Iskra Lawrence does it all, and she’s honest about all the ups and downs that come with that. As if being a widely beloved model, founder of Saltair and Self Funding and an advocate for body acceptance wasn’t enough, she added a baby into the mix this year. Ahead of The BodCon 2022, a virtual conference on February 17 focused on body confidence where Lawrence is a spotlight speaker, we caught up with her. She shared advice on how to use social media productively and the baby steps to take to fall in love with yourself. Lawrence also got candid about how modeling has shaped her life, the guilt that comes with motherhood and more.
You’ve long been a proponent of body positivity. How has the space grown since you first started and where does it still need to evolve?
“I use the term ‘body acceptance’ because I originally didn’t know the difference, and I was lucky enough to get educated online. I feel like there’s a constant evolution of understanding movements. I think that there is more visible representation now, but there still isn’t representation higher up in boardrooms, people who are getting to make the decisions about the representation, and so I think that long term, I just hope to see that the people at the top are able to share their power a little bit more. And of course, it’s more about the policies than anything.
There’s so much you can do about representation and diverse campaigns, but if policies don’t change and become more inclusive, if we don’t get better access for people with disabilities, if we don’t change the system that is still set up to be racist, there’s only so far we can push. So I think that it really comes down to getting more people represented in positions of power and doing that by hopefully supporting our youth to know that they can be in positions of power, and just really showing people that there’s more they can do than just being the visible representation. There’s the actual work behind the scenes that’s also very important.”
What is a self-care ritual that makes you feel empowered?
“So, weirdly, during my postpartum journey, I really lost my sense of self and I stopped showering. I literally got to a place of feeling so messy that I didn’t shower for days on end, and that made me feel even worse. So, honestly, the most simple thing that I find changes how I feel about myself is jumping in the shower, and that’s why I created Saltair because I really thought that it was a powerful moment for myself. I’ve cried in the shower. I’ve had big ideas in the shower. I’ve just felt this solitude in a good way, like escapism. So that, for me, is a really powerful form of self-care. Just simply getting up in the morning and showering and just giving yourself that fresh start to just think, ‘Okay, today’s gonna be a good day. I’ve got lots of things to do. Let’s not let it overwhelm me, but let’s just think it’s exciting.'”
What makeup products make you feel beautiful and confident on a night out?
“Oh, I’m a mascara girl. Maybe it’s because I’m fair and my eyelashes disappear otherwise, but I just feel like mascara makes me feel alive, ready, glamour instantly. And what I love about mascara is you get really great affordable mascara. If you can’t afford to do a whole big beauty routine, just one little mascara bottle that can be $10 lasts for at least a month, that’s a secret weapon right there. L’Oreal Telescopic ($11) is one that’s been around, and you know there are times where I’ll try a new one, and I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I have to have a Telescopic, especially the waterproof one. I go to the lake a lot in the summer, and that thing never budges like it is really good.”
What is your advice for anyone struggling to love themselves or their body?
“I would say the biggest piece of advice is to get in front of the mirror and figure out what you’re currently saying to yourself. Are you saying unkind words? Can we challenge that? Where does that come from? Often the narrative that people are playing in their heads over and over is the voice of a bully, or something someone said a long long time ago or something they’ve read about someone else and thought ‘Oh, I also have thunder thigh’” and placed the negative connotation on themselves. So get in front of the mirror and unpack and offload all of that. And instead, you get to choose your narrative. You’re deciding how you feel about yourself. And those words really matter. So start building a vocabulary that’s kind, that’s uplifting. And when it comes to your body, if you can’t get to a place of adoring it and loving it yet, just simply get to a neutral place. [Say to yourself], ‘I’m grateful for my legs because they allow me to walk. I’m grateful for my hands because they allow me to cook.’ Your body allows you to do certain things, and you should be grateful for those things because they’re useful. They allow you to have wonderful experiences, so start off neutral if you’re struggling and then build up from there.”
Social media gets a bad rap for making people self-conscious or more insecure. How can we switch this?
“I think that we forget that we are the owners of our social media feeds, so we 100-percent can take control by blocking, deleting, restricting, putting safety barriers on that are really necessary because it is the wild west. Take a social media audit. Unfollow, block any of the content that is not making you feel good, and try to flood your feed with stuff that does. If you just want to see cute puppies on your feed every day, make sure that you are liking and following and commenting on those accounts. So really take ownership, know that you can have control. You kind of have to be intentional about it.”
How has being a mom contributed to your self-worth?
“It’s so interesting. Some days I would say it’s made me far more confident, far more self-assured, far more in love with my body because I know what it did, which is just this magical experience, being pregnant and bringing life into this world. And there are other days where I miss my old self. I feel like sometimes I have self-doubt that I didn’t have before of, ‘Am I still able to achieve all the things I wanted to do?’ and sometimes it feels like I have to be a mother most of the day and then where’s the Iskra time? So that has been a struggle, finding that balance. But when I do have those moments, it’s never been easier to get back to a place of gratitude because I literally just look at my child, and I’m like, wow, this is the best thing in the world just seeing his little smile.
I don’t want to gloss over the fact that there have definitely been challenges, and there have definitely been times where I’ve felt new emotions. I’ve never felt the amount of guilt before. I don’t think I ever felt guilty. I don’t think I realized how selfish [I was], not in a bad way. I think selfishness is seen as a bad thing. I just think I was very driven and motivated. I didn’t realize how maybe selfish it was, like I was just fully on this path doing this thing every day. And now I can’t do that, or at least I have to compromise time to be able to do that. And I feel guilty when I do, and I’m trying to learn how to balance that.”
How did modeling alter your perspective of the world?
“It’s hard to tell in a way because I was so young when I started, I was 13. I do remember being a lot more carefree before, and I just became a lot more self-absorbed in a way. Competing against other girls—not just my age, much older models—when I was that age as well just made me super self-aware in a mature way, and also just a detrimental way in the sense that I became hyper-aware of everything about myself, not just the size of my body or the shape of my body, but everything. The texture of my skin, the whiteness of my teeth, the amount of freckles, the length of my eyelashes. It was a lot of being really aware of every single part of my being.
It wasn’t until I got to my mid-teens where I became super aware of the food I was putting in my body and exercise and then that became unhealthy. Luckily I was able to essentially shift that energy, and honestly, I could say almost obsession, into being self-aware of who I was and what I could achieve and how I can change the industry. [I gained] a self-awareness that maybe I wouldn’t have had without it. It gave me a drive I wouldn’t have had without it. I had to experience rejection over and over and over again for 10 years. So now anyone could reject me, anything could happen, it would just not phase me. It definitely showed me the harsh realities of the world, and I love that it showed me that early on.
I felt like I learned independence very, very quickly. I lived in Turkey at the age of 17. So even though you can have an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, I was very confident in my abilities and who I was, and I think the industry gave me that. It rejected me, and I was like, no, I still believe in myself. And then, eventually, it rewarded me for that.”
What can we look forward to at BodCon?
“Such an incredible group of humans, that’s first off. It just reminds you this wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t social media. This wouldn’t have happened even if we hadn’t had a pandemic. I think we should just all be excited to see all these amazing people coming together talking about things that they care about, and that, hopefully, we can all learn from.”