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One of the reasons you’re seeing fewer retouched models in ad campaigns? Iskra Lawrence. When negotiating her contracts with brands like Aerie, and most recently SHEIN, the model has successfully campaigned to show unretouched, natural beauty — pores, lumps, bumps and all. What’s more, she’s worked with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to establish the NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval, which recognizes social responsibility in advertising, image and editorial content.
But for Lawrence, going filter-free doesn’t stop with photoshoots — it’s a way of life. When speaking with the face of SHEIN’s Fall 2020 Curve Collection by phone this month, the new mom told us the kind of things that no one else will about having a baby, including the perils of pumping while peeing, why dropping baby weight isn’t always a feel-good thing, and despite the emotional highs, sometimes a girl has just got to tap out. Ahead, see how no-filter Lawrence brings transparency into every aspect of self-care, ugly cries and all.
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On tapping out as a self-care strategy
To me, self-care is about knowing your worth and investing in yourself by taking the time to figure out how to look after yourself inside and out. It isn’t just a one-and-done thing or about taking a course or [spending] a weekend away; It’s a continuous journey in which we should check in and re-evaluate the best way to take care of ourselves because we evolve constantly.
On navigating the emotional highs and lows of new motherhood
I’ve just transitioned into being a mother and that has played a huge role in determining how I feel about myself. I have felt far more emotional than I’ve ever felt in my life before. As a mother, I feel things so much harder, deeper, and more instantaneously — and that goes in both directions. I have feelings of ecstatic elation, joy and love. At the same time, I have these really dark, isolating, fearful confused feelings, too. You’re just really unstable physically because your body has changed. You’ve held something for nine months, which isn’t there anymore, so there’s that feeling of loss. Then you’re having to share that emotional connection with your baby with other people.
As a mom, I want to do as much as I can, but not break myself.
I also definitely struggle [with] sleep deprivation. There [are] so many different changes. There were a couple of nights when my milk was blocked and I was an emotional mess. One thing I have to do is just be honest about how I’m feeling. I have to cry when I want to cry, which is quite a lot. I have to tap out sometimes and say ‘I can’t do this’.
Luckily, my parents and partner have been there to take over and make sure our baby was okay, but you have to look after yourself, too. As a mom, I want to do as much as I can, but not break myself. I think that’s really important to ask for help and know that if it’s all gone tits-up, and your baby is screaming and your milk’s gone or whatever it might be, that’s normal.
On working mom goals
It’s also important that I work toward a career goal and not let that part of me disappear. It’s definitely very hard because my baby is a priority, but I’m trying to balance and make sure that I’m working toward [brand] partnerships, too.
When [you’re] a mother, expectations change. Especially if you’re a model, there’s this idea of: Can you still do what you used to do? Are you still going to be able to shoot? Is your body going to feel the same way? Are you going to look the same as you did before? Is anybody going to want you? There are all these conflicting notions of self-doubt that can creep in.
So when I got a call from SHEIN to do the Fall 2020 Curve Collection four months postpartum, it felt like a big win for me to get back in the ring and for inclusion and real, natural beauty, too, because they said they wanted to be inclusive [with the campaign]. Then, I asked if we could make the campaign unretouched and they agreed, which is really, really cool.
Front the collection, I’ve been living in the SHEIN Plus Asymmetrical Neck Buckle Belted Jumpsuit. It feels premium and designer and I love that it has a proper belt with notches, so you can really cinch in the waist and let those curves shine. It’s also got pockets — and it’s a sleek pocket. Sometimes, you can see the lining with jumpsuits but this one fits perfectly and tapers into the leg without being too tight. It’s stretchy and comfortable but it looks like it has so much structure. It looks like a $500 jumpsuit; It’s a complete winner to me. I’ve also been wearing SHEIN Plus Surplice Wrap Knot Side Swiss Dot Dress non-stop. That one’s really sweet. It’s perfect for summer, but you can also take it in fall and put it with a nice little boot.
