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Iskra Lawrence On The Power Of Saying No

Welcome to Refinery29's Why I Do It, a series where we ask inspirational, successful people 29 questions about what fuels them on and off the clock. Because, let's face it: life is about so much more than chasing inbox zero.
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Iskra Lawrence began her career as a model during her teenage years, and has spent the vast majority of her career advocating for body diversity in the fashion and modeling industry. She was named the first AerieReal Role Model, has given a TEDx Talk about body positivity, and has been an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. Now, at 32, she's a mom, a business owner, and an investor. Here's why she does it.
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What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up? Drink water and shower with our Saltair Serum Body wash, or else I’m a walking zombie.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed? Kiss my son, Philip, and tell him I love him — even if he’s asleep.
Power nap or power workout? Right now, it’s power clean my house or power through a Zoom meeting.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl for sure, but I can only kick it to 10 p.m. these days.
How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? 150.
Iced coffee or hot coffee? Neither, I’m a water and juice girl.
What’s your favorite thing that you keep on your desk or work space? My Self Funding Planner. It actually keeps my life together; I can’t live without it.
When was the last time you felt like a success? When I got my negative COVID test after the whole household was sick for two weeks.
What do you do on those days when you don’t feel that confident (or fearless or powerful)? I do affirmations in the mirror, tell my partner I need support, and try to take extra time in the shower to reset. Then, I slap some makeup on and an outfit that makes me feel more together. I make sure I eat a yummy breakfast, and usually by then I’m reminded that I’m a badass and I look forward to the rest of the day.
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What’s one thing you do every day, without fail? Nourish my body. There was a time when I had a rocky relationship with food and my body, and I’ll never forget how good feeling free around food feels, so I make sure I cherish it everyday and eat food that I enjoy and is nourishing.
What’s something you wish you did every day? I wish I got eight hours of sleep everyday.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? My mom says, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” so I always, always self-advocate and advocate for others.
What’s your least-favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? Be a yes person. You can have a yes mindset for sure, but feeling like it’s not okay to say no will lead to some serious burnout and being taken advantage of. Sometimes you have to say no, and sometimes it’ll be the most liberating and powerful thing you can say. 
Who inspires you the most? There are too many inspirational people in my life to single out one person. I would say something in others that inspires me is having the trait of patience. It’s something I can struggle with and when I watch my loved ones be so patient, it slows the whole world down and makes you put things into perspective.
Who, if anyone, do you try to emulate? I used to want to emulate the supermodel Cameron Russell. She was the first model I saw being such a vocal advocate and using her platform to really help others. Now, I don’t want to emulate anyone. I want to focus on how I can be the best version of myself, mommy, and partner. 
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What’s something people ask you for advice about often? How to get started in modeling when you’ve faced rejection, and how to build a brand and make an impact. Especially since launching my Self Funding Planner and Saltair, people have seen how everything I’ve worked on for the last 18 years is finally transferring into my own brands and products.
What’s a piece of advice you felt proud to give? That you are enough. It’s one of the most essential affirmations or concepts I share over and over again, and it always resonates.
What is your most-used app on your phone? WhatsApp for communicating with my family, friends, and SF team, but also I use my Camera app a lot!
Where do you put your phone while you’re sleeping? Right by my bed. My partner leaves his outside the room, but my baby often wakes up and I like to check the time and the monitor app on my phone.
What do you do when you feel yourself burning out? Switch off my phone and go outside for a walk with my family.
What’s something you consider a secret weapon? My determination. I’ll try and try again, and then keep going. I’ll find other ways around an obstacle and always believe I can do something.
Where are you, compared to where you thought you’d be at 12 years old? I’m in a dream world! I never imagined I’d make it as a model, let alone been able to have made it in the U.S. coming from a small town in England. I hoped I’d have a family, but also never knew what that would look like or where would I want to call home. I wondered if I would ever stop chasing my dreams and have time for a family — turns out you can do both.
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If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? I wish I had created a source of income sooner that wasn’t based on social media. Even with brands now, you still rely heavily on social media to get exposure and I would love to not have to post all the time.
What’s been your biggest pieces of support, helping you get where you are? My parents guiding me to follow what feels right and makes me happy, and my partner Philip who encourages me daily.
What do you do to start your workday? I always write my to do list in my Self Funding Planner and check my schedule for the day, then I’ll color coordinate urgent items or add new ones I find in emails — that keeps me on track. There’s something about writing and seeing something written down; it sticks in my mind better.
What do you do to end your workday? Put my phone down and shut down my laptop. Sometimes I let the team know I’m tapping out, too. 
What’s the last song you listened to? "Damages" by Tems.
What’s the last photo in your favorites folder on your phone? It’s actually one of the Island Orchid Saltair bottles being filled at our distribution center, but it’s usually my toddler! 
If you could go back and do one thing differently in your career path, what would it be? Invested as much time into YouTube content creation as I did Instagram. It’s a weird regret that I try not to think about because I’m so grateful for where I am and the impact I’ve had, but there were parts of my journey I would have loved to have documented in more long-form video, even just for my memories. So much has happened in the last 10 years I can barely believe it some days.

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