The fashion industry is no stranger to the controversial promotion of slimness. Heralded as a beauty ideal and business necessity for designers, impossibly pencil-thin waists and absurd body proportions due to sample sizes have had real negative results promoting body dysmorphia, anorexia, and bulimia. Often the onus is put on the individual but what about the industry that creates the environment for such conditions to thrive? Former Hot List member Cierra Skye, knows all too well the dark side of such thinking — after working with the biggest names in the business she found herself spiraling down a path of unhealthy habits that left her unrecognizable. Here she declares her return as simply ‘Skye‘ and shares her personal testimony on body dysmorphia as a warning to all those who might benefit. With visuals from Gilad Sasporta, Skye is ready for things to go her way and the possibilities are endless.
Text by Skye
Intro by Irene Ojo-Felix
Photography by Gilad Sasporta for Models.com
I’m not really who you think I am. The weird creature that people loved actually became my greatest demon. Here I am at age 20, and I’ve learned so much in the 6 turbulent years that I’ve spent in and out of this business. When I started at 14 I never knew how wild this ride would be. At 14, I had never seen anything wrong with my body or myself in the mirror. I was confident, I didn’t care what other people thought of me at all. I had dreamed of being a Victoria’s Secret model or being in Calvin Klein or Guess campaigns or doing swimwear. Everything I wanted to do seemed so possible at the time.
I began to hate the natural curves in my body, so I thought if I lost weight and was thin like everyone else it would bring me success. Looking back, that was the exact moment that I lost myself.
My first year of modeling went well, I traveled to NYC often (I’m from Pennsylvania, so it was so easy to get to the city). I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t care about it. However, as the pressure of fashion mounted I slowly started developing an unhealthy mindset. I’d compare myself to other girls constantly. I wondered why my hips were bigger, and the top show girls were all so skinny but I wasn’t. Of course I was skinny in the normal world, I have always been naturally thin. But in the model world I just wasn’t configured like all of the other girls I had seen around the city and walking the shows. I began to hate the natural curves in my body, so I thought if I lost weight and was thin like everyone else it would bring me success. Looking back, that was the exact moment that I lost myself.
That one dark thought was the same thought that took over my life for the next few years. From that moment on, I started working out excessively and not eating enough to lose my hips & thighs. I overworked myself constantly so eventually I had gone from around a 36″ hip to a 34″. At this time, I was 15 almost 16, so to be thinking this way combined with hormones and natural changes in my body – it was absolutely toxic. I continued to lose weight and my hips were nonexistent. I developed anxiety & depression during this time, which made me struggle even more. It was the darkest period of my life, and to be honest those few years seem to blur together in a dark spiral.
Eventually, I was 17 and it was my senior year. I finished high school a semester early (I had been doing online school since i started modeling) and went to NY for fashion week in 2015. At this point in time I was absolutely lifeless, I had lost every passion I once had in my life. If you knew me at this time, you probably would recognize that I didn’t have much of a personality. I was confined, so deeply afraid to be myself. I thought about every single thing I said, terrified that I would say the wrong thing and people wouldn’t like me.
This was essentially the start of a new chapter of my career. I began booking shows + editorials. I was this 100lb girl who was this shell of a person but I ended up working with absolutely amazing people, so many things were happening. I couldn’t properly enjoy it any of it. I was so absolutely lost and so focused on trying to stay skinny and push myself to the limits.
My face became alien-like and people started shooting me in a way to make me look extremely edgy. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. People saw me as this work of art and it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like me at all. I am so honored to have worked with the people I did, I just wish I could have had the strength and confidence that I do now.
I suffered from massive panic attacks throughout 2015. They progressed and got worse by the fall. I would have them before every flight I got on. I would start thinking about every detail that could go wrong. Before, I shot with Tim Walker I had one. I was so terrified and I didn’t think I could do it. I remember my family trying to talk me down and my bookers as well. Everything happened so fast that year that I don’t think I realized how much I wasn’t ready for it. I eventually got on my flight and ended up having a really great time.
People saw me as this work of art and it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like me at all. I am so honored to have worked with the people I did, I just wish I could have had the strength and confidence that I do now.
Another time, I missed a flight to shoot for Love Magazine in London due to one of the chronic panic attacks (apologies to Katie Grand…once again I’m so sorry). This was the lowest point for me, because this is when I knew This chapter was over. In 2016, I decided to take some time off from modeling. Sometimes, you need to step outside to truly see things for what they are. I gained all of the weight back (and then some), because I started seeing how unhealthy I looked. I focused on being with good friends and making memories. I think it was always confusing for me, because I started so young. It’s confusing for people in high school at this age, let alone being thrown into the adult world. The year ended with a car accident for me, as awful as it was, it made me realize that could have been the end, and I didn’t want to die without doing everything I wanted to do.
I ended up getting a job in LA in January of 2017. It was the first time I’d been to in California in 4 years and that small trip changed my life so much. I always wanted to move to LA and become a model/actress since I was as young as I can remember. So after I left, I focused on working out & eating healthy but enough. I want to be seen as glowing, happy, and healthy. I want to look like a 20 year old woman, and I want to feel as passionate about what I do, as I do right now. I want girls to look at me and to not try to starve themselves or hate who they are. We all have different bodies, so I think we should all embrace what we have.
I had always wanted to just go by Skye. It feels more right to me. I need to let go of my past, so this is my new start as my true self. My hope is that someone out there will read this and connect to my story. I hope that designers and magazines will start using models that are vibrant and full of life. I love seeing girls that take care of themselves and look healthy. It took me years to realize how much I had strayed from my roots, but I hope that if you relate to this it will give you the strength to start living again.