Modeling, Abuse, and Mental Health. Watch Nikki’s interview on Investigation Discovery on how she survived it all and went on to write a memoir entitled, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light (in French, Dans L’Enfer Du Mannequinat).
A childhood poisoned by abuse led her into the dystopian world of high-fashion. Imagine a woman in the grips of anorexia, being rewarded with fame and riches for her failing, frail body and even more fragile mind. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around, but Nikki’s words gave me a glimpse of that world.
Nikki has since recovered from her seventeen year battle with bulimia and anorexia. She’s written a captivating memoir.
Earlier this year, I was very kindly gifted a copy of ‘Washed Away: From Darkness To Light’, a memoir written by former model and turned author and advocate, Nikki DuBose. Within the book, Nikki documents some of her most personal life events, from childhood sexual abuse to revealing how the model industry fuelled her all-encompassing battle with various eating disorders.
I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to read and review it at first as I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea. I don’t have much interest in fashion or modelling and so was quick to dismiss the book in it’s entirety. The second I heard the words ‘mental health’ and ‘modelling’ in the same sentence, I couldn’t help but fear that this book might glamorise mental illness and in particular, eating disorders.
However, you know what they say: ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ and in this circumstance, that saying proved truer than ever.
Read the full review at Above Anxiety.
Inner beauty: you can’t sell it, but it’s your most important feature. Every month on magazine covers, we buy into the promise of “ten steps to…” a better body, bank account, romance, and more, but we hardly focus on the one thing that really matters, which is our souls.
Real happiness is found on the inside. However, we rush off to the stores in an effort to buy our way to true bliss, and this is what keeps us perpetually trapped in the advertising illusion. Things are not bad, neither is wanting to be beautiful, but our minds, souls, and emotions are precious, and they make up the foundation to which all other forms of joy grow. If our minds are out of balance, then how can we expect to ever be truly happy? If we fail to nourish our souls first, then we will never see ourselves as truly beautiful, and we may constantly look to others to validate us.
Read the full post on Book Spin.
Defying Mental Illness (DMI) recently had the unique and exclusive opportunity to meet Nikki and interview her. Nikki’s story is truly remarkable and will inspire you…
DMI: Wow, Nikki, what an honour to interview you today. You have an interesting story that you would like to share with DMI. You were a former model that was climbing high in your career at remarkable speed. However, there was a dark side you were struggling with.
You were challenged with several mental disorders. While you were probably the envy of your friends, secretly, they were your envy! Tell us, a little bit about who Nikki first and foremost. Give us an insight into your childhood.
Read the full interview on Defying Mental Illness.
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?
Read the full interview on Free and Above.
Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author who is nothing short of a superhero. Nikki released her memoir Washed Away: From Darkness to Light in September of 2016 in which she reveals her journey to self-care. As an advocate for mental health, Nikki is a Celebrity Ambassador for The Shaw Mind Foundation, and has worked with assembly members such as Marc Levine on addressing the need for updated workplace protections within the modeling industry.
We had the opportunity to speak with Nikki about some of the work she has been doing, her journey to get there, and what is next to come.
Read the full interview online at Novella Magazine.
“Pela primeira vez, um grupo de tops decidiu se rebelar contra as regras estabelecidas pela indústria da moda. A poucos dias do início da Semana de Moda de Nova York, 35 modelos, entre elas Iskra Lawrence, Ashley Chew e Carré Otis, escreveram uma honesta e necessária carta aberta.”
Read more at Marie Claire Brasil.
Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT interviews Nikki DuBose on her recovery from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Binge-Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa. Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, speaks about her experience with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Binge-Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Schizophrenia and child abuse.
Nikki Dubose’s Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a modern take on an old genre, namely the salvation narrative. It begins with a brief anecdote of the author at her worst, before providing a chronological memoir of Dubose’s life. Dubose’s early childhood was riddled with abuse and neglect. She is brutalized by her stepfather, sexually molested by a family friend, and forced to deal with her mother’s mental illness, which results in yet more abuse. Dubose internalizes this abuse, and the reader witnesses her become her own worst enemy, hounded by the voices in her head that tell her she is disgusting, ugly, fat, and worthless. These voices are only silenced by her compulsive behavior, which includes round after round of binging and purging. Despite all of this, Dubose manages to become a well-known model, which unfortunately only exacerbates her eating disorder and body dysmorphia. Dubose only truly begins to heal after her mother’s untimely, but not unexpected, death. The tragedy allows her to begin to forgive not only those who harmed her, but herself as well.
Read more on Red City Review.
ALBANY — Former model and sexual abuse victim Nikki DuBose is coming to the state Capitol Wednesday with a message for state lawmakers — children need to be protected.
DuBose is the featured speaker at a rally being planned by advocates for legislation that would change New York’s statute of limitations and make it easier for child sex abuse victims to obtain justice in state courts.
“We are talking about kids,” DuBose, 31, told The Daily News.
