To those who don't follow fashion, or for that matter the world of Instagram celebrity, the name Iskra Lawrence may mean little. It should. Iskra is more than just a model; so much more than just a beautiful person on the cover of a magazine, or a lingerie-clad goddess steaming up your phone.
Iskra Lawrence, along with Ashley Graham, has been at the forefront of the battle against body-shaming, and at the cutting edge in the war to get women to love their bodies, no matter what shape or size it is.
Like Graham, Iskra walked through the flames fanned by people who told her she was just "too big to be beautiful"; but she emerged on the other side, a little singed, but stronger and more confident than ever. And it is this strength she hopes women of all ages and sizes will share in.
The British model was in the top five of Elle Girl's model search competition and was quickly signed up by an agency. Iskra has always been a 'big' girl, and try as she might (she tried exercise, extreme dieting, etc) her body would just not listen. The curves happily waved as the cruches and pills went by.
Eventually her agency dropped her for having a "too womanly" body. Iskra then began contacting agencies that had 'plus-sized' models on their books and she slowly began doing work for amateur photographers (nothing dodgy). Over time Iskra realized that rather than trying to change who she is, she should embrace it. She soon found a niche in lingerie model, am industry that needed women of all shapes to showcase their products.
It all fell into place when she was signed on for American Eagles' Aerie campaign, a spring board for everything that was to follow.
But Iskra never wants to forget what she went through as a young woman: "I was turning up to sets and shoots and fashion shows when I was 13, 14, 15 and not being able to fit into the samples. The stylists are shouting at me, 'Why is this fat model here, she can't fit into anything'.
"In my head, I was like, wow, there's something wrong with my body. I went into extreme dieting and exercise. I was the slimmest I've ever been, and I never will be that slim again because it's not the way my body's built, but it was also the most unhealthy I've ever been," she told Fashionista in an interview.
Iskra also remembers the first time she saw raw images (unretouched) of herself, and then later seeing those images in magazines and on ad campaigns...heavily photoshopped.
"More than size, more than anything, it's for women to be able to look at images and feel good about themselves, and that's how I relate to the people that follow me," she told Fashionista, explaining how her dislike of retouched images spurred her into her campaign of real images for real bodies.
Social media has been a boon and a bane for Iskra. She told Fashionista that while she looks at social media as a way to promote her entrepreneural goals, she also wanted to keep her presence as authentic as posible.
"I have a love-hate relationship with it [social media]. I have to look through my comments and sometimes I'm just really shocked by some people, but then I realize they're probably the ones that need the help the most and that it's a reflection of heir insecurities when they try and say something negative about you," she said.
While Iskra has been trolled mercillesly online by fat-shamers she doesn't react...usually.
She told Fashionista: "There's a very sweet French girl who runs a fan page who I talk to; she's vulnerable, she's also struggled with an eating disorder, and she messaged me saying she'd been crying because someone wrote something nasty about me. When I read it, it wasn't just a personal attack at me. It said 'everyone like you', so it was basically labeling everyone my size and above.
"I was on set, I was in my underwear anyway, and I saw the crisps so I was like, guys, can you throw these crisps on me? The video was straight after, it was one take and I posted it, and I never thought it would go viral the way it did. My agent nearly made me take it down!"
But there's a lot more the model wants to do. She has given talks at Harvard, at NYU and numerous schools, hoping to educate youngsters on the fact that everyone is different, and everyone needs to be treated with respect.
"It's my dream that I can prevent future generations from going through what I did. Personally, I think it's down to education — I don't want to change the fashion industry, I think there should always be fantasy, there should always be those size 0 girls because some of them are healthy and they've always been that skinny. It's still body shaming! We're just not taught how to look after ourselves, especially teenagers — their bodies are changing and they're going through all these things. It would free and liberate so many people," she said.
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