If you’ve accessed the mainstream media in any way over the past week, chances are you’ve heard about and seen photos of Robyn Lawley: the first “plus-size” model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
After many years of working in the modeling industry, Lawley has become an advocate for positive body image and she’s talked openly about not fitting into the industry’s very extreme standards.
“I started to lose weight naturally, because I thought you had to be skinny to be a model, but even at my absolute skinniest, I was not skinny enough to model,” she said on The Ellen Degeneres Show back in 2013.
Now, she simply maintains what she says is a natural weight for her body. However, according to the modeling industry, she’s considered “plus size.”
“A lot of girls write to me and they say, ‘If you’re plus size, than what does that make me?’” she said in a recent interview on Access Hollywood. “And so I’ve always been at the forefront saying, ‘You know what? I’m a model, that’s what I do and it’s other people putting me in categories, because unfortunately on the runway it’s mainly a size zero to a size four, and I am like triple the size of these girls.”
She’s larger than today’s typical model, yet she’s still found success and more importantly, is opening a dialogue about society’s rigid beauty standards and what it really means to look and feel healthy.
“People don’t realize it’s such a journey I’ve been on, of really accepting who I am as my body,” she went on to say. “If I was told as a 16-year-old woman, ‘Oh hey, you’re gonna be in Sports Illustrated one day, so don’t worry,’ I would have been like, ‘No way.’ I just wouldn’t have believed you because I had such hate for my body.”
In her interview with Degeneres, as well as in many of her more recent interviews, Lawley says that her confidence has grown and that now she loves her body because she’s learned to accept her natural size.
“It’s empowering. The more I model, the more I say, ‘I love my body.’ And it actually works,” she said on Ellen. “Saying you love your body actually works. It makes a positive rebound effect and then you start loving your body. You start not caring about the little things. Those little things are so time-consuming. You know, diets and control, and all that, you just want to let go and accept who you are.”
This message comes at an important time when even though the media is beginning to better embrace different body types, research shows that negative body image and self-esteem issues are still widespread, especially among young women.
Lawley’s message also serves as a bold reminder of why exercising and eating well should first and foremost be a means of improving our health, instead of placing the sole focus on enhancing our appearance.
“I’m more about finding your set natural weight, and being happy at that weight. Don’t try to force yourself down,” she said.
Degeneres summed the conversation up nicely saying, “We all need to learn to be comfortable in a healthy body.”