My #AerieREAL Body Positivity Story

Yesterday I did yoga in the middle of Times Square with thousands of other yogis to celebrate the longest day of the year – which also happened to be International Yoga Day. Before and during the yoga class that I took with Aerie, inspirational teachers and speakers shared their #AerieREAL story – basically how they’ve come to peace and love with their body. I was moved to share my real body moment – something that I’ve never told anyone before:

I started modeling the summer before high school when I signed with the #1 NYC modeling agency. (This is not an exaggeration; literally every model you know by name is signed with them.) I thought I was going to be inside my favorite magazines which would instantly make me the popular girl at my new school. And I’ll say it was fun – free clothes, free haircuts, people knowing my name and having a hair and makeup team is the best thing ever. I was booking a few small shows and presentations including walking for American Eagle on their new season preview.

Around my sophomore year though, I hit puberty and instead of growing up, I started growing out. I got the dreaded four letter word in modeling: hips. I gained 2 inches on my measurements, and all of a sudden, my agent was calling less frequently. I was told to hit the gym – as a 16 year old. I was starting on my volleyball team; I don’t know how much more of the gym I could happen, so I took control of one thing I knew I could: food. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love food – especially dessert – but that year I was at war with myself. I Googled on my dial-up service how to have an eating disorder. I weighed the pros and cons of being anorexic v. bulimic ultimately siding with bulimia as it would be easier to hide.

It was rough for me to let this dream of being a model slip away from me. I wasn’t being healthy. I definitely wasn’t being loving – to myself or those around me. I was leading a double life all so I could have a 35″ hip measurement. It was only when my coach made an offhanded comment that “being bulimic was stupid because you were just wasting money” that I woke up from the groggy life I’d been living. I was a varsity athlete. My legs were suppose to be muscular; that’s where I got my ability to jump and block. Once I put that into perspective, I realized that while modeling was the “good life,” it wasn’t worth giving up my life for. I wasn’t resigned when my contract ended, but I had already made peace with that.

Now 10 years later, I’ve come full circle to be working with a brand that embraces all body types and refuses to retouch the women in their ads. They’ve partnered with the National Eating Disorder Association to celebrate the flaws that people tell us make us imperfect. It was an honor to stand up on stage (in matching pants with model Isaka no less in!) and represent Aerie and the #AerieREAL campaign. It’s 2017 people – show us the real girl and the real body.