I recently got back from a trip to Miami with two friends. Did I say friends? I meant supermodels...
I spent so many years of my life trying to lose weight. I wanted to be a model. I wanted to be those pictures of my friends above. I wanted to be recognized as the beautiful one- the one that society takes and puts a big skinny stamp on saying "you're special". I wanted to be anything but the chubby, class clown with tons of friends and no boyfriends. And so I spent 15 years dieting, bingeing, throwing up my meals, taking appetite suppressing drugs, and starving- and then beating myself up over the fact that my willpower wasn't strong enough to get me to where I needed to be. The place where I thought happiness lived. Somewhere in the gap between my thighs.
It took me a long time but I finally got burnt out and decided I was ok with the hand I'd been dealt. I started focusing on my strengths rather than shortcomings. I was tall and felt beautiful most days, and years of having to work to get people to like me landed me one kick-ass personality and some impressive bantering skills. And then one day while at Bank of America, I was scouted and signed with a modeling agency. At a size 14. I would be what the industry calls a "plus size" model. I'd been called a lot of names in my life from "whale" to "fat girl" to a "liability"- but this certainly had a more positive ring to it. I got to live my dream without trying to be someone I wasn't. And three years later I'm living in New York City as a full-time, plus-size model with my face plastered up on Wilhelmina New York's website. A dream come true- and one that came to fruition when I finally stopped trying to be somebody I wasn't.
But with finding extreme love for yourself comes a new desire to really take care of yourself. I finally realized my value and decided I wanted to be the best possible version of me. Through nutrition, exercise, meditation, and a lot of self-reflection- I managed to reinvent myself in the last 9 months that I've been a Manhattan resident. I've lost 30lbs and various jobs but I've chosen my health as a priority. My mind is functioning at a level I couldn't even imagine and I feel more joy, energy, and clarity than ever before. I am beginning to live my passion and purpose and it has come along with a new found sense of confidence.
Which is important when you take a vacation to Miami with supermodels. Because honestly, three years ago, you could have paid me $10,000 and given me a free trip to the Greek Islands and I still wouldn't have dreamed about putting on a bikini and posing for a picture in the Aegean Sea. But when my friend Holly suggested a primarily free weekend trip to Miami, the new Danika said HELL YES!
And it ended up being the perfect weekend getaway. We relaxed on the beach, cooked healthy dinners at home, spent time meditating and journaling, and managed to soberly out-twerk everybody at club LIV. But throughout the entire weekend, I still found myself feeling different. Identifying myself as the "big friend". Feeling like the third wheel to two bombshells and having to make up for my shortcomings with my exuberant personality and ability to ask strangers questions for an hour straight without being bothered that they haven't even asked how to pronounce my weird Croatian hybrid of a name. Dan-uh-kuh. Thanks for asking.
And so on the last day, when our tans were the darkest they'd be getting, Holly and Alexis suggested a group bikini photo by the ocean. I quickly responded "I'm good, I'm just really comfortable" which really meant "I'm not good and I'm really uncomfortable posing next to you freak shows". But because I am quite possibly the biggest pushover in all of the land, I finally obliged and struck my pose for the 75-year old Italian men that were one Instagram filter away from a heart attack- and for the one picture ever that I hoped for a finger over the lens, they managed to snap with pure precision.
We returned to our chairs and I requested full approval before posting rights. And then it happened. I really looked at the photo. Rather than seeing some version of negative thoughts and assumptions of my differences, I had no option but to admit that I looked GOD DAMN AMAZING! And I also looked just like my friends. Did I say friends? I meant supermodels.
The supermodels who had spent the weekend equally concerned with their own bodies. All of us too busy tearing ourselves down inside to notice that we were all in this together. Feeling "bloated" or "saggy" or "too pale" or "not toned". The ones who asked if they looked good in their outfits and the ones that borrowed MY makeup and wanted to know how I ate and what I was cooking and what kind of workout I did at the gym.
And something really struck me. Even the girls that the media prints in the pages of your magazines- in store windows and taped to teenager's (and murderer's) walls have the same insecurities that we all do. They wake up having days when they feel amazing but they also wake up feeling less than their best quite often. They're looking for the latest beauty tips, the best workouts, and the healthiest dinners. They're feeling insecure in their skin because not even THEY feel like the photoshopped version of themselves that's glued to your fridge in an effort to empower you to stop eating. Empowerment comes from love by the way, not hate or fear.
And so here I am, sharing my Supermodel Bikini Beach photo with the world. Because someone out there is looking up to me and wanting what I have. And to be honest I don't blame them. Cause I look good.
And so do the supermodels. I mean, my friends.