Iskra Lawrence is a total babe, but she struggled to land a spot in fashion editorials. Her body didn’t fit the industry mold for a typical high fashion model. Agents told her she was “too fat to be a model, too short to be a plus size model…” She didn’t back down, and now Iskra is landing huge campaigns.
Friend and photographer Bailey Roberts, alongside stylist Coco Cassibba, took a trip to the watering holes of Woodstock, Upstate New York for a sensual, girly afternoon. Read below as Iskra and Bailey chat about the shifts in the fashion industry, and how that reflects their stance on diversity.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is not accomplishing everything I hope to accomplish.
What do you do during your down time?
During my downtime, I do date-nights with my housemate because we’re both single and we can’t get men. We go to the cinema, and we pick a new restaurant every week. We get dressed up, and feel all “Sex and the City” and we go out. I also love baking, and cooking, and throwing girly dinners, and house parties with my friends.
Favorite places to eat in the city?
My favorite place to eat, because I think I have memories there, is Tao, which, I know what you’re thinking, it’s a really sucky place because it’s commercialized and uppity—but I like going there with my girlfriends.
“I am trying to be the change I wanted to see.”
What’s your favorite place to go out in New York?
My favorite place, and everyone laughs at me, is 1OAK on a Sunday. I don’t care. I love hip hop music, and I drop it low. I turn up on a Sunday.
Do you have any secret spot to go out, or eat?
The best spot in the city is my house, because we have a rooftop on the 36th floor. I cook a mean jerk chicken with rice and peas, and coconut corn; or I also do a very good pad thai.
If you could go back in time, what era would you choose?
Greeks. The Greek Gods. I want to marry Hercules. I want to wear one of those white dresses, and I want to wear a crown. That would be sick. I like feta cheese as well.
What song do you immediately dance to?
[Sings “It’s like Candy”]
Five things you couldn’t live without?
Ice cream, cheesecake, tacos, pizza, pad Thai, and shoes.
If you could change something in the world today what would it be?
That everyone had clean water.
Tell me about your main inspiration for you and your work.
I remember when I was 13, 14, 15, and trying to be a model, and looking at the other models—it was unrelatable. I did these shoots and by the time I got the pictures back I was so airbrushed, it didn’t even look like me. My boyfriend even said, “is that you?” So what inspires me is that knowing there are all those other girls I have a responsibility to try and help. When you’re a teenager you really don’t know who you are yet. Everyone can relate to that journey.
How do you feel that shapes your actions and steps as a role model, not just a model?
With the changing movement, and the impact social media has had in giving people a voice, I feel privileged to be able to represent these girls who’ve never been represented before; and try and create a movement where women build each other up, and we complement each other, and see what else we’re doing, and we’re like “go girl, go get it!” It’s like—let’s work together, let’s try and help each other, and build each other up.
I am trying to be the change I wanted to see. I am trying to be the model I’d wished I’d seen when I was younger, and be like “oh, she’s so cool, she’s just normal like me.” And I am. I am the most normal, down to earth person. I just want girls to realize that you don’t have to be something you’re not, the special thing is just being you, and owning it.
Can you talk to me about what you see as goals for both yourself and your industry?
I actually sat down with my agency at the beginning of the year, and usually they ask girls, “what do you want to achieve this year?” Everyone sits down, and they have a list of clients, or they have what they want their day for you to be; I sat down with a Power Point presentation. I talked about the message that I wanted to bring into the industry, and how I wanted to shape the industry. I’m not trying to get the best campaigns, I’m trying to leave a legacy and make an improvement, so everyone coming through doesn’t have to go through what I went through. The body scrutiny, doing shows, being called fat, not fitting in the clothes, and only being able to wear coats. There’s all sorts of crazy things that happened in my journey.
Tell us about your experience of walking through the world with your body and about how much your physical presence influences the way you move through the world?
At 13 is where my journey began, I’d walk into a store in London, and I’d look around, and I’d be like, “wow, my body doesn’t look like any of these girls.” Sure enough, at agencies they kept measuring my hips every time I went in, and at one point they just said, “your hips are too big, unless you do something about it, we can’t represent you.” I couldn’t. Luckily at the time I was a national swimmer, so I was like “if I don’t eat, I can’t swim.” Again, it was like Rhonda Rousey- she said, “no one wants a do nothin’ bitch” and it’s true. If you can figure out that your body is for more than just what it looks like, that’s a huge step, and I think that is the single reason why I didn’t get an eating disorder.
There was certainly a bunch of times where I’d look in the mirror with insecurity. I remember googling operations to try and make my calves smaller. I mean who the hell told me that my calves are too big? Where have I got that complex from? That’s ridiculous! You have all these things that society has bombarded you with. The modeling industry is basically, you walk into a room, and someone looks at you up and down—and it’s like “no.” You have to realize you’re more than that because if that’s going to define you, you’re fucked. My message is going to be the fact that I’m more than that, and the reason I’m going to get booked as a model is now not because of what I look like, it’s because I’m Iskra, and I have a message, and I have all this experience, and all this power.
Can you pinpoint an “aha” moment where it all made sense?
The “aha” moment is when I was 20, and I’d been doing some plus modeling, but again I went in to Models 1, to try and be a plus model, and they had said to me, “no, you’re too small.” I was like, “are you kidding me? I couldn’t do straight size, now I can’t do plus size, what the hell?” So I begged this tiny agency to take me on. After a year working lots for small, small clients, I said to them that I wanted to apply to go to an agency in New York. They laughed at me, and they said “you will never get to New York because you are not tall enough, and you are not big enough; so we’re not even going to apply.” That moment was literally the, “ok, let me prove your wrong.” That was the aha moment. About a year and half after that happened, I booked Aerie, which was my dream job, and I was walking through Times Square, and I had a freakin’ billboard in Times Square, and I was like “see me now!”