Moscow-born, NYC-based model Elena Foley shares tips on healthy eating, body image and believing in yourself.
What does wellness mean to you? "Health-wise, in the model business, it's really hard for some girls to stay healthy because the business requires you to be skinny. I know there's a lot of plus models nowadays, because finally we can see that beautiful bodies should not necessarily be skinny. But I do fashion work, a lot of editorials and types of jobs where I have to stay in shape. But starving is for sure not the option! You don't have to make yourself miserable."
What's your diet like? "A lot of vegetables, fruits, fish, salads—unlimited. If you're having all this type of food and working out, you will stay skinny and healthy! I don't eat a lot of sweets, but I love chocolate."
What's your exercise routine? "Six days a week I go to the gym. I do one hour of running, and after that it's abs, arms, back and a lot of stretching to let the muscles relax. On the seventh day, when I'm not working out, I do yoga."
How do you maintain an authentic sense of self and stay positive? "I just learned to see the positive, and to hold on to those positive aspects. It may sound funny, but counting blessings really helps. You have to appreciate everything. You have to stand in front of the mirror and say, 'I am beautiful. Thank you for this, thank you for that.' You have to really, really believe in it, and it can help you get through bad moods and bad situations. And, my family. My mom supports me very much. My dad supports me very much. If I feel down, I know there are people who will tell me, 'Don't worry, it's going to be fine.' My family's in Moscow and I miss them every single day! Thank god we have Skype, I speak with my mom as much as I can, she's my best friend. But I try to visit two or three times a year for [a few] weeks."
What are some of the other things that bring you joy? "My inspiration, what lifts my mood up, is music. When I'm working out or doing yoga, it helps to relax. You have to understand: it's not business that says are you beautiful or not. It's how you feel. If you feel beautiful, you will be beautiful. I do read a lot of books—historical, Russian poems, depends on which mood I have. When I have a lot of free time in the evening, I like to listen to music and paint. I've been an artist since I was a kid, but then I stopped for school and then I stopped for modeling, and now maybe a year ago, I started doing it again. And it brings me a lot of happiness. I also do yoga in the evening, relaxing music and stretching my body."
Any advice for women in the fashion industry regarding pressure to be perfect? "First of all, they have to understand, no matter how beautiful you are, no matter how outstanding you are, you will enter in this business and people will tell you that you are imperfect, you look bad here, you don't do right here. You have to accept that it's not you, it's the industry. As soon as you realize that, you just have to deal with all different kinds of people—some of them are great, some are amazing, some are just…different, and you have to work with them. So just being positive no matter what people are saying, and knowing who you are…the fashion industry is just your work."
What do you wish you knew when you were just starting out? "No matter who you are, don't try do compare yourself to models you see in editorials. Because everything you see is just a piece of art. It's like painting. It's not how models really are. They are also normal people. You are beautiful, if you're taller, if you're shorter, because this is who you are! You have to accept that first. Because everything you see in fashion is illusion. It's not real, if that makes any sense. Don't let people drag you down by speaking bad about you. First you have to believe in yourself. The most valuable person for yourself is you. If you're going to believe it, you're going to reach something. If you are not sure if you're able to reach something, there's a possibility you will not do it. Just believe in yourself and you will go as far as you want."