Model Iskra Lawrence Explains How To Love Your Body: 'Perfect Doesn't Exist'

After being turned away from model agencies and encouraged to lose weight, British model Iskra Lawrence has finally learned to love her body. But, how does one actually go from self-hate to self-love?

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Body confidence. Body positivity. Body acceptance.

While we might read these inspiring words and feel empowered to love our figures and celebrate the imperfections, it doesn't take long before such aspirations are undermined by the emphasis on social media of the need to tone up, lose weight and cover up our natural flaws with concealer, age-defying face creams and Spanx.

After all, this state of total body confidence and self-love is the ideal – for men and women, alike – but like most dreams, the journey to achieving it isn't so clear cut.

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Even when no one else does, BELIEVE IN YOU! ✨

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This year, the world has endured political shocks, tragedies and unexpected deaths, so much so that it's been hard to find the light in a time of so much reported darkness.

But, in terms of diversity, 2016 has been a victorious year for body positivity.

For example, in our September Issue, ELLE became the first British magazine to feature a transgender model – Transparent actress Hari Nef – on the cover, and we've continued to champion the likes of model Ashley Graham's advocacy of self-love and appreciation of larger clothes sizes in the fashion industry.

On discussing the creation of her own Barbie earlier this year, Graham famously remarked to the Hollywood Reporter, 'she had to have her thighs touch'.

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'The thighs touching was one way to show young girls that it's OK for your thighs to touch, despite society saying that a 'thigh gap' is more beautiful,' she added.

While Graham's body activism encourages young women to realise that having a thigh gap is neither the norm or aspirational for the human form, it's not alway easy to put such body-positivity and confidence into practice.

So, how does one practically get to a mind state of self-love and acceptance.

Model Iskra Lawrence, is here to explain.

Earlier this year, the British beauty hit the headlines when she posted two side-by-side pictures that showed the thigh gap to be a myth, and encouraged women to stop comparing themselves to unrealistic images on social media that perpetuate negative feelings towards the female form and weight.

As someone who previously hated her thighs and has had to call out body-shaming trolls who called her a 'fat cow', Iskra told her followers:

'Always remember social medias [sic] not real life never let anyone else's pics make you feel insecure about yourself. If you don't look like her and she doesn't look like you that's how it's meant to be. You are meant to be YOU no one else, your body is your home so love and respect it.'

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In a new interview with SELF magazine, the AerieReal campaign model, revealed what it was like growing up with a figure she never truly felt comfortable in.

The thighs touching was one way to show young girls that it's OK for your thighs to touch, despite society saying that a 'thigh gap' is more beautiful

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Iskra admitted she once suffered a 'daily battle of being consumed by this drive to just want to change my body', and revealed family members and friends used to critique her calves and tried to help her look slimmer, so much so that she felt she needed to cover up.

After she lost modeling competition in her hometown of Kidderminster at the age of 13, Lawrence felt inspired to follow a career in fashion but continued to struggle with her self-image.

'I was so confused about why my body was curvy,' she said.

Encouraged to lose weight by several modeling agencies, Iskra soon became obsessed with her weight and ended up quitting her childhood passion of swimming because she didn't want to look 'bulky'.

'My hips were 36½ inches when they were 'meant' to be 34,' she says, revealing she tried everything including the Atkins and maple syrup diet to lose weight.

It was only when she broke up with her boyfriend moved to London at the age of 21 that her perception of her figure began to change. On hearing about plus-size modeling, Iskra says she suddenly felt inspired to accept her body.

'And then it clicked: This is crazy. What if I were the only model at my size? Surely I would have a monopoly!' says Lawrence. 'I was like, OK, I'm different, and that's what's going to make me work. I'm Iskra Lawrence. I know I'm intelligent. Let's use this.'

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From that moment, she began to learn about nutrition and see exercise as a way of building up strength, rather than losing weight.

'When a personal trainer taught me to squat properly, I felt like a badass!'

As a result, Iskra has become #AerieREAL's Role Model official, an ambassador for the National Eating Disorder Association, has built an online social media following of 2.8 million people who share her hashtag #EveryBODYIsBeautiful and the Iskra's Army, a campaign involved in educating teenagers about self-care and body issues.

I was like, OK, I'm different, and that's what's going to make me work. I'm Iskra Lawrence. I know I'm intelligent

However, Lawrence is quick to point out that the road to self-acceptance and body positivity isn't an overnight success.

Describing the feeling when, on a recent holiday she found she couldn't fit into a shops largest pair of jeans,' she says: 'In that split second I returned to my 15-year-old self, like, What's wrong with my legs—are they huge?

'Then I was like, Whoa, wait a second: This fabric here is going to make me have an internal battle? Are you kidding me? At some point in my life, that would have been the end of the world. But now my self-worth isn't defined by it.'

For anyone hoping to find body confidence, Lawrence advises: 'If your girlfriend is saying, 'Ugh, look at my stretch marks, look at my rolls,' don't say, 'Yeah, I hate my thighs, too.' Say, 'No, you look really cute today—and I feel good, too!'.

And it sounds like the model is the perfect example of her instructions.

'My thighs are great. You don't always need to be this flawless female with amazing skin and done hair. Perfect doesn't exist. We need to see real women's bodies,' she says.

'Inspiring other women to learn to accept their natural curves, figures and the parts of the body that make them unique, she suggests, 'Why not be ambitious and set goals that scare you a little bit? I'm happy with myself. I respect myself.

'And I know that no man, no jeans, no scale, and no booker is in control of my future — I am,' she added.

Seems like pretty sage advice to us.

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