Ayesha Perry-Iqbal is truly living her best life. A Welsh Native, she is the only Pakistani plus sized model in the US. Her credits including working with Pretty Little Thing, Fashion Nova, BooHoo, and Fenty Beauty as well as Forever21, among many others.
But Perry-Iqbal is more than a pretty face. She’s using her blog and social media to help encourage other women to feel good in their own skin. I recently spoke with this amazing woman about body positivity, the industry and her upcoming projects. She wasn’t afraid to be completely real.
What is it like being the only Pakistani plus-size model in the US?
Being the only Pakistani plus model in the US hasn’t been easy. I’ve experienced companies not contracting me because ‘my ethnicity is a risk.’ Yet, at the same time I feel like things happen for a reason, and all the no’s I have received are just more motivating factors to work harder and change the perspective on how the industry views women of my background and even size.
What do you love about your body?
I love my entire body—all of it. It’s mine and when you love your body you do what’s best for it.
Are there things you wish you could change about your body?
I have insecurities, just like every [other] person. I used to hate being hairy and having smaller boobs, but over time I have learned to love myself just the way I am. And honestly there is nothing I wish I could change. I am alive, well and I have all my limbs—I appreciate that luxury.
What is your fitness routine like?
I love to do exercises that involve other people because it motivates me. For example, I enjoy taking Rumble boxing, or even a hip-hop dance class. Due to my busy schedule, my goal is to always workout 3-4 times a week. Whether I’m exercising by going on a hike, boxing, MMA training or even dancing, working out is one of my priorities.
Do you adhere to any particular eating style or diet?
I like to eat a healthy balanced diet. I have psoriasis so I know there are certain foods that cause my skin irritation so I try to stay away from them as much as possible. Yet, I occasionally have ice cream, fatty foods, and alcohol. Other than that I believe everything should be taken in moderation.
Have you always felt positive about your body?
Not always. In college, I was told that I had to be skinny to make it as an actress. So, I lost a lot of weight, which led me to be hospitalized due to malnutrition. I suffered terribly with body dysmorphia.
But when I made the decision to live with a healthier lifestyle, I was the happiest. It was when I worked hard to be healthy at my natural weight that I learned how to love my body just the way it is.
Being body positive is much more than just accepting your body — it’s loving your body at every stage that it’s in and loving yourself enough to make the best and healthiest decisions for you.
What misconceptions do people have about plus-size models?
People generally think that all plus models eat badly, don’t exercise and generally don’t care about their health. But this is not true. Plus size models come in many shapes and sizes and also heights. Curvy models can have flat stomachs with curves, like myself, and or can have more of an abdominal area as well. But people think that because a model is considered ‘plus-size’ or ‘curvy’ they have to look much larger than expected. Ultimately, plus size models are all models larger than a size 6 in the high fashion industry, and to me that is not correct. A model that is size 2 or 12 is a model, period.
Do plus-size models have challenges that straight sized models do not?
Yes. The fashion industry has only had straight size models for decades, so plus size models now have to work harder to be taken seriously. I can have the exact same experience as a smaller model, same look and even similar personality, but it doesn’t guarantee that I will book a job. Even though many companies are now realizing that models should not just be one size, unfortunately the majority of the fashion world is still afraid of expanding their size range and introducing larger women. Plus size models are still the minority, which makes us have to prove ourselves more.
Do you have any advice for those struggling to feel positive about their own bodies?
What I can truly share is that your physical body does not define who you are. Your inner person and character are the most important, and when you are healthy inside then you can work towards being your best version of yourself on the outside – no matter what that looks like. You can’t expect for the world to love you if you don’t start by loving yourself first.