Model Iskra Lawrence on 'mission to change the industry,' forging her own path

·Senior Reporter
·5 min read

Iskra Lawrence is a model, entrepreneur, and influencer with nearly 5 million followers on Instagram — but her journey to success was not always an easy one.

"As someone who has always been an advocate for self love and self acceptance, it was very challenging [as a model] because I was met with a lot of barriers," Lawrence told Yahoo Finance during a recent interview.

She explained that she was rejected from mainstream agencies for being "too big" and plus-size agencies for being "too small," adding that she embarked on a "mission" to "change the industry."

It's a goal she's been able to witness first hand, after advocating for un-retouched photos and doubling down on her personal and professional mantra that people are worthy just the way they are.

"Everyone at some point in their lives has not felt enough, no matter what career they are in, whatever community they're in...we're just pulled in multiple different directions about the type of person that we should be," Lawrence said, referencing her own experience.

"It's really tricky when you're trying to build your self worth," the model continued, explaining that she encourages people "to build a value and worth system that is based on their characteristics, or their talents, or the things that they put into the world" — not just looks and appearances.

British model Iskra Lawrence presents a creation for L'Oreal during the Women's Spring-Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection fashion show at the Monnaie de Paris, in Paris on September 28, 2019.
British model Iskra Lawrence presents a creation for L'Oreal during the Women's Spring-Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection fashion show at the Monnaie de Paris, in Paris on September 28, 2019.

Yet that mindset can be muddled on social media, and it's often a double-edged sword for creators who rely on the platforms for reach, but can easily get trapped within the noise, and the push for engagement.

"This generation is really trying to figure out how they use social media in a positive way, but also have boundaries set so that it doesn't consume them and make them fall into this compare and despair," Lawrence, who frequently posts about her personal and professional life online, told Yahoo Finance.

"Everyone at some point in their lives has not felt enough..."Iskra Lawrence, Model, Entrepreneur & Influencer

The model added that boundaries are important for her own mental health as well, admitting that she's still learning to balance the content creation side with her own personal consumption.

"I meet a lot of creators who do struggle, and sometimes they have to delete the app off of their phone because it feels overwhelming," the model noted, emphasizing that social media should be a positive influence. Otherwise, it's important to take a step back.

To combat mental health struggles, Lawrence created the Self Funding Planner, which includes goal-setting, supportive prompts, inspiring quotes, and self care check-ins to help users invest in themselves.

Additionally, the model recently unveiled a new skincare line, Saltair, which includes body serums and washes.

"Our tagline is 'everyone is welcome here.' I always knew that my end goal was creating brands that really truly cared about inclusion, the message they were spreading, and the images that they were portraying," the entrepreneur said.

'I was definitely exploited'

(Courtesy: Iskra Lawrence / Instagram)
(Courtesy: Iskra Lawrence / Instagram)

Despite Lawrence's professional success, her career began with little to no pay — something she rationalized at the time in order to book gigs.

"I was definitely getting exploited, I was definitely working for free. I was definitely signing a lot of rights away to my images," the model acknowledged.

"I've learned a lot, but unfortunately, I think there is still a lack of protection from modeling agencies in general," she explained, lamenting the industry's lack of transparency.

"I personally felt like I was employed by them when, in reality, you're the model, you're the client, and you pay the agency commission," she said.

Lawrence credits her online growth as a way out, explaining that her social media following allowed her the leverage to call out unfair clauses in her contract and find the brands she wanted to work with.

"It's really important for models to know they do have a voice. We are definitely made to feel like if you're difficult, you won't work...there's a lot of politics within the industry," she added.

A shift in perspective on race

Outside of her professional life, Lawrence has gained popularity as a new mom, often posting about the struggles and realities of motherhood. But Lawrence has an added layer of perspective as the mother of a mixed raced baby.

After the murder of George Floyd, the model posted a lengthy Instagram that read in part, "As your mother I will protect you in anyway I can. But I know that will never be enough. Your skin colour will impact your life in a way I will never be able to understand. Your father will have to teach you things as a privileged white child I never had to learn."

Lawrence said the experience of raising a biracial child has transformed her life and heavily influenced her parenting style so far.

"It has completely shifted my perspective. I have a privileged life." She explained that meeting her Black partner, Philip, made her realize that "I was able to choose when I thought about racism."

She added: "There is just a constant challenge of being aware and having these open conversations from day one with our child and with my partner about how I'm doing and what I can do more of."

Lawrence tries to select books where her son can feel represented, and frequently analyzes the communities she's a part of to make sure that they are diverse.

"There's going to be so many different challenges that will be different for us raising a biracial child...we're having these conversations consistently," she concluded.

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit