Style

Iskra Lawrence Opens Up About Past Struggles With Eating Disorders and Spring Cleans Her Closet for Charity

Iskra Lawrence is one of the top models in the industry right now and for as long as we can remember, she’s been using her fame for good. By speaking out about her own struggles with disordered eating, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) spokeswoman helps draw attention to serious, life-claiming illnesses like bulimia and anorexia, which affect at least 30 million Americans yearly.

Lawrence’s latest awareness-increasing initiative comes courtesy of eBay for Charity, a platform that allows eBay sellers to donate 10 to 100 percent of their earnings to domestic and foreign causes. (Buyers also have the option of adding a donation to their purchase during checkout.) For its “Spring Cleaning Campaign,” the online auction house invited celebs like Lawrence, Alicia Keys and Sophia Bush to sell items from their wardrobe and donate the proceeds to their nonprofit of choice. (Talk about the life-changing magic of tidying up.) As you may have surmised, all proceeds from sales of Lawrence’s 11 carefully curated pieces (including that cute cropped raglan knit she wore in her SELF cover shoot) will benefit the NEDA.

Ahead of the auction, we chatted with Lawrence about the items she chose to part with, her past struggles with disordered eating and her concerns about the current state of the fashion industry.

theFashionSpot: How did you decide on your auction pieces?

Iskra Lawrence: I definitely wanted to offer up items my followers would’ve seen me in. There’s this really funky, floral print Aerie tracksuit, which I wore a ton of. It was one of the main pieces from the #AerieREAL campaign and it’s just a really fun, rare piece. It’ll never come back — it’s a bright, fashiony fall piece and I’m really excited to give someone else a chance to wear it.

The CB London dress is pretty much the sexiest dress I’ve ever owned — it’s crazy. I did a shoot in London for the cover of my Arcadia magazine and they gifted it to me. It fits your curves perfectly. I wore it out in Miami once — it’s such a hot dress. I really wanna give someone else a chance to rock that. I don’t have as many designer pieces as the next person, but I think this will be a nice opportunity for my followers to be able to keep and enjoy something that I’ve also worn and cherished.

tFS: Are you a longtime eBay shopper? What’s your approach?

IL: The first item I bought from eBay — I was probably around 14 — was a turquoise Juicy Couture tracksuit. I just couldn’t get one in England! EBay’s always been that place for me, like, “Argh, I can’t find this anywhere! Let me check on eBay…” It gives people all around the world access to their favorite brands and I think that’s so wonderful.

tFS: Can you tell us a little bit about your past battles with disordered eating? What helped you adjust your mindset?

IL: When I was younger, I struggled with disordered eating. My body was going through a lot of changes and I was very determined to be in the modeling industry. Back then there was only a smaller sample size and I wasn’t aware of the plus-size industry. I tried everything I could to drop my measurements and it was never enough. My agency dropped me when I was around 15. I continued to do more commercial modeling, still trying to break into the industry. I spent quite a few years still thinking that, in order to succeed, I had to be as slim as possible.

When I finally heard about the plus-size industry, I approached an agency and was told I was too small for plus-size jobs. You can imagine my frustration. After first battling with eating disorders and struggling to get my weight down and then being essentially told to gain weight, I committed myself to promoting healthy body image in the media. As soon as I moved to America (about four years ago), I met with the NEDA. They’re just incredible. They work so hard to reduce the stigma of eating disorders and provide resources (advice, a helpline) to those in need. They also recently launched the Body Project, an eating disorder prevention and early intervention geared toward high schoolers, which I’ve trained in myself. They give so much help to people struggling with eating disorders and their families. It made it make perfect sense to do eBay’s spring clean for their benefit.

tFS: Any advice for those currently struggling?

IL: Self-care is the first step — investing time and energy into looking after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s something I really advocate. I post weekly videos on my YouTube channel that give tips and tricks on how to look after yourself. Sometimes it’s the small things. I would start with the way you look at yourself in the mirror. For many of us, the first thing we do upon waking is look in the mirror and take stock of our own insecurities. It just sets us up for a negative day. Changing that discussion, looking in the mirror and practicing celebrating yourself — picking out the things that you love about your body for what they do rather than just what they look like — it really changes your whole view of yourself.

That relationship is what you have to build on every single day — and it does get easier and easier. When you start to let go of trying to be perfect and trying to fit into someone else’s ideal, it helps erase all those mixed messages that have been ingrained in us since we were young (be tall, be thin, have perfect skin, etc.). We have to let go of those media-driven images and focus on just looking after ourselves and being the best version of ourselves, which, to me, is happy and healthy.

tFS: Do you feel the fashion industry has made a palpable shift toward inclusion?

IL: Definitely. We’ve been moving forward consistently. I think it’s wonderful. A few years ago, people were worried that it was a trend, but it’s really not. It’s about everyone taking responsibility for the images they’re putting out into the world and understanding that diversity is beautiful, so why wouldn’t you celebrate it? The next step is to open the conversation up, get people who are less seen and heard more face time in the media. It’s about pushing that forward now; opening up doors for other people. (I definitely feel represented — I’m white, I’m hourglass shape and I have a lot of privileges.)

tFS: You were one of the more vocal signees of Sara Ziff’s #DearNYFW letter, which called upon agencies, casting directors and designers to promote models’ health and safety (following the release of a study that highlighted the prevalence of eating disorders in the modeling industry). Can you speak a little about that?

IL: I’m great friends with Sara Ziff, who founded the Model Alliance. People are frustrated. As much as we’re moving forward, we’ve still got a long way to go. Around 2 percent of the media shows women over a size 14, meanwhile, 67 percent of women in the U.S. are over a 14. Representation is nowhere near equal. All this progress isn’t enough. We have to keep fighting. I think the letter was a really great starting point. It was great to see how many people were behind it — and it is tricky because I know not everyone is able to use their voice because perhaps they’re not in a place in their career where they can risk being blacklisted…it’s tricky territory. I just don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I’ve been through. That’s why things like the #DearNYFW letter are important. It always makes me so excited to see how many people want the same things as I do. The more voices join in, the more powerful our message will be.

The bidding wars (which began April 11) will continue until Thursday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. EST (as we all know, with eBay, the late, quick-with-the-refresh-button bird gets the worm). Click through the gallery below to bid on Lawrence’s picks, then head over to eBay.com/celebritycloset to see what the rest of the A-list crew has to offer.