We’ve been watching body-positivity model, Iskra, for over two years now—she’s been shifting perspectives globally on what it means to love your body just as it is. Her story of getting rejected in the modeling industry and then rising to influence is fascinating, and her wisdom gained along the way is helpful for us all.
What was your career dream growing up and how did you get to where you are today?
My career dream growing up … that’s a really good question because I wanted to be so many things growing up until I ended up doing a modeling competition at age 13. Before that, I wanted to be a dancer, I wanted to be a brain surgeon, I wanted to own a used car garage. I was always very creative and wanted to do more than one thing, and then when I entered Our Girl’s search for a supermodel and I realized that I actually could do modeling, that’s when I became obsessed with that and I was like, “Alright, I choose this one and I want to 100% give it my all and make sure it works.” I was always super competitive so I became competitive in a good way; in a healthy way.
What was your experience like once you entered the modeling industry?
After the Our Girl’s search for a supermodel, a casting director was there and I got scouted and was signed to a big agency in London, but then I was dropped. After that I went to eight or nine different agencies that all said no, and then I went with a local agency near my home in town, and then I really built myself from there up. That was very humbling because at first I was with the top London agency, then I got dropped and had to work my way back up. Eventually I heard about plus size modeling and they told me I was too small to do that.
So when you say these agencies “rejected” you, what was their reasoning?
I think it was my size and then also I was quite “commercial” looking I guess, at least that’s what they would say. They would just use all kind of confusing adjectives to describe me. And you know, they would rate you, they would have pieces of paper to rate your teeth, your skin condition, your hair condition, all types of things. Yeah, so it was very intimidating and very confusing.
Wow. Well, we are glad you pushed through and now you’re reforming standards for the industry! The longer you’ve been in your career, what’s something you’ve realized can’t be taught, but must be learned through experience?
The main thing I’ve learned is to not internalize rejection. I think rejection is something that you have to continually learn how to process and how to grow from it, and I think no one can tell you that. No one can tell you how it’s going to feel if you’re in a room and someone doesn’t want to see your modeling book because they’ve just looked you up and down and thought, “I don’t want her.” No one can say to you: “It’s going to feel like this and this is how you should react,”—it’s going to hit you differently depending on what’s going on in your personal life, or how you’re feeling that day. I always encourage girls to realize that rejection is going to be a huge part of your career and it’s going be one of the main things that defines how you handle things, so it’s good to learn how to process it.
How has working with a brand like Aerie changed the way you view your own beauty and the beauty of other women?
It has redefined everything for me. Aerie values you for more than just how you look or what your measurements are, and that feels so great. So many brands are just looking for a certain look or they have this certain idea in their head and Aerie does not. They’re open to just accepting who is the most “Aerie” girl. They just want to find girls who are in love with the brand or who have fallen in love with the message and represent it—and that’s really amazing. I’ve actually been able to bring in so many of my friends or so many women that I’ve found online into the brand.
They’re so open, and they want to grow with the right kind of people, and they want to bring in as many great women as they can. They’re continually growing and developing and learning and I think that’s great. I think that many brands are so set in their ways that they’re not moving forward, they’re not progressive, but Aerie is hungry and passionate and ready and open and that’s what sets it apart for me. And it hasn’t just been a blip, it hasn’t been a trend, it has been who they are all along.
What does being an #AerieREAL Role Model mean to you? What sort of responsibility does that carry for you?
The weight of the responsibility is wonderful in the way that it’s given my life purpose, which is really special. I’m truly so grateful because the value and the purpose that I’ve now got in my life has helped me build such a strong sense of self-worth because it makes everything I do feel like I’m doing something good, and I’m able to use my time and my energy and my platform. So that’s really more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done in my life—to be more than just a model in images, but actually able to make a good mark is amazing.
What do you think is the most powerful aspect of femininity?
Ooh, I love that! The most powerful aspect of femininity is just our innate power to nurture. Nurturing can mean so many things, but I think mostly of nurturing relationships. The sisterhoods that we create are just impenetrable and empowering and supportive and they are helping to change the landscape, especially the U.S. right now—the sisterhoods are at the forefront standing up together and making an impact, and so for me that’s what the femininity is. It’s like we ride together and we understand that and when we support each other, amazing things happen. So for me that’s true femininity.
If you could give a word of encouragement to all the women out there regarding their unique beauty, what would you say?
I would just start by trying to redefine how you are communicating and feeling and the way you look in the mirror and what you see, and stop seeing it as a body, stop seeing it as this foreign object that can be picked apart and scrutinized, and start seeing it as a home, start seeing it as a best friend and talking to it like that. Be thankful and grateful that you can get up in the morning and you’re able to walk outside and breathe in that beautiful fresh air; even if it’s freezing cold right now, even if the sun is shining.
So I would say, go in front of that mirror and change it, switch it up, make it more positive, you deserve that. Maybe you have to write encouraging statements on Post-It notes and smack them all over your mirror. Or maybe if you’re struggling to do it for yourself first, try and do it for a friend. If you have a girlfriend that’s maybe feeling self conscious or insecure, start with her and ask, “how can I help her?” Then try to implement the way you’ve helped her into your own life too.
Self-care can feel selfish even though it’s totally not. It’s actually the most selfless thing to be able to love yourself, because then actually you’re able to then spread love and help other people.
This post is brought to you by Darling partner, Aerie. We’re proud to partner with brands that strive to create better, more realistic media for women. All thoughts and opinions remain Darling’s own.
Un-retouched Images provided by Aerie