Welcome to our brand-new series Wonder Women. Throughout the month, we’ll be profiling the women who inspire us and asking them to share the secrets to their success—how they keep motivated, think positive and strive towards their goals. No one’s perfect, remember, so we’ll be encouraging them to share the strategies they employ whenever anxiety kicks in or life’s stresses have got them down. Life is a journey, we’re all a work in progress and these wonder women can help guide us. This week, British model Iskra Lawrence teaches us all a lesson in setting and achieving goals.
It took me precisely seven seconds from the moment I met her to realise I wanted to be Iskra Lawrence’s friend. I mean, of course, I had my inklings: Her Instagram feed is basically a visual self-help guide, offering some 3.9 million followers realistic, positive and supportive advice to become a happier, healthier you—the kind of vibes we could use more of in our lives. But as I found out when I met with her at the launch of her new health app, everyBODY With Iskra, she’s even sunnier in real life.
Just as you’d expect from somebody who’s made it her life mission to topple the walls surrounding body positivity and inclusivity in the fashion industry, this app is the complete antidote to the glut of guilt-laden, calorie-counting health plans, offering realistic and (dare I say it?) fun workouts that don’t come with a heap of backlash should you skip a session, as well as healthy recipes and loads of useful advice from a range of experts. A true maverick in her field, here Lawrence shares her love of a Powerpoint presentation and her advice for becoming a better you in 2018.
BYRDIE: To outsiders and your Instagram followers, you appear as a super-confident, bright and inspiring woman—but have you always felt this confident?
ISKRA LAWRENCE: No, I definitely haven’t always felt confident. Confidence is something that even when you think you have it figured out you can still have a day when you feel like you’ve lost it all and you can be in a really dark place. I now focus a lot of my time on self-care and figuring out what makes me happy and what makes me feel worthy, and I’ve found that honestly, it’s the more time I spend on other people—being there for my friends, giving out good energy—the more I feel value and worth. More than any [magazine] cover or anything I do work-wise. I also think self-validation is so important and taking ownership of your own goals and aspirations. If you have all of your confidence, love and attention held in the hands of someone else and then they disappear or something happens, you’re left with nothing. You’ve got to be able to hold all of that power in yourself.
You’ve become a role model to so many women around the world. How does that responsibility make you feel?
It can be scary at times. I’m very, very conscious of it and of how I speak because I’m so aware that people can be fragile, especially online. It’s so easy to just post something that could then offend someone, so I definitely take it very seriously. But I think it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I love knowing I can potentially inspire somebody or even just make someone smile or make them realise that they’re good enough.
You’re obviously a kickass businesswoman, but do you ever find yourself procrastinating? And if so, how do you get yourself back on track?
Weirdly, my procrastination isn’t really anything. It’s not even going on to social media; it’s just running around like a headless chicken and managing to be late for something. This year, I’m really taking the issue seriously by investing in a house with more space so I can really organize myself—generally when I procrastinate, it’s because I’m disorganized and just panicking a little, and all I need to do is breathe and take my time. Meditation helps. The weird thing about meditation is the less time you think you have for yourself, the more you need to make time for yourself. Just taking 10 minutes to just sit there, no phone getting in the way really makes you realise that time goes slower than you think. When you’re on your phone or running around doing things, a minute feels like 10 seconds, but when you’re meditating, it slows everything down.
Your approach to fitness and health is really refreshing. What advice would you give to anyone feeling a bit unmotivated or disheartened about the whole culture surrounding fitness?
Remember that you’re doing this for yourself and nobody else. You should enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, maybe you haven’t found what you like yet. It’s so important to try new things. Take boxing, for example—one of my best friends used to hate the gym and never wanted to go, but then she found boxing and now she can’t get enough. She finds it super empowering. It’s definitely about listening to what you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to go. And keep trying new things. It could be something simple like a dance class or hiking with your friends, or it could be something at home.
Your new app puts a great amount of weight on creating a safe space. Why do you think that’s so necessary right now?
I mean women are just being attacked left, right and center right now, and not just for the way we look, but also for the way we portray ourselves. And women have gone through a lot this past year. And so I think for women to feel like they can put themselves out there, it’s going to take a safety net. We all need to feel valued and good enough, so that’s why there has to be a safe space, which I’ve tried to provide with my app. Deep down, we all want to feel good and know how to look after ourselves, so the app allows you to do that with no guilt around it. It just offers tools and advice to help with how to move your body and how to nourish your body.
When you first wake up, what do you do?
Water. Like, literally, a lot of water. It wakes me up. I’m one of those people who as soon as my alarm goes off, I’m up. So I think the water helps wake me up and refreshes me. And I make a conscious decision for my phone not to be the first thing I do. It will be water and the brushing my teeth or opening my blinds. It will not be my phone. I refuse to give it that much power over myself.
You’re very big on self-care. What does that term mean to you?
Self-care means investing time into yourself, and it looks different for every single person. It’s finding out what makes you feel zen, happy and confident. My friend Hannah is obsessed with baths, so for her, running a bath and lighting candles are the little things she does for her and nobody else, and she’ll spend that time with herself. I love going to the cinema, cooking and playing board games. All of those things are still taking time out. Think about what you did for yourself in 2017, not for work, not for Instagram, not for anyone else, just something for you. It could be bird-watching—I don’t care. It’s that investment in yourself.
What’s your go-to exercise for when you need to fight stress?
I love yoga. I think, for me, it’s a great stress-buster, as I don’t think of anything else except my breathing and my poses while I do it. For me personally, I just can’t feel stressed whilst doing yoga. Maybe you don’t feel like that with yoga or a new exercise you’ve just started, as it can be stressful constantly thinking Am I doing this right? Just start slowly. Any good yoga teacher will say if you have to do child’s pose for the entire session, it’s okay.
Do you set yourself goals?
At the start of every year, I create a vision board for the things I want to work on or achieve and a Powerpoint presentation breaking things down into smaller, more achievable goals. Then throughout the year, I always look back and check in on the progress I’ve made. I totally believe in setting intentions, but we do have to work to achieve them. The saying goes “Dream, believe, achieve,” but the way I see it, it’s more “Dream, believe, hustle, achieve.”
This year, one of my main goals is to tackle the beauty industry and bring more body positivity to this space. I want to see more realistic bodies in beauty campaigns and all of those things because we all want to feel great and we all want lovely shiny hair or whatever it might be and so I would love to bring a bit of realness to that. I also have some business goals and getting more involved in product development with the brands I work with like Aerie. Oh, and I’m buying a house, so that’s on my vision board.
Finally, if you could give our readers just one piece of advice for excelling in 2018, what would it be?
I think it’s about defining who you are. That’s not to say that you know it all and that it can’t change, but figuring out who you are is so important because the only way you will succeed is in trying to be the best you—because no one else can be you. When you know exactly who you are, and when you’re in your own lane, it frees you from competition and jealousy and feeling inferior because you’re just being you. And do it unapologetically. Make those decisions and say yes, but also find the strength to say no.