This past week I had the honor and privilege to meet model Iskra Lawrence while she was at the AERIE pop-up store on my college campus.
I was blown away not only by her obvious beauty, but how kind and welcoming she was. She would hug each person that would approach her, wanting to know their name and how they were doing. She also would take countless pictures with whoever wanted, not letting the pouring rain phase her. She was even willing to Facetime my sister, who could not attend because she goes to a different college.
If you are unaware of who Iskra Lawrence is, I'll give you a few quick facts.
Iskra is a model within the fashion industry. She is the face and brand ambassador of AERIE, a lingerie and clothing line by American Eagle Outfitters, that celebrates body positivity and diversity.
Iskra's social media pages are full of body positive and inspiring content. While I was speaking to Iskra she was expressing that she tries to be aware of what she posts and wants to ensure it is as real and transparent as can be. She noted that of course, she posts "shallow things, like when she feels cute in a new outfit," but honestly, that's something we all do, so we can't hold that against her.
After initially meeting Iskra, I thanked her for the work she does with NEDA. NEDA stands for, National Eating Disorder Association, which she is a very active ambassador for. Immediately after I thanked her, she started talking to me about the NEDA walks and about the inter-workings of the organization. NEDA is an important non-profit organization for supporting eating disorder survivors, and their friends and families. NEDA also works to educate and inform society about eating disorders, body image, and body positivity– without exposing sufferers and survivors, which Iskra and I both agreed is a beautiful and positive aspect the organization.
As for the fashion industry, Iskra is doing a large variety of things. Iskra has modeled for publications such as Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Self, and has over 13 years of modeling experience, including walking in New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.
In addition to her impressive modeling resume, Iskra is a voice for change. While Iskra and I were talking, she said that she wants to help change the fashion industry from the inside. Rather than yelling what they are doing wrong, she wants to actually do something about it.
I've always admired Iskra. My admiration began when I was in high school and needed to focus on body positive. She was a voice within the fashion industry I listened to when working on getting over my own insecurities and trying to gain a better perception of myself. I was able to relate and feel comfort when viewing Iskra's content because of how real she is.
Iskra is someone who has been transparent about her personal body image issues and her journey to finding self-love and embracing who she is. Through her social media, Iskra has started several movements and trends to help others work on their body-image, self-esteem, and create a community of acceptance and a haven for those who need support on their journey of self-love, body positivity, and acceptance.
Iskra has had to go through her journey of body positivity through the spotlight. The fashion industry is divided as regular and plus-sized models. Iskra has been confronted with opinions from those within the industry labeling her body– and consistently giving unwelcome opinions of it.
The fashion industry consists of many models whose bodies can be unrealistic for many women to achieve and possess naturally. (I would like to note that I am not stating that because I want to shame them, I am just stating that those women work incredibly hard to achieve and maintain their bodies, and often genetics have an important role.) With that being said, most women have genetics working against them when it comes to looking like a 'model'– or the type of model society has constructed us to think of when we hear the word.
As a society, we need to start paying attention to models like Iskra. Iskra attends fashion shows, and wears designers that have been branded for thinner models. By Iskra attending and wearing those brands, she is proving that women, bigger than the models walking in the designs, can look good wearing them too. I think this is important because it is a visual representation that no matter your size, you can pull off whatever you choose to wear. Designers and the fashion industry shouldn't be able to tell you what you can and cannot wear.
Iskra has spoken at a number of events, including TedX, where she has been transparent about her own struggles. She has given words and messages of inspiration I think are important we all hear. Specifically, we need to start telling young girls that women, including models, come in all shapes and sizes, and we are all beautiful in our own unique, real ways.
If there is one person I think young girls need to follow on social media it is Iskra Lawrence. She uses her platform for advocating, educating, and informing her followers on a large variety of topics, including: social issues, mental health, body image, health and wellness, fitness, and self-acceptance.
In the world of social media, where fitness accounts have grown and found a dominant presence in our feeds, Iskra excels in communicating that healthy does not equal skinny. Healthy and 'being fit' look different for every individual. You can have abs, a tummy, muscular thighs, curves, big butt, no butt, biceps, flab, ect., and still be healthy. She often posts her workouts on her Instagram page and also posts content where she is indulging and not restricting herself. She lives a life of balance, which is something that needs to be continuously stressed when we have access to viewing the pages of fitness models, bodybuilders, and other fitspos.
The time I spent speaking with Iskra Lawrence had my inner sixteen-year-old screaming. Iskra has been an important role model for me throughout the last few years, and meeting her will always be an important memory.
I highly encourage anyone that may be unaware of Iskra to check out her social media, TedX talk, or any of the work she has done. She is truly a wonderfully kind human and an incredible role model.