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Filtering by Category: Beauty

A Reflection on Bikini Beach Photos with Supermodels

Danika Brysha

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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.

VIDEO: The Trick to Creating Permanent Change: Losing the Weight for the Last Time

Danika Brysha

There's a certain high that comes along with a great weight loss and feeling better about ourselves... and a very clear low when our diet eventually fails us and we gain the weight back. By this point, most health-conscious individuals recognize that diets don't work.  The key is making realistic lifestyle changes that have no end date in sight.  So if diets don't work, what can we do in order to create lasting change? I've got your back!  Check out my latest video on creating permanent changes and the trick to losing the weight for the final time.  And a bonus, this tip helps in all areas of life whether it's addiction, a job we don't like, a bad relationship, or just an overall desire to step yourself UP in the game of life.

Coming Back Home: Food, Fears, and Finding Yourself

Danika Brysha

I’ve found what I want to do with my life.  What I want to be when I grow up.  I’ve always had an idea and I was headed in the right direction but the last couple months have been filled with a few lifestyle changes that have put me on the yellow brick road to personal happiness and fulfillment.  What is my dream? Well since you asked… I want to inspire and motivate people to live their best lives ever- focusing first and foremost on developing a healthy relationship with food.  Food addiction, constant dieting, eating disorders, obesity, emotional eating, body image struggles… all of it. I’ve been there and while it still takes daily work to maintain, I have found the answers that I spent so many years looking for.  And I want to share them.  Through blogging, videos, books, public speaking, comedy, media, photos, the fashion industry, by interviewing others and hearing their stories, and through any other platform that helps build a connection and create positive change.

Over the last decade or so, I have suffered immensely in regards to my relationship with food. I still define the last 15 years by the different stages of food struggles I endured.  I’m working on that.  It has been my comfort, my therapist, my loving connection, and my greatest enemy.

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I grew up on McDonalds and other fast foods, ultimately feeding my young brain and body with chemicals rather than the nutrients I needed to fully thrive.  We were busy kids and my parents were doing their best to get my brothers and me all over town to our various sports and activities.  Not many people were educated on what was going into those quick “meals”.  My poor nutrition led me to gain weight which led me to feeling different and being bullied for being the “big girl”.  Which led me to seek comfort… which I found in food.  I’ll never forget the time when a car full of boys yelled out the window “Go back to the beach whale”.  I felt ugly and undesirable which created extreme body image issues.  Instead of focusing on what I could do with my innate talents like writing, performing, and inspiring people, I decided it was more important to prove people wrong. To show them I was more than a “whale”.

(My bedroom walls during high school- floor to ceiling photos of models)

My goals shifted from owning a zoo and having my own talk show, to being a model.  The skinny, emaciated kind.  After all, I had “such a pretty face”.  I learned to diet and lost 45lbs doing Atkins in high school. And low and behold- I won homecoming queen. I made varsity cheerleading.  Guys loved me.  But when the weight started coming back on, I had to find other ways of staying skinny.

When I was sad or stressed or insecure or lonely, I binge ate thousands of extra calories a day.  And then I threw them up. Seven, ten, twelve times a day. I had a special blue toothbrush hidden away for this very event. I wouldn’t weigh myself with even a bobby pin in my hair in fear that it would tip the scale unfavorably.  Four root canals later I knew I had to shift my process.  Enter drugs and alcohol.

I drove to dangerous neighborhoods to buy hard drugs that I had heard were appetite suppressants.  I was desperate to keep the weight off and spent thousands of dollars on my new “hobby”.  Something finally told me I was too valuable to go down that path and I managed to ditch the drugs.  The illegal ones at least.  I realize now that food can be more of a drug than the hard stuff.  But each time I decided I was better than some disorder or temptation, I unknowingly moved on to something else.

Alcohol gave me an escape like binge eating did.  It numbed me and for those drunken moments I didn’t have to feel so much. And when I was drunk and able to let go a little bit, I ate even more.  I spent years and all of my energy caught in the diet/binge cycle- turning to food for love, affection, comfort.  My life was defined by two things… the times I was in control, and the times I was out of it. Do you know how exhausting it is to think about food, calories, and your body image for every waking moment of your day? I have a feeling a lot of you do.  I was robbing the world and most importantly myself of all the amazing things I had to offer.

I’d finally had enough.  Enough weight watchers weigh-ins, enough writing my goal weight in my planner, enough shoveling food into my body unconsciously while no one was looking.  Enough of not feeling like enough.  That little voice in my head that told me I was better than all this popped up in the time of crisis like it had done a couple times before.  And so I made a promise to myself.

I quit dieting once and for all.  I didn’t talk about diets or negatively about my body and my friends weren’t allowed to either.  I saw THIS BOOK on Oprah and I read it.  It changed my life.  Somebody was finally speaking my language.  I wasn’t alone.  I started sharing with close friends.  Not only was I not alone, I was actually one of many. Why didn’t anybody talk about this?

Little by little I started loving myself and my body more and more.  In the mornings I’d wake up and rather than thinking about losing weight and how flat my stomach looked, I was focusing on growing as a person, finding the things that made me happy, discovering new passions that had been buried under my weight consumed brain for so long.  And when I finally found a bit of peace with my body, guess what happened? I became a model.

