My story is one ofups and downs.It's made up of tastes of success,and alotmore rejection.And before I ultimately learned to grow confident and love myself from the inside out,I let the low points win.Like virtually all of the women I know,I spent my teenage years battling with my body and feeling I wasn't good enough.A lot of that negativity is because I was pursuing a career in modeling and was told countless times that my body was too big.My hips and thighs were too wide.So,I went on extreme diets,obsessed over calorie counting,kept up excessive exercise,and dealt with body dysmorphia so badly I would Google surgeries that would make my calves smaller—all to try to change my body into something it wasn't meant to be.I may have been at my thinnest then,but I was the most unhealthy I've ever been.
After years of desperately trying to change my body,I decided to make the switch from straight size toplus-sizemodeling,though I ultimately faced similar rejection for being too small (I have actually worn padding and beenphotoshoppedto look bigger).Fool me once,shame on me.Fool me twice...Well,you know.I decided not to make the same mistake with my health again and shifted my mentality instead.I no longer looked at other models as a comparison,and instead focused on being the best version of myself.I embraced what made me different and used that to my advantage,which actuallyworked.The more time I invested in myself and finding out what made me unique and special,the more jobs and campaigns I booked.像魔法一样!
This story has a happy ending,and it's one I've been fortunate to share withAerie.The first time I learned about Aerie,I was blown away by how beautiful and confident the models appeared in their ads—and more so that they wereun-retouched.I can confidently say that my life changed that day I began working for them: I saw my body in their beautiful images as it really was,not distorted or edited,and I actually looked and felt happy.It was the first time I fully embraced the confidence and self-love I had been denying myself for so many years.When,those images later went up on a billboard in Times Square (something I would have beenmortifiedabout years earlier) I felt fulfilled.In that moment a mission came to mind: if I could finally learn to love myself other women could too.
As the #AerieReal Role Model,I'm able to do that.I tour around the country meeting young Aerie women spreading the message of self-love.We've now launched the#ShareYourSparkcampaign (Iskra means spark and my nick name is Sparky,BTW!),where women and girls come together to share what they've learned about self-esteem,body positivity,confidence,and mental health.The more we can talk about important issues and learn from one another,the happier and healthier we become.
The most impactful person I've yet to meet is a young woman named Maria,who spent four years of her teenage life battling a dangerous eating disorder.When I met her,we shed a few tears and shared our personal stories.After meeting Maria and the thousands of others who connected with me and the #AerieReal and #ShareYourSpark campaigns,I realized the impact of sharing our struggles and rising above them.My next mission: sharing my spark so that I can educate girls on how to take care of themselves mentally,physically,and emotionally.If my spark can inspire just one girl,then that is a win for me.Get in on it at#ShareYourSpark!