THE BLOG

The Words That Made Me Embrace My Body Image

01/18/2016 05:04 EST | Updated 01/18/2017 05:12 EST
Jim Arbogast via Getty Images

Am I good enough? This is the question that I was brave enough to ask my modeling agent when I was 16 years old. It all started when I was in High School at a career fair. I remember a woman came up to me. She gave me her business card and said I should consider modeling. I was 5'9 and a size 4. I didn't think that I was good enough to be a model because I weighed more than 120 pounds. I read in a magazine that Supermodels weigh less than that.

It was then that I put myself on a diet. I became very conscious about my body image. I did not want to fail the woman who believed in me and my girlfriends at school who were super excited for me. I went to the drug store to purchase diet pills and laxatives. Chicken and lettuce without dressing became a regular meal for me. Whenever I had a sweet tooth, I would drink weight-loss protein shakes. I would also work-out everyday. My body was exhausted. Family members and friends started to notice my dramatic weight loss and became concerned, but I never shared what I was doing with anyone.

I became so ashamed of myself for trying to change my body so drastically just so I could model.

Thinking back, it is so sad to know that so many young girls struggle with bulimia, anemia and anorexia just to achieve what they perceive as normal. My fear of failure was pushing me towards a breaking point. I felt really stressed.

I remember the day my agent told me to lose 2 inches off my hips and that my thighs were getting too big. She suggested that I try yoga to tone down. I was devastated. She didn't see how hard I was trying to be thin. I was dieting and hardly eating just to keep my stick-thin frame. It was then that I decided to give up on modeling because I was ruining my body. I did not like how I looked. I lost my curves, and I felt like I was shaped like a boy, with very narrow hips.

Months passed, and I saw the same agent again. She asked me why I had avoided her calls. I responded with my head down, explaining that I had gained weight. To my surprise, she said that there are other divisions for me and that she could represent me as a plus-sized model. I never knew I had other options in the modeling industry. I asked her if I was good enough, and she responded with a resounding yes. This was the type of affirmation that I needed to hear because I felt that I had failed as a straight sized model when I gained weight. I was wrong!

Today, I am a size 16 plus-size model. I am healthy and comfortable with my body. I love that more curvy women and diverse shapes are being represented in the fashion industry, magazines, advertisement and web campaigns. We are headed in the right direction. I support these positives changes as diversity should be what is beautiful.

However, I still feel that women are sometimes being given the wrong messages about their bodies from different sources. We are told one minute that being skinny is beautiful then that curves are beautiful and next that skinny is back in style again. These are confusing messages for young girls and women. How can our body sizes go in and out of style? I think that the biggest drawback in the field of modeling today is that there is still pressure on some models to be thin. Even as a plus-size model, I have been told by management to gain weight then suddenly to lose weight.

Through my career as a plus-size model, my mission has been to promote positive body image and self-esteem. I want to help change the boundaries of fashion, and I want to continue modeling, but I will absolutely not change who I am to do so. I am a strong believer in accepting who you are and truly being proud. I think that beauty is not defined by a woman's size, and that all shapes and sizes should be celebrated. We are all beautiful in our own unique way, and I now know that I am good enough. We need to seek inspiration from the things we believe in, not in emulating a certain shape or size.

Through my own experience, I discovered that I am good enough as a curvy dark and lovely woman pursuing a modeling career. The journey to this discovery has not been an easy one, and even though every once in a while people comment that what I am doing is easy when they recognize me on the streets from a TV interview or Magazine article, it is not easy, and it is not meant to be easy.

In my situation, I learned how to persevere despite rejection and intense body-image issues. In your own personal case, whatever it may be, you can also become successful on the paths you choose to explore. Since we all have the power to choose which paths to take in life, we also have the power to accept setbacks and criticisms as valuable tools rather than viewing them purely as failures or wastes of time.

You are bound to experience feelings of self-doubt or worthlessness along the way, but these feeling will pass. You cannot achieve great things without trying and failing, but you are good enough.

Eventually, you will find your bearings. Don't let anyone convince you that you are incapable of doing something. You possess your own set of unique strengths and weaknesses, but it is up to you to decide which strengths to nurture and perfect, and which weaknesses to accept as being out of your control and not worth dwelling on.