As one of the most vocal body positivity advocates in the fashion industry, Iskra Lawrence has mastered the art of becoming comfortable in your own skin. As a teenage model, she was consistently told that she would never make it in the industry because she didn't have the typical body shape and she battled an eating disorder. Fast forward ten years, she's the face of American Eagle Outfitters' Aerie fashion line, founder of the health and wellness programme called 'Everybody with Iskra' and was included in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list of trailblazing young entrepreneurs. The magazine placed her net worth at more than $2 million.
She is an active critic of body shamers and champions healthy self-image on her social media accounts (4.4 million followers to date), where she uploads unretouched, unfiltered images and advocates form more realistic standards in beauty. She's helped to establish America's National Eating Disorder Association's Seal of Approval, that recognises companies and individuals striving to make a difference - and hosted her own documentary series The Mirror Challenge.
She has recently become a L'Oreal ambassador alongside actress Dame Helen Mirren, Katie Piper and TV presenter AJ Adudu for its 'All Worth It' campaign. The campaign partners with The Prince's Trust to provide a confidence-building programme for 10,000 young people across the UK. L'Oreal has also commissioned her to design her perfect nude lipstick and 50p from every purchase going towards the Prince's Trust.
Here, Iskra explains to GTG how she counters her detractors, treats her body with respect and the rewards of mentoring young people through the Princes Trust.
How did you manage to shake off negative body image?
"It's been quite the journey, but one we all go through. Back in the day, I focused on my insecurities and constantly felt like I wasn't good enough. Growing up, I was taught by the media and the fashion industry to compare my body with others. When I looked at the mirror my insecurities screamed at me, it's really sad.
"I was affected hugely by the toxic diet culture so I was never happy with my body. But I managed to unlearn all of these things by focusing on my accomplishments and achievements and learning how to value my body instead of focusing on my insecurities. I thank myself each day for carrying this beautiful body around and allowing me to do all the things I find exciting and challenging. I make sure I value my body and never say mean things about it."
What would you say to someone who is struggling with the way they look?
"I would tell them to change their own narrative. You have to go out and make yourself feel worthy because your value is far greater than your appearance; you have so much to give to this world. Take up a new hobby, invest in friendships and set yourself challenges.
"One of the things I learned from having an eating disorder was seeing all the learning opportunities from it. I used to see exercise as punishment but I reflipped the narrative and gave myself a challenge of learning how to cook and by doing that I developed a better relationship with food. I think anyone struggling with their appearance should refocus their energy into something that builds them up, such as an accomplishment or finding your purpose in life no matter how big or small.
"You don't need a million followers to have value. You can inspire just one person. Lifting someone else up, making them smile and small acts of kindness go a long way. Keep a positive mindset - it's hard to be in a negative space when you practice gratitude. Make that a priority."
How do we rewrite the script in the way we talk about our bodies?
"We should be treating our bodies like we do our best friends. My favourite motto is: "Don't speak to my best friend like that" and I keep that at the back of my mind at all times. Everyone should. When you say or thinking of something nasty, you have to think, would I say that to my best friend? No, you wouldn't, so why should you say nasty things to your own body? You wouldn't speak to someone you love like that. Your body deserves to be spoken to like someone you love. When you speak to it in a loving way you nourish yourself with positivity and your body flourishes."
What does being a Prince's Trust confidence mentor involve?
"I’m so shocked that I’ve been given this opportunity of becoming a mentor with the Princes Trust. The charity has become such a growing part of me and I couldn’t agree more with the great work they are doing. I’ve been to three locations and see how their hard work impacts young people’s lives and I want to make sure they are getting the funding and spreading the word that the program is available for anyone and that anyone can apply. It’s very welcoming, it’s a safe space offering food and accommodation.
"The L’Oreal 'All Worth It' Campaign is all about building self-worth and confidence, doing challenges and working through things as a team. Each person leaves with skills they need to communicate and get back into the education system and is targeted to specific needs, such as mental health, disabilities or people who have fallen through the education system. It’s really special and unique."
