Like many young girls, Sarah Lea aspired to be a model.
It's not an uncommon aspiration. For millions of girls just like Sarah, modeling represents a glamorous lifestyle that is associated with beauty, love and acceptance.
At the age of 14, Sarah was scouted as a model in her home of South Africa, but was soon hit with the harsh realities of the industry—not being able to meet the unattainable beauty standards, but she was determined to not let her measurements get in the way of achieving her dreams.
She began modeling straight sizes in Asia, but felt like no matter what she did, her hard work would never pay off in the industry.
“I remember eating only a bowl of lettuce a day to try and keep up with the girls that were naturally stick thin. I realized something is just not right here - we are not the same, I am naturally curvy and no matter how many salads I eat I will never fit the standards of a size 0 Russian model; as women we are NOT all built the same, even though the industry forced us to believe we are or should be, and that we would be failures if we couldn't fit into that ideal of what a woman should be. I rebelled, and spent two long hard years overcoming almost a decade of false ideas of who I should be in this world and if I am still beautiful and worthy of love, regardless of my size."
Sarah is considered an "in-between" size meaning she is neither straight-sized nor plus-sized. The "in-betweeners" are the most underrepresented set of sizes in the industry. For this, Sarah experienced years scrutiny from an industry that told her she wasn't good enough based on her natural build.
A lot of what the fashion industry promotes seems to be just black and white when it comes to sizing. There is no real in between, there is no gray area for which most of us fall into. This type of messaging has a tendency to make girls and women feel left out or as if their bodies are less important because they are neither "this" nor "that."
It took several years for Sarah to recover from the harmful mindset instilled in her by the modeling industry but after finding Healthy is the New Skinny online, it reinforced her efforts to put health above the beauty ideal.
"HNS has helped me to see how many like minded women there are that are all on the same page. It has given me such comfort in this journey to know how many people I resonate with and who resonates with me, who understands and goes through the same feelings, thoughts, doubts, worries and experiences on a daily basis."
After taking some time off of modeling, Sarah decided to jump back in, this time at her healthy natural size. She was signed to Natural Models this spring and continues on her journey to self-love.