We recently got to ask Nikki DuBose - A former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate a few questions.
Here's what we got to talk about.
1) Do you have any advice for young teens and young adults battling with an eating disorder who want to get better and start their road to recovery but don't know where to begin or don't think they're strong enough to make that commitment of an everyday fight to recover and start the healing process?
I've been there, and I understand how scary it is to take that next step. What I want you to understand is that I'm with you, rooting for you. You are strong enough, you just don't know it yet. The thing about eating disorders is that they are illnesses of the mind, and they want you to think that you are not good enough to get better, or that you will never have the strength, etc. But every negative thought they feed you is a lie. You are more than good enough, and you have everything it takes to overcome your eating disorder. I am a living testament to that.
Just the fact that you want to get better is a tremendous start, so give yourself a big pat on the back. Reach out to anyone you know, that's why you have people in your life; they are there to help you. Disclose your struggles to a trusted friend, therapist, family member and so forth. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy, so the sooner you tell someone, the better. You will not have to fight this illness alone, it's a team effort. Most of all, have compassion for yourself. You didn't get where you are in a day, and it's going to take time to get better.
2) Why did you decide to be a mental health advocate and ambassador? When did you decide you wanted to use your voice to speak up about mental health?
Becoming an advocate was a natural progression as I began my recovery. My passion for helping others in recovery led to working with various mental health organizations, which opened up the door for advocation and working on legislation. The first time I worked on a bill, I felt so alive and exactly in my element; I never expected it, it just happened. I was offered to be a mental health ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation last year when my memoir came out, and I accepted it because its a way to broaden my advocacy efforts and help people across the globe.
I made the decision to speak up about mental health when I left the modeling industry and began to recover. I realized that in order to truly start the healing process, I had to be open and vulnerable about what had happened to me, and changed my modeling website to a blogging website. I wrote about abuse, eating disorders, and more. From that moment on (about six years ago), there was no going back.
3) Your memoir Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. What do you hope readers take away from it after reading it?
It's a tough read. It's brutal, really. But I wanted it to be because mental health issues are no walk in the park. At the same time that my memoir is raw and hard to swallow, I hope that readers are inspired, knowing that they can overcome anything that life throws their way. God is always with us, especially when we least feel it.
More about Nikki DuBose
Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. She recently released her memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. In Washed Away, Nikki recounts her experiences navigating the dark side of the modeling industry, while battling abuse, addiction, and various mental health issues (sexual victimization, eating disorders, alcoholism, drugs, depression, suicide attempts, body dysmorphic disorder, PTSD, psychosis). She recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network on the TD Jakes Show to speak about her recovery from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders, and how the pressure to "fit into" the modeling industry nearly killed her.
“By my early twenties, I was modeling professionally and appeared on the covers of and in editorials for magazines such as Maxim, Glamour, Vogue, FHM, and Vanity Fair. But while my career was going exceptionally well, my private life was falling apart. My mental and emotional health were in shambles. I went from one extreme to the other to meet weight requirements for photo shoots, and quickly fell into anorexia nervosa. At times I struggled to survive, beginning to abuse diet pills as a way to achieve the figure that my agents were pushing me to have for fashion shoots,” says DuBose.
Because of the lack of laws and protections, models have long been subjected to sexual and financial abuse, bullying from agents, and have been pressured to lose so much weight that many have developed devastating, even fatal eating disorders.
Nikki’s recovery from a nearly lifelong struggle with PTSD, psychosis, addictions and eating disorders has left her with a passionate longing to help others who are also suffering. Although the modeling industry has made strides towards body diversity in the past couple of years, there is a lack of education and awareness surrounding eating disorders and other mental health issues. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light serves as a testimony to others to let them know that they are not alone in their fears, doubts, and frustrations, and that through recovery all things are possible.
"A compelling and educational read about the dark side of the fashion business and its effect on mental health. Nikki draws upon her experiences of overcoming a life-threatening eating disorder as she navigates through the industry, all while wrestling with a broken home life and struggling to discover her inner voice. Nikki's story is truly remarkable and will serve as a beacon to anyone who has ever doubted their own intrinsic value. I highly recommend Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.” - Brian Cuban, Attorney, Author (Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder), Activist
“I was truly amazed by her determination to live life. I saw a woman that had every reason to quit and remain silent, but she chose to break through every obstacle that challenged her. I am very grateful that she has taken on the challenge to not only speak about her experience, but to fight for change in laws that will empower children and survivors to protect themselves. We all need to learn from Nikki and use our voices to create positive change. It is no longer okay for the silence to outweigh the tough discussion. Ignorance will not stop child sex
predators from harming our children.” - Matthew Sandusky, Founder & Executive Director of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, Author (Undaunted: Breaking My Silence to Overcome the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse), Speaker
“To endure what DuBose has within her first decade proves more than most could handle in a lifetime, yet she looks back at her life with grace and a rare honesty. As she takes us through the overly sexualized fashion industry as an international top model, she gives the no-holds barred account on mental illness, rape, and eating disorders that our society so desperately needs.” - Neesha Arter, Journalist & Author (Controlled)
"Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is an incredible story of one brave woman's perseverance in the face of daunting life circumstances. Nikki DuBose details her chilling experiences with an eating disorder, childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse - and how she found the strength to rise above and find recovery. This powerful read will inspire those in their own recovery journeys." - Kristina Saffran, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director at Project HEAL
About the Author:
Nikki lives in Los Angeles. She recently worked alongside Assembly member Marc Levine on California Assembly Bill 2539, which addressed the need for workplace protections and health standards in the modeling industry.
She is currently working on The Omnibus Child Victims Act, a bill that will help protect New York's children from the trauma of sexual abuse. “I was sexually abused by my mother and a male figure. In my book, I talk about how that led to mental illnesses, and my recovery from that, which is why this bill is so important to me,” says Nikki.
Nikki gives talks regularly on her recovery at universities and treatment centers. Her advocacy work and recovery story has been profiled on CBS Los Angeles, People, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, Inquisitr, and many others. She also writes extensively on mental health, political issues, and exposes the truth about the modeling industry on The Huffington Post, the National Eating Disorders Association, Eating Disorder Hope, Clinical Recovery Institute, and Recovery Warriors. She also recently contributed as an expert reviewer for Harvard University's STRIPED program (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), helping craft their lesson for this new semester, which focuses on modeling and eating disorders.
To learn more, go to http://nikkidubose.com/
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fop6kvFZI8