Hawa Zabel is a model and advocate for body acceptance. Always a light on set and a force of positive energy, she gets real with us about her struggles with body image and how she’s navigated the fashion world with grace and authenticity.
On growing up in America
I am originally from Africa, and I was adopted into a Caucasian family here in the U.S. when I was eight. I lived in a predominantly white community and a household where every woman I looked up to had a different body type than I did, so the standard of beauty for me was always something that looked nothing like me. I felt like I was always chasing, chasing, chasing this idea of a woman that I couldn’t be.
On embracing her beauty
These days I don’t even think about the label — plus, fit, curve, whatever they want to call it. I am just proud to stand next to these beautiful women who embrace their bodies. I love the idea of inspiring women to be true to themselves and expanding the concept of beauty beyond the messages I received as a young girl.
On putting in the work
If I could recommend a book, it would be Claim Your Power by Mastin Kipp. It is a rollercoaster of emotions, let me tell you! It really forces you to face your trauma, realize what stories you are telling yourself, the positive and negative beliefs you have about yourself, and how to cut through to the truth. It is dense with truth and tries to help you use your trauma as a sort of superpower. If you are going to read it, be warned that I probably cried every single day reading it — and it’s a 40 day exercise — but it will change your life, if you’re ready.
On forging your own path
My advice to others is that when you are taking steps in the process, you’re going to get where you want to be. Be patient with yourself, and try to allow yourself to appreciate the journey. Don’t compare your accomplishments to what others are achieving, because you don’t know the steps they took or the struggles they’ve faced. Also, unless someone is walking the talk, ignore their feedback! You know who you are.