I was running an errand at Bank of America and was approached by an agency and asked if I had considered plus size modeling.  I did some research to make sure they weren’t murderers and eventually signed with them.  My career took off quickly and I added agencies in New York, London, and Germany to my roster.  I was living my dream in a way that didn’t require me to hurt myself.  Turns out that whole “be careful what you wish for” thing is legit.

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During the last few years while I’ve been working as a full time model, I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I’m a little ashamed that it took the industry to tell me that I was “good enough” but for me that was what I needed.  Modeling gave me the opportunity to travel, meet all sorts of interesting people, and to work on my confidence- but most importantly, it has awarded me a lifestyle that allows me the time, means, and financial freedom to chase my other passions.

And for a while I thought this was the end of my story.  Coming full circle, living my dream, finding contentment. But I was still seeking comfort in food and often alcohol.  I had come a really long way but I still felt somewhat consumed.  I wanted to feel my best- to live at my most optimal level.  And in the last few months something shifted.  My contentment turned into drive.  I stepped back and looked at my life from the outside.  I took into account the dreams that I still wanted to pursue and picked out certain things that were holding me back. I was fine with my body and was learning to love it but I knew I wasn’t living to my potential.  I wanted to feel vibrant and alive and full of energy.  I wanted to function at my highest level possible.  I wanted to be my best self ever.  And if I’ve learned anything, it is that the most significant change happens outside your comfort zone.  If I wanted different results, I’d need to take different actions.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

As it turns out, I was most certainly insane.  I committed to making 2014 the year of being my best self ever- and to be a person that keeps my commitments.  I spoke to a health coach friend and got inspired, followed a clean eating program called the Whole30, cut out alcohol and any processed foods like dairy, grains, added sugars, legumes, and more. I educated myself.  I started from square one and lived by the Whole30’s motto that “food either makes you more healthy or less healthy… there is no in between”. I committed to being active for 45 mins every day- incorporating yoga almost daily, running, strength training, long walks with my dog, and little things like taking the stairs and carrying my groceries home. I stopped eating out almost entirely and started hosting healthy dinner parties and tea dates (it turns out that a lot of people like these sort of get-togethers even more than the drunken bar ones!). I still went out to the bars occasionally and sipped soda waters with lime and danced until 3am- I’m pretty good at faking drunk after all these years of practicing the real thing. I focused on getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night.  I took baths, wore cute lingerie to bed for myself, read TONS of books (which I’ll share in the future), took pride in the cleanliness of my apartment, burnt all the nice candles down to the glass, and cooked myself elaborate healthy dinners better than most restaurants I’d been to.  I realized that every moment of life is a special occasion and it was time I started living it that way.

To wake up every single morning and know that you are a better version of yourself than you were the day before is a feeling that is hard to put into words.  A month passed and I had no intention of going back to my old ways.  Instead, I was so impressed with my ability to change my life in a month’s time, that I created a little game for myself called ‘The 12 Months of Greatness’ in which I commit to a new challenge, outside my comfort zone, every single month, while keeping all the challenges from the prior months.  In a year's time I would have 12 new habits.  If that doesn’t scream “Best Self Ever”, I don’t know what does.

For the first time in my adult life, I can say that I am truly coming to peace with food.  I still struggle with turning to food for comfort but I feel completely in control of what I choose to put in my body, yet not obsessive or consumed by rules and strategies and guidelines.  The key to making lasting change is to be compassionately strict with yourself.  Push yourself- but when you make a mistake, which you will, rather than beat yourself up for what you did wrong, instead look at how much you did right.

I had no idea that through changing my relationship with food and what I chose to fuel my body with, I would so immensely change my entire life.  I am cleaner, more confident, more productive, more vibrant, have more energy, more optimistic, more active, more balanced, calmer, less judgmental, more centered, present, and most importantly happier.  I can’t tell you how many times I start dancing around my apartment alone for no good reason other than to express my joy.  I still have a lot to work on but that is why life is a journey.

At the forefront of it all, I’ve learned to trust and listen to my body again.  I’d been so detached from it for so many years, it is nice to be home again.  And in trusting it I’ve learned that it has had a lot to tell me.  It told me that I’ve found something that works for me.  I’ve found the answers that I’ve been looking for all along.  It told me that I get joy out of sharing with others- being able to inspire those with similar struggles, telling my story, helping people find the answers that will lead them home too.  It told me- clearer than it has every told me anything before- that this is my message.  This is what I am here on this earth to do.  And what better way to be my best self ever than to inspire you to be yours?

I challenge you to take a step back and look at where you are.  If you are not where you want to be then have the courage to change something.  Make it realistic but push outside of your comfort zone.  Recognize that your personal happiness is a direct result of only one thing- YOU.  So trust yourself- your body, your dreams, your passions.  I promise they won’t steer you wrong. Commit to waking up every day as a better version of yourself.

Because when you truly love yourself wholeheartedly, and you recognize how valuable you are- you will take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.  And when you can do this, I can promise you with every part of my being, that every other piece will fall perfectly into place.

