDIE UK: Do you meditate to help with your busy schedule?
IL: My meditation is getting into bed early, lighting candles and clearing my mind. I also love long walks in the countryside and listening to music. I have yet to try a meditation app, but I heard from Amy Levin’s recent podcast with Joyce [Chan, editor in chief of Self] that they can be very convenient.
BYRDIE UK: Are there any supplements or health boosters you take?
IL: I take Probio7 (£20) and a multivitamin for women, as well as a biotin supplement to help with my hair skin and nails, as all three get abused when I’m working lots.
BYRDIE UK: When and why did you decide not to change your body for modelling? Were you at all worried you might not have a career if you didn’t conform?
IL: It took me quite a few years to realise I didn’t have to change myself to look like the models I aspired to be. It was after years of trying to slim down that I heard about plus-size modelling, and then I went to an agency to only be told I was actually then too small to fit into the UK 16 samples! It was this final nail in the coffin that clarified you can’t keep battling with your body and trying to change yourself. Why can’t I model at my healthy size a UK 12 top and 14 bottom? Surely as I’m the average UK size, there are millions of women not represented by models in the media. So it was time to stop battling myself and start bettering myself instead. As soon as I switched to that positive mind-set, everything started falling into place.
BYRDIE UK: When did you decide you wanted to expose your true self on social media?
IL: After all the years of rejection and body scrutiny I received, all I wanted was to feel good enough as me. I was done with editing myself, my body and my opinions, and I wanted to be the model I wished I had been able to look up to growing up. I would read the encouraging comments and DMs when I would put up an unretouched image and see how young girls craved a relatable, real role model. It just felt right.
I tried Facetune and editing apps a couple of years ago, and I felt embarrassed and unauthentic looking at the retouched image of myself. All I really wanted was to feel beautiful because I was me, and I no longer had to change myself to fit a beauty ideal set by the fashion industry. That’s why I’m so proud to work with Aerie, because they promote loving yourself from the inside out and are the first major lingerie and swim brand to not retouch its models at all.
BYRDIE UK: What do you really think of the plus-size tag in modelling?
IL: I believe no one desires to be labelled. How can you define someone by their size, colour, gender, religion or sexuality? We are so much more than that. Plus-size has a negative connotation because currently women above a certain size can’t shop in the same stores or wear the same designers. They have been excluded from fashion by an elitist industry, and it’s time to drop the labels and treat everyone equally.
BYRDIE UK: How can we further help women and girls understand that you shouldn’t be defined by body weight or dress size and that being healthy and fit and happy is so much more important?
IL: We have to try and educate ourselves and others that only you decide your self-worth—not the scales, your jean size or someone else’s opinion of you. When we take that power back and stop comparing ourselves to others we can start working on being who we are, what we want to achieve and ultimately what makes us happy.
BYRDIE UK: Do you feel a sense of responsibility for young girls out there who look up to you?
IL: I have always felt a responsibility as a model and someone who went through low self-esteem and body-image issues to help others so they don’t go through the same struggles. I listen to my followers and try to take on board what could possibly help and inspire them. I’ll be teaching The Body Project in schools (the first scientifically proven course to help prevent eating disorders ran by NEDA), and I’m currently touring U.S. colleges with Aerie to meet young girls and spread body positivity and self-love.
BYRDIE UK: What’s your advice for women who need a confidence boost when they’re having a bad day?
IL: Try my mirror challenge—stand in front of your mirror, ideally naked (but undies will do), and pick out 10 things you love about yourself (three can be personality traits). This is to encourage celebrating yourself instead of picking yourself apart. I also use gratification when I’m feeling down—I write, or just think up, all the wonderful things I’m grateful for that day. It could be something simple like the blue skies or yummy breakfast I had or the supportive friends and loving family in my life. Again, this changes your mind-set from down and gloomy to upbeat, thankful and positive.
What makes you feel more confident? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.