There’s another amazing piece I love, SHEIN Plus Notch Collar Frayed Trim Pearl Double Button Tweed Blazer, which reminds me of Clueless. It’s a stretchy tweed. Basically, the biggest win is that every piece in the collection that needs to be stretchy is stretchy and the things that don’t need to be stretched aren’t, so it’s really clever the way it fits.
On squeezing in skincare
There’s definitely a point where hair was not getting washed or brushed and there was no moisturizer going on my body. I still don’t feel like I have time to have a bath. I would love to have a bath at some point, but for now, it’s about just taking a few minutes to grab a shower, wash my hair and do something for me, like some nice skincare.
I’m a big fan of Bio-Oil. I used it through my pregnancy and I continue to use it as my skin shrinks back. Obviously, there’s new lumps and bumps and all those things and I’ve definitely been putting that on every time I shower. I use it on my skin and as a cuticle oil. I’ve been using natural deodorant since I was pregnant. Each and Every Worry-Free Deodorant is the one that works for me.
When I get a moment, I love a bit of self-tanner as TLC and use Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water about every three weeks. It’s a spray-on and so easy. When I have to wake up at 6 a.m., I put on Cocokind Organic Rosewater Facial Toner to wake me up. It’s a really nice glowy spray. Then I put on L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensive Hyaluronic Acid Serum. I also love the Cocokind Texture Smoothing Cream and EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 — for me, that’s a winner because I live somewhere hot and it’s never broken me out.
On nutrition for two
When I was pregnant I was eating really nourishingly and being very considerate that my food was growing my baby. I was going to continue that through postpartum, but I became completely sleep-deprived and I have no time to cook the way I was cooking before, when and my partner and I made fresh chicken and vegetables and smoothies every day.
My midwife said I needed to eat 4000 calories a day while breastfeeding and I wasn’t eating enough. I found that postpartum I felt really slim and not in a healthy way. The baby weight disappeared, to which, I know that some people would say ‘lucky for you’, but losing weight isn’t always a positive thing, especially if you’re someone who has struggled with disordered eating in the past. It’s like, ‘oh no, this doesn’t feel good’. Then my milk supply dropped and I had low energy so I essentially had to grab any food that I could.
Losing weight isn’t always a positive thing, especially if you’re someone who has struggled with disordered eating.
I read up about what helps lactation and was able to figure out how to make lactation oatmeal every single morning. I food prep it on a Sunday and it has all the ingredients and nutrients that I need. I make it with some kind of nut milk, ground flax, cinnamon, coconut oil (because you have to get those good fats in) and yeast and oats. I’ve been making homemade jam and having it with fruits, so that’s a continual thing I’ve included in every morning for breakfast.
Eventually, I also started creating my own lactation cookies. Lactation cookie mixes are very expensive— they’re like $25 for one bag of lactation cookie mix and they aren’t even baked! I was like, ‘no way! I’m making it myself.’ So I started playing with recipes and have perfected the lactation cookie, which I’m very proud of. I went from having no milk supply when my baby was three or four weeks old to pumping four times a day.
On capturing attainable beauty as mental health
Seeing retouched images has given us an unrealistic expectation of beauty and one that’s completely unattainable. It’s in everything. Everywhere we look, there’s that filter of airbrush over it. But peeling that back and allowing ourselves to know that we’re imperfect? It’s empowering to be imperfect. It’s really beautiful to see those imperfections and capture that and be proud of them, because, yes, it’s a physical image but it’s also attached to your mental health and well-being because it’s essentially giving you permission to show up imperfectly as yourself.
That’s so important because there is so much pressure and expectations put on us to not only look perfect, but to have this perfect life and job or be this perfect mother. I’ve certainly felt a huge amount of pressure to figure out what perfect looks like and be that. When you’re setting yourself up for that, it’s only going to hurt when you can never attain it.