What's your morning routine for getting in the most positive frame of mind?
"I don't check my phone when I wake up, I wait until I've done a few things. I drink half a bottle of water, open the curtains to let the light in and take some intentional breaths so I'm not feeling stressed. I try not to rush my mornings otherwise the rest of my day feels rushed.
"I then start with my morning skincare routine, which is usually spritzing my face with a rosewater spray, make a smoothie and get on with my day. I don't look at notifications on my phone for a few hours, things can wait. I don't like my phone having so much power in my life, but my friends know I'm not being rude, I just need that time for myself."
You often talk about self-care, what does that look like for you?
"It means prioritising my wellbeing and making sure I have 'me time', while ensuring that my phone doesn't have power over me. That means my time is focused when I’m with the people I don’t get to see very much, such as my family or friends. When I’m visiting the UK, my phone usage goes down. I love being on my sofa with my Bearaby weighted blanket - it’s game-changing, especially after I've been travelling. I light candles all over my house, have a humidifier to make the environment’s air cleaner and crisper, and have salt lamps around and sleep on silk sheets. I make my home my sanctuary. You have to create that environment so you can feel at your best."
And the beauty products you can't live without?
"I cannot live without lip balm . I’m loving Bite’s Agave and Daytime Lip Balm, $14 , at the moment. I also love the Chanel Rouge Coco Baume Hydrating Conditioning Lip Balm, £31 - I cried when I lost it.
I love the La Mer Lip Balm, £52 , but it always sells out!
"I love a facial spritz especially the Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe Herbs and Rosewater, £11 I’ve used it for years. I switch between serums and moisturisers, I get sent so many so I don’t follow a particular routine. But I am really loving the L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum, $14 , [only available in the US, try La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 serum, £38] and Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, £24 .50."
Tell us about your perfect nude lipstick...
"It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go into the lab and see the process - I’m such a makeup lover. I’ve always loved L’Oreal lipstick and have always used shades 642 and 908. The 642 shade is a cooler pink and the 908 is has a more orange tone.
"I wanted to add the peachiness of 908 to the pink, yet still have the brown hue to be an everyday lipstick. My shade was a mash-up of the shades I have always loved and added different elements to it to ensure it suits all skin tones. I wanted it to be really wearable either with pale skin or with a tan. And as you know, I’m obsessed with lip balm, so I had to make my lipstick moisturising. When I’m at an event I don’t want to have to carry both a lip balm and lipstick with me, so I wanted to combine the two so you only have to carry one item in your bag!"
How do you deal with negative comments?
"There was a nasty comment that actually went viral years ago. Someone had left a paragraph about how I f*cked up the NHS system for being obese. They told me I needed to put my McDonalds and crisps away. They used so many f-words and I was just like, Wow, do you really think I'm ending the world? Am I really creating the apocalypse?' It was really shocking to see someone hate me so much having never met me. But I decided to turn his comment into something positive. I responded with a video giving him the finger whilst eating my crisps in slow motion and throwing the crisps all over my body. I tried to make the situation an empowering and comedic one, not just for myself but for my followers too. That's the healthy way of dealing with trolls. Giving them a few clapbacks can be wildly entertaining for everyone.
"But plenty of my followers are so lovely. I have met a fair few of them during my tour with the National Eating Disorders Association. I once met a girl in a wheelchair who wasn't able to walk from malnutrition, but when I saw her the next year, she was walking again because she had recovered. She thanked me for inspiring her and giving her hope. For me, that was astonishing to have such an impact on someone's life. I'm so grateful to everyone I get to meet on this journey."
L'Oreal Color Riche Lipstick Limited Edition: My Perfect Nude, by Iskra is available exclusively on Amazon £9.99 with 50p from each sale going to the Prince's Trust. Iskra is represented By Models 1.