As a model, I feel a responsibility to support young girls and boys who struggle with body image and self-esteem. Words and images deeply impact the way we view our bodies, and the consequences can be very damaging.
The problem starts early, with 40% to 60% of elementary school girls expressing concern about their weight. At an age when children should be imagining, playing and learning, it’s a sad reality that they feel pressure early in life to look a certain way. With the rise of social media and cyber bullying, this problem is becoming more and more serious—so much so that 65% of people with eating disorders say bullying contributed to their condition.
As a model who doesn’t fit into a “straight” size, I’ve experienced some of this bullying through social media. I’ve also been told throughout my modeling career that my body was either too big or too small to book jobs. Over the years, I’ve learned to stand up for myself and never let someone else’s opinion of me become my own. Although when I was a teenager, a mean comment would have hurt me deeply, I’ve made it my mission to be a role model for young girls and boys and help show them that other people’s words or opinions have nothing to do with how beautiful they actually are.
That’s why I stripped down to my bra and underwear last week and covered myself with bags of crisps (also known as potato chips in America). I shot the photo in response to a nasty Instagram comment that had called me a “fat cow” who eats too many crisps. As I’ve grown into myself, I’ve learned not to pay attention to these comments or let them change how I feel about myself.
I decided to call out this bully on Instagram, not for me, but for my followers—especially the young girls and boys who struggle with body image and may read these hateful words and take them to heart. Words are powerful, but mean words don’t stand a chance against self-worth and little bit of humor.
Eating crisps and giving the middle finger to an Internet troll is my jovial way of showing my followers that nasty comments can be laughed at. It was also a way to give a visible voice to the voiceless—the people who deal with bullying and fat shaming every day—and show them that they can stand up for themselves. Since sharing the post, I’ve been blown away by the incredible response, from likes and regrams to direct messages from my followers. To see such a massive reaction to this silly picture shows the power of humor on self-empowerment.
Iskra Lawrence is a model and ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association.