By: Kate Stafford, Beta Kappa – University of British Columbia President
“Your face is so symmetrical!” “Look at how slim she is…” “Her skin glows like porcelain.”
This is how I am described, supposedly a perfect image of beauty.
My name is Kate, and this is my story. At the age of 14 awkward, brace-faced, and naïve, I was welcomed into the modeling industry. Like many girls, I grew up watching America’s Next Top Model, and I envied their beauty, confidence, and the way they “smized”. When I was offered a two-year contract on my 14th birthday, I finally felt like I had been validated. They thought I was beautiful. It was my stamp of approval.
Highschool felt like one giant roller-coaster ride when it came to my weight. By the time grade 11 hit, I hadn’t had my period for almost two years. That was the first sign something was wrong. Although, upon reflection, there were many signs. I stopped eating peanut butter (one of my favourite foods) because of how many calories it had. I was obsessed with walking everywhere, to burn extra calories. I wouldn’t let anyone plate my food for me because I always had to be in full control. When it came to my doctor’s attention that I wasn’t getting my period, I started seeing a gynecologist at the age of 16 and was going through constant tests to try and understand why. By process of elimination, my low body weight was the answer. The only solution was to gain weight. As happy as my doctor and family were, I was never okay with it. I kept telling myself “I am doing this for my health”, “Everyone else is happy with it”, “This is the right thing” but all of this came crashing down on me June 2012. I was getting ready to move to New York and start my modeling career full time, but all was put on pause after a set of bikini Polaroid’s, which didn’t meet my agency’s standard.
Two and half weeks later, 10 pounds lighter, and mentally exhausted, I was flying to New York. My body may have looked ready, but I was far from it.
What I want everyone to understand is that in the modeling industry, I was nothing but supported by the clients and agencies that I worked for nor was I ever shamed for how I looked. This was an internal battle that I struggled with. I looked for validation from people that surrounded me; it was a competitive industry of thousands of models competing for a couple of jobs. I decided my edge would be my size. I was always going to be the skinniest, so I could fit into that dress that no one else could. I could be the muse that the designer always looked for. I was NEVER going to be told to lose weight again. Not only did this become a competition with other models, it became a competition with myself. It was a game of strategy that I was committed to winning.
My family didn’t know how to deal with me. My hair was falling out, I would have the urge to spit out food while I was eating, and on occasion I would make myself throw up. The hardest thing was that I couldn’t see what everyone else saw.
I spent years battling with my own mind. The mistake that took me down this path was the approval I sought from everyone else. I saw beauty through one lens. I could see the beauty in other people, yet never within myself. I chose to define myself through my size.
It took me years to realise that and even now, I have good days and I have bad days. I still seek help when I can’t keep that internal voice at bay, and likely this is something that I will continue to face. Now I know however, that it is my choice if I let it take control over my life.
What I have learned from this journey is self love. Surround yourselves with the people who love you unconditionally, be generous to yourself, and give yourself that same unconditional love. The people who truly love you don’t care about your size; they care about your happiness, whatever that looks like.
Why do we constantly critique ourselves? And break ourselves down? I had a meeting with a Panhellenic sister the other day about leadership and I gave her one of my biggest learnings as a sorority President: you must nourish yourself, before you can nourish someone else. I challenge you all to nourish yourselves over the next week. Everyday I want you to share a moment of self love with someone and give yourself an act of self love.
- I love that I am authentic and can share my story.
- I went for yoga and lattes with my Little to start my day off right.
That is how I loved myself today.
I love you all from the bottom of my heart.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a eating or body image disorder, the following organizations provide resources and support.