In a world that’s image conscious and media obsessed, it’s not always easy to feel good about yourself. Danika Brysha felt that struggle until one day a pair of talent recruiters asked her if she’d ever thought about plus size modeling. A few years later she is living in New York City and has made health her priority. Over the course of a year Danika has changed her life and shared her experience on Instagram and Facebook. She’s inspired her followers to improve their own lives as well, and in the process, started her own business. Check out her story:
1. Danika we’ve seen you in magazines and on the web modeling anywhere from Kohl’s to Rent the Runway. How did you get into modeling?
I was running an errand at Bank of America and was approached by two people from 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 had wanted to be a model for over a decade and spent years trying to lose weight and be someone I wasn’t in order to fulfill this goal. I had a serious eating disorder and spent years hating my body. But when I finally found it in me to start loving myself again (and this took a lot of time and work), I found that I got to live that dream, working as a plus size model, in a way that I didn’t have to harm my body. I’m now represented with Wilhelmina Models in NYC, Natural Models LA, and Brigitte Models Germany.
2. We know from your Instagram feed that you are an amazing chef and big into healthy eating – specifically the Whole30 lifestyle. How’d you get into that?
In late December 2013, I moved cross country from LA to NYC and recognized that this transition was the perfect opportunity to start fresh and be exactly who I wanted to be. 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, 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.
Over the last year, since I’ve made the decision to eat and live cleaner, my entire world has changed. I found my mind absolutely blown at the difference cutting out all the chemicals, hormones, drugs, alcohol, additives, sugars, and any other unnatural junk had on every single element of my body, mind, and life. It was as if something finally wiped out all of the haze and brain fog that I used to have and I had total clarity. I was able to step back and look at things from a big picture viewpoint- making better decisions and functioning so much more efficiently in every way. My energy was consistently high and I felt like I was on happy drugs all the time. No ups and downs, just consistent, positive, endless energy. I slept so much better. I was more productive, focused, alert, quick, creative, and present. It was like all of a sudden I became this 2.0 version of myself in every single area of my life. And I haven’t looked back since. On top of all of this, I’ve lost over 30lbs of excess weight, my physical performance has become substantially better, my skin is clearer and glowing, my hair and nails are stronger… pretty much everything has just amped up. I’ve found such joy in this new lifestyle, that I want to share it with whoever is open to it!
That is seriously impressive! And how have you taken it to the next level with Model Meals?
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. As I shared my health transformation via social media over the last several months, I noticed that people were regularly reaching out asking for help in how to start. “I don’t know how to cook,” “It feels overwhelming,” “It seems expensive,” “I don’t think I have the willpower”. But what I knew was that if people could just give it a week, they would be able to feel the massive shift in themselves that comes with ridding ourselves of unnecessary toxins. And then once they felt that feeling- they would be willing to put it more effort to sustain it. And so Model Meals was born to bridge that gap: to offer a food delivery system to people- to make it easier to deliver that feeling. To take out all the work and fear involved in taking the first steps, and to ultimately work backwards. To dangle the (organic) carrot that would inspire them to eventually grow their own.
3. We’ve seen you sporting a “Healthy is the New Skinny” t-shirt. Can you tell us about that?
Healthy is the New Skinny is an organization started by my Los Angeles modeling agency, Natural Models LA, to promote the message that we must start focusing on health rather than on being a specific size. Some people are naturally curvy while some are stick thin, and there is so much body shaming seen in our world today. We’re all in this together and there is no right way to look. In my opinion, that is one of the most beautiful things about humanity. Healthy is the New Skinny to me is promoting a message of total support and acceptance. With a focus on love, it suggests that all we should ever strive for is to be the best possible version of ourselves.
4. And lastly, how do you describe your style?
My style is pretty simple and has changed a bit since I’ve moved to NYC. I like a lot of basics and solids. Blacks, Whites, Greys, Navy. I like a bootie with a little heel, body-con dresses and skirts that highlight my waist, leather, and cool gold and silver accessories. I think style is important but that it shouldn’t distract from the person who it’s riding along on. It should complement your personal beauty and personality rather than define it.