With compassion, love, gratitude, and so much more,

Danika

MONDivation: Be That Person

Danika Brysha

I think we all know at least one person in our lives that this is the case for.  That person who is consistently kind and genuine and doesn't say a bad word about anybody else.  Even if that person wasn't there to defend themselves from a negative comment said against them, you would know the truth of the matter without any need for further explanation.

I think this is truly such a wonderful thing to aspire to and I am so glad to see it put into words.  I will 100% be printing this and putting it up on my wall (my real wall... but probably my facebook one also) to remind myself daily to strive to be this person.  I know life can be tough and people can disappoint us and let us down but if we remind ourselves that everybody has bad days and nobody is perfect, we can look past all of our own, as well as other's imperfections, and speak and act with nothing but an honest, positive, happy heart... And people will certainly take notice!

I will definitely start striving more to be that person.  Have a beautiful week!

Beauty Boyfriends: Mascara McConaughey

Danika Brysha

While I don't have a boyfriend of my own, I do have a strong support system of beauty products that I'm pretty sure get me just as... excited.  Fortunately, some of my favorite male celebrities offered to help me spread the good word as the weeks go on.  "Why am I not dating them you ask?"... "EWWW... we're BEST FRIENDS... he's like my brother"...  right.  Now on to the eyelashes...

It seems like every time that I shoot I end up on Amazon.com right after we wrap, ordering whatever new beauty product I learned about that day.  I feel lucky to be learning from the pros and it wouldn't be fair if I kept it all to myself now would it?

What I lack in hair on my head, I for some reason was rewarded with in eyelashes... And I'm not complaining.  The thing is, I am naturally a dirty blonde and therefore my eyelashes and eyebrows (and that's where we'll leave this discussion) are very light.  Mascara makes a huge difference for me and I've tried too many to count.  There are two winners but one has a clear advantage.

Runner Up goes to Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effet Faux Cils

A friend turned me on to this mascara in high school.  A very wealthy friend.  It truly makes your eyelashes look fake but the price tag is a bit higher than I prefer at $30 a pop.  I've also noticed that it tends to dry out rather quickly so I was frequently purchasing a new tube, which started to add up.  If you don't mind splurging then I highly recommend it but otherwise I'll let you in on my little "not so" secret...

 

THE WINNER: Maybelline theCOLOSSAL Volum' Express

This has been my favored mascara choice for a couple of years now and I'm often seeing it in Makeup artist's kits at work.  It is sold in almost all drugstores for about $7 and usually lasts me for a few months!  I recommend the "Glam Black" color.  I don't recommend the Waterproof one... unless you are planning on competing in a wet T-shirt contest.  The regular formula works just fine but will also come off when you want it to.  The first couple applications can be a little too heavy but after that it is the perfect little miracle!  I have a whole transition process when I'm at the end of one tube and the start of another which involves dipping the older used brush in the new tube for a few applications.  It keeps the old tube going strong for a few more uses and helps avoid the over lacquering that can happen with a new tube.  I'm thrifty... what can I say!

But wait... there's more.  The way you apply mascara is just as important as the kind you use.  I've put together a video blog of my personal mascara tips, live from my Milwaukee hotel room...

Tricks of the Trade: Glue-on Drugstore Nails

Danika Brysha

I would have to say that the one thing that is toughest for me to maintain regarding showing up to shoots "camera ready" is keeping my fingernails perfectly groomed.  Models are expected to show up to work with clean, filed, medium length nails, that are either natural or painted with a very neutral shade like beige or a very soft pink.  And though there's no guarantee Bruce Jenner isn't my father, I unfortunately do not have my own nailpolish line...

Now, I blame growing up with brothers and being a tomboy, for my complete inability to wear nail polish that is chip-free for any length of time over an hour.  When I first started modeling I would do my very best not to bite, bruise, or break my natural fingernails.  I would get a manicure and it would chip the next day, often leaving me helpless without the matching shade for touchups.  I later started painting my own nails and bringing the shades with me as I traveled.  Without failure they always exploded in my toiletry case, making everything smell strongly of chemicals, and having to throw away tons of my favorite colors along the way.  No matter how hard I tried to keep them in tact, I always found myself in hotel rooms late at night touching up chips before the next days shoot.

And then... one day, while browsing the aisles of CVS for more junk I don't need, it occurred to me that I may have just found my solution!  I picked up the pair of natural-colored, short-length, glue-on nails and figured I'd try them out.  I went home and diligently glued the appropriate sizes on.  I also managed to glue a couple of my fingers together.  I was instantly hooked and stocked up on three more boxes to have in case of emergencies.  The packs usually come with more than enough so I just bring my bag of backups and glue anytime I travel or shoot.  When one falls off, I easily glue on a new one in seconds.

And the best news of all?!  They now have fake TOENAILS!!!  So weird, so good.  I'll save that blog post for a special occasion.

And here I present to you the ONLY photo I could find that somewhat showcased my fingernail masterpiece.  Looks pretty real right?  Please forgive me as this photo was taken in an airport around 1:00AM waiting for my redeye to New York.  I guess I rest my case...