HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER IN YOUR OWN WORDS?
Im originally from the UK, but moved to New York to chase my dreams which was what Alicia Keys told me to do! I try to use my platform and my visibility within modelling and social media to encourage positive body image and self-love, encouraging others to follow that positive journey with themselves too.
WHEN DOES YOUR ALARM GO OFF AND WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU DO?
On average probably 7.30am and the first thing Ill do is drink water, half a 500ml bottle and its nothing fancy, just straight up water!
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
It has really changed and developed a lot. The first 10 years of my career was very much lots of shoots, maybe 4 days a week starting around 9am and wrapping hopefully at 5pm. I come home and think about social media and what I want to post. Ive tried to live somewhere where I have a gym in the building so I can work out and then go to sleep. But now Im more co-creating and producing my show #TheMirrorChallenge. Im doing a bunch of things for social, designing, having my own perfume it really does differ a lot! Last week I had shoots on Thursday and Friday and this week is more content creation. Ive just bought a home and Im building a gym in it; even if I dont use the gym every day, Im using the sauna for my circulation at night which is amazing.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
So I entered an Elle Girl supermodel competition at 13, where I got scouted and signed with an agency and was there for a couple of years. I was dropped because my measurements were always considered too big, and I kept having to be measured. I got given a list of agencies in the UK and went round those, and then to the more local agencies. I really hustled, I did a lot of direct bookings, found photographers online and really created a lot of my own work.
I heard about plus-size when I was 19, but I got told I was too small for one plus-size agency, so I had to beg a smaller plus-size agency to take me on whilst I was still doing some of my direct bookings. I really positioned myself as a lingerie and swimwear model but because I was the only one of that size, brands that were looking for diversity and who were more open to change were booking me. I went back to a bigger agency and sort of said “Look, I know I can do this its going really well and I can do more so lets market me as being different and unique.”
I heard about the Aerie campaign, where they used lots of different models and didnt retouch their pictures so thats what gave me the motivation to move to the US. Within 6 months I met with Aerie and did my first campaign. ThenÂ it spiralled from there!
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE #EVERYBODYISBEAUTIFUL HASHTAG”¦
One of the first things I did on social was create the #EveryBodyIsBeautiful hashtag. Im not even sure how it came about I cant remember the process! But I hadnt seen it anywhere it was something I truly believed in and I needed it as an affirmation for myself as well. I realised that social media wasnt just a place for me to post my own pictures, it was at a time that I realised other people were being affected by the photos that I post so I should be trying to do something that encourages them to feel good aboutÂ themselves too.
HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTED THE CONVERSATION AROUND BODY IMAGE?
I definitely think social media is at the forefront of social change, its where people are having conversations and Id like to say its becoming the democratization of the media a little bit. Consumers are having their say and people are creating the images that theyd like to see. Obviously its still dictated by global companies and advertising online that you have to be aware of, but theres so much authenticity on there which is really refreshing. Seeing everyday normal life of celebrities is great and you get to see different sides to people and it really humanises them.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE STARTING OUT AS AN INFLUENCER ONLINE?
I think that if you feel your story isnt being heard or youre not represented, you have to be the one to step up and use your voice and share your story.
WHAT ARE THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO BE A POSITIVE VOICE?
Figuring out who you are and what makes you you. If youre talking about within modelling, its more than just taking a pretty picture. Youre creating an image that will impact how people feel about themselves and you have a choice of what you want people to feel. Thats why working with Aerie is so important as young girls are going into the Aerie stores and seeing some cellulite, seeing some back rolls and thinking “Ok, well I have that so that makes me feel more comfortable. I could be that girl and feel that happy and that confident in a swimsuit.”
As a model you get to choose who you align yourself to and what you stand for and Im really lucky that I get to work with LOreal too as they really show that beauty is not about age. Its about who we are, our strengths and compassions.
WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
Figure out who you are, what you represent and never compromise who you are just for a quick buck or to get your name in a magazine or to be the face of something. I always think long-term not short-term. I set realistic goals for myself when I was younger I didnt think “I want to be on the cover of Vogue” I just took tiny steps towards positive goals. And theres nothing wrong with failing: Ive tried a ton of different things that havent worked.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
Definitely my first un-retouched billboard for Aerie in Times Square. And also my TedX talk, that was incredible. Im currently working on myÂ #TheMirrorChallengeÂ show, and there were definitely some pinch-me moments with that. I had my doubts, I wasnt sure if it was going to get produced or whether anyone would be interested in what I had to say but its been amazing to help the participants. And I know the viewers watching it will be inspired as well, so that has been a proud moment for me.
HOW DID THE SHOW COME ABOUT AND WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO MAKE IT?
I usedÂ #TheMirrorChallengeÂ for years to help me get to where Im comfortable with myself, and then I practised it with my girlfriends and others and realised how powerful it can be. Working on your relationship with yourself in the mirror is really important, and in making this show I believed that if I thought it, it will come true. I very much vision boarded everything and told people it was going to happen, and over the last year Id say a year and a half ago I started pitching it to different production companies Ive been working on making it a reality. Its on Facebook Watch, so everyone can watch! Were using the hashtagÂ #TheMirrorChallengeÂ and hearing different peoples stories is what is really going to make this movement amazing.
WHATS YOUR FAVOURITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE?
I really really love the motto that we used atÂ NEDAÂ which is You are enough which is something that can be brought into so many different aspects of your life. Firstly physical, but also goes into so many other relationships you dont have to change for anybody, or the same in your work environment. Having that affirmation when you look in the mirror is a really good starting point. Feeling like youre not good enough can really have an effect on every bit of your life, so its a wonderful phrase.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR INCORPORATING SELF-CARE INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE?
I thinkÂ #TheMirrorChallengeÂ is the best place for anyone to start, figuring out what self-care works for you and what it looks like for you. It can be in your head but a gratitude list or diary, it brings you to a positive place. You cant have negative thoughts or egotistical thoughts if youre in a place of gratitude. Instead of hating your thighs you can think well I have thighs so that I can walk places, and the sun is shining or you had your favourite breakfast. It gives you total perspective on what insecurities you might be feeling. Shifting the focus to the little things is great. I always ask people what did you do this year that you knew would make you happy, and quite often a lot of people might not be able to answer that or say they havent had time. You have to make time for these things it can be having a bath, reading a book, it can just be sitting still and being with your own company. But you have to make time for them.
The #MirrorChallenge show is available to watch now via FacebookÂ here, and learn more about Iskras other projects here.