I came across this photo last week and was shocked! Truth be told, its very possible I had been Photoshopped to look this skinny. I had no memory of looking like what this picture depicts, so I immediately sent it to my close friends who were shocked as well, but reminded me that yes, they remember me being that skinny!
Let me first say, I am not marginalizing anyone who is skinny like I was. But I want to make it clear that this was not my natural size. I forced my body to the brink to be this skinny. In 2009, a few months before this photo was taken I had broken up with a guy who I thought was the love of my life. He was a model who I dated for a few months, one day he told me I needed to loose weight to get my modeling career going. Seeing all the success he had and feeling the pressure from images of his successful model ex-girlfriend I was determined to loose weight fast. When we stopped dating, I was even more determined and started working out intensely, only sustaining myself on an apple, almonds, coffee and one small meal a day. Needless to say, I rapidly lost weight and got myself to loose over 20 pounds in a month and a half, my lowest weight was 124lbs, at 5'10 I was significantly underweight. I have always had very strong discipline when I wanted something badly enough, so at the time it was a rush for me to achieve and it was something I prided myself on, because I thought- "finally, my modeling career can take off!" But to be honest, it wasn't about feeling good or even looking good for that matter. It was about fitting in and being accepted. Something that sadly enough even with the exception of winning season 8 of Project Runway, not much else really happened for me in the fashion industry.
The day this photo was taken, I went to the doctor to get help with my breathing problems, but his only concern was how "emaciated" I was. He measured my body fat, it was below 6% and with a grave look on his face said "If you don't go home and eat something to fatten you up, you will die". I recognized that was a pretty extreme statement for a doctor to make to his patient, however, I was unsure if he was being dramatic or trying to drive home a point that my pursuit for staying skinny was all too costly. Either way, I knew in that moment it didn't matter if gaining some weight meant that my modeling opportunities would go out the window, because it only mattered that I was healthy.
Let me be clear, I knew I was skinny, but at the time that was all I focused on. I was not taking drugs, smoking cigs or throwing up my food after eating. I saw myself in the mirror and was well aware that I had practically no body fat, but I was satisfied with that because I wanted my modeling career to take off and I believed that being super thin was the only way to get there. What I didn't realize, was that I was putting my body in danger. Not all models have to go to this extreme to be as thin as you see me here. Some real women and girls really are that way naturally. My body, however was not built that way, for me it was unnatural and harmful to my health.
When my good friend Darrel Alejandro Holnes saw this picture he prompted me to write a post on body image. At first I thought it would be more like a big reveal on my former self, that my friends may have forgotten. But then I realized it was instead just the beginning or rather a continuation of a bigger conversation. I want people to see that there are many sides and sizes of modeling and that I am not apart of the fashion world just because I am a model. The fashion world of this generation doesn't want women with curves like generations before so that segment of the population (which includes myself) has been kept out of the fashion world for the most part. It also so happens that even I, who knows both sides of the industry, got sucked into thinking to be accepted, I had to be extremely skinny. Perhaps my reasons were different then some girls who live in smaller cities and towns around the world. But it's true, the images that we see of most women in fashion tell us- if you want to be in this world you have to be stick thin, have straight hair and thin features. With this being the prevailing message in much of what we see in top magazines, no wonder we are all striving for this if we are not. We want to be accepted, seen as beautiful and successful. But after really analyzing this I realized, that that standard isn't one I want to go by. Rather, I want to follow a standard that asks me to be healthy, happy, authentic and rooted in my purpose. Never did those things come up when I was flipping through model portfolios and magazines.
I say all this to say, I have been there. I went to the extreme to TRY to be what I thought would make me feel accomplished and accepted by who I thought were the deciders of such things. But when I finally saw that I wasn't really living at all and was shortening my life at that, is when I knew that I had to change my life for good. After that doctor's appointment that day, I started to change my life and gained my weight back slowly. Ironically enough, about a year later I was casted on Project Runway and although I kept a strict regime, I found myself in a world where healthy and fit was beautiful -I mean look at Heidi Klum, she is one healthy, fit and curvy model.
I hope this honest reflection will inspire more girls and women to see that things aren't always what they seem and that all we should be striving for is to be healthy, happy, purposeful people who love and accept themselves by their own standards not by the standards of the media or society. I would love to hear your thoughts on this and for you to share your experiences. Please feel free to drop my an email or leave a comment below!