Earlier this month, an internet troll accused "plus-size model" and ex-national swimmer Iskra Lawrence of promoting obesity. With eloquent points like "Plus-size models? Give me a F*****g breaking" and "Everyone needs to stop eating McDonald’s, the NHS is f****d because of people like her eating too many bags of crisps", it showed, once again, how bitterly ignorant the internet can be.
Sadly, you will have heard similar body shaming stories many times before, where women are abused online for their appearance. What you may not have heard, is the victim turning around and flipping her online body-shamers the proverbial finger – by asking photographers to shoot her covered in bags of crisps, and then filming an epic slow mo of her eating them. Win.
Iskra’s quick and clever reaction garnered her a huge amount of positive feedback and coverage. In the same week that Amy Schumer was shouting down Glamour for including her in their ‘Chic At Any Size’ issue, Iskra (who had a six-page spread in the same issue) was celebrating her own body louder than ever.
We caught up with the Worcestershire-born model to talk body positivity, trolls, and why everyone needs to get over labels…
So first thing's first Iskra, that epic crisp film. Tell us how that came about…
It’s really out of character and it took a lot to push me to that. I had a girl who runs one of the fan pages message me saying she’d been so upset by a comment that she’d been crying and it really hurt her. I read it and I was like ‘Oh, no.’
Sadly, you’ve seen this before. Why did this particular comment really piss you off?
It felt like it wasn’t even attacking me, it was the way it said ‘people like you who...' They were attacking SO many people.
Then you just thought ‘screw it! I’m going to eat crisps in my bra and pants…’?!
I thought: I have the visibility, I have the platform to do this. And I just happened to be on set in my underwear, and we shot it in five minutes. I had no idea the momentum it would gather.
Well, congratulations! The world definitely needs more plus-size role models like yourself. And on that note, where do you stand on the label ‘plus size’?
I’m a UK 14 and I get people commenting on my pictures saying ‘if she’s plus-size, what am I?’ It could be kept as an industry term – but it’s not. So you’re basically labelling half the population plus size because the fashion industry have labelled me.
✨😝Had to make a #slow-mo too😂...This is for anyone who has ever been called FAT. Thanks for the inspirational words on a recent pic @zseanzbrown 👇🏼 "Fat cow. It's only cus every F****r on this planet is obese that that's the norm... Plus-size models? give me a F*****g breaking. Everyone needs to stop eating McDonald's, the NHS is f****d because of people like her eating too many bags of crisps." Ps I do not condone binge eating. I eat whatever I want in moderation. I will eat crisps but I'll also make healthy home cooked meals and workout regularly. The message is who gives a F what anyone else thinks of you. YOU are the only one who decides yourself worth✨ And sorry I'm usually not rude or give anyone the finger but these online trolls smdh 😂😂😂 #iskralawrence #everyBODYisbeautiful
A video posted by 🌙iskra✨ (@iamiskra) on Apr 1, 2016 at 10:45am PDT
Right, so it’s a convenient label for the industry that has been translated into a negative label for anyone who isn’t 'skinny'?
Yes, and people don’t want to be labelled. Firstly because why should 50% of women be labelled when the other 50% aren’t? And secondly ‘plus size’ has negative connotations. If you’re a UK 16 and over, you can’t generally shop at the same stores. And you definitely can’t shop the same collections. You have to shop in a basement or online. You are not treated equally; you’re excluded from fashion.
You were also in Glamour’s recent ‘Chic At Any Size’ issue. What did you think of Amy Schumer’s reaction to that?
She’s entitled to her opinion. She’s been such a great figure for empowering women. I think it was a misread situation.
Right, and essentially, if we didn’t feel the need to label women we wouldn’t have the need to argue over details like what size someone is and whether that makes them plus size or not…
If we could stop labelling all women and treat them equally, I think it would just be a huge step forward. That’s what I’m trying to campaign for. It’s not just size, it’s exclusiveness. And just treating everyone fairly and giving them all the same opportunity to be a part of fashion.
How is social media helping you and other plus-size models get more of the limelight?
If we want to get where Cara is and anywhere near where Kendall is, we have to become a brand and a personality. Because we don’t get those castings. I’ve never had a beauty casting at their size, or a hair or fragrance casting. I want to really make my mark on the industry but I know my size is going to hold me back.
What’s the online reaction been like to the film?
I’ve gone from 1.3 million followers to 1.7 million in a week. And out of thousands of comments, only five said I was promoting obesity. They were like ‘I can’t believe you’re going to eat all those crisps.’ I was like ‘obviously it was a joke!’ You just have to go to these extremes to get people’s attention.
Follow Iskra Lawrence on Instagram @iamiskra
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