“Why is it OK for an innocent child to be sexually abused and to have his rights, his soul, his identity, his emotions his life taken away from that very moment and for him to not receive justice?” DuBose continued. “Why is that OK?”
Read more on New York Daily News.
Today I’m announcing my first guest blogger, Nikki DuBose! Nikki is a friend, model, and actress turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. Nikki and I have been working together recently with the common interests such as education about eating disorders, and have been teaming up to find ways to encourage girls in their desire to find acceptance in that the answer is only in Christ. You can find out more about Nikki at her website at http://nikkidubose.com.
I interviewed Nikki and asked her questions about her eating disorder in the modeling industry, and she was refreshingly open in her responses:
Read more on CheriseShaddix.com
We are Nikki DuBose and Cherise Shaddix, two former models working to be role models for the next generation.
And if there is one thing we know all too well, it’s the pressure to be perfect and climb the ladder of success in the fashion business at any cost.
(Nikki recently spoke out about the dark things she experienced in the fashion business in her new memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. Cherise left the industry after an agent said things like, “your pictures make me want to kill myself,” and “oh yeah…they kinda make me want to slit my wrists, too.”)
Read more on Feminine Collective.
Just stopping by today with an excerpt from the book, Washed Away. There is more information about the book and the author below the excerpt.
Chapter 5: Sex, Suicide, Addiction, Bullying & Divorce
Life is like a painting; our circumstances are the brushes that define which way the lines will flow and trickle. This endless mural reveals the contents of our souls through its unique colors, textures, and shades.
Read more on He Said Books Or Me.
I received the sweetest message from a girl I know in NYC. Amongst the hateful messages, she reached out in love, like so many of you. Thank you, everyone, for all of your support, I have so much to be grateful for this holiday season. Read on:
“Hey Nikki! I’m reaching out because I’m nearly finished with your memoir — I was going to wait to write to you until I finished it (I have less than 100 pages left), but then I saw your FB post this morning and felt the need to reach out now.
I almost don’t know what to say (without sounding trite) about my experience of reading your book. All I can say is that I’m blown away….I’ll probably finish it today, which means that I will have read it in about four days—and seeing as it usually takes me weeks or months to get through a book, that’s saying a lot! All of us here in the ED community know, on some level, that each one of us has gone through difficult things. We wouldn’t have eating disorders if that weren’t true (and an ED is itself difficult enough to go through). But I had no idea just how much pain you’ve walked through in your life. It breaks my heart to think of the depth of suffering you experienced as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult….it’s excruciatingly painful to experience sexual trauma OR mental illness OR an abusive modeling industry OR a parent’s addiction and death OR domestic violence and abuse OR divorce — to say nothing of experiencing *all* of those things. And what you said in your FB post is completely true—trauma changes your psyche and the way you behave. It’s cumulative, and also pervasive—it affects your entire worldview, how you think, what you do. (And btw, about your FB post, whoever said those things—f*ck them. Those sound like the comments of someone who has literally zero clue about any of these issues. I’m glad you have the strength and knowledge now to recognize the lies in what they say, but I still wish you didn’t have to be the recipient of such ignorance and callousness. Please know, at least, that the people who support and love you don’t think or believe those things for a second.)
I keep thinking back to our beautiful breakfast with Don last summer. I remember then being impressed and inspired by your quiet strength, your calm, your assurance that recovery is 100% possible. If only I knew then who I was sitting next to. You are the real deal, Nikki. You’ve traveled through the darkest circles of hell and come back to share your story of light. You are hope personified. I am grateful to be one of many beneficiaries of your wisdom.
Thank you for sharing your story with all of us, and with the world. I can only imagine how many people out there have a lighter burden now just by knowing that they aren’t alone in their personal hell. I hope it was healing for you to write it.
Most of all, thank you for being a light in the dark.”
Outskirts Press, the #1-rated self-publishing company according to Top Consumer Reviews, has announced the highest selling authors for October 2016.
With the help of Outskirts Press and the many options it offers to assist authors in the successful publishing and marketing of their books, these authors have sold almost 3,000 books in the month of October alone.
Read more on: itbusinessnet.com.
Once upon a time, there lived a little girl in Charleston with a big heart and a great lust for life. Although she held a fascination for the world, she was helpless to explore it. Braces covered her legs, and whenever she walked, she took stiff steps. Her adopted mother and father prayed every day for her limbs to move with grace, but the doctors gave no hope. They learned to accept the fate of their precious child, and they did their best to make her life comfortable.
When the rain came down, she listened in bed and delighted in the sounds. Shadows from the drizzling water reflected off her bedroom walls, causing her to drift into a fantasy universe. It was an enchanted place, filled with underwater fairies that guided her to faraway lands. In these lands, she was free to run through lush fields full of magical flowers.
She went to her special world as often as she could, and with every trip, she felt the strength returning to her body. Soon, she believed that she was invincible, just like every other girl and boy. But the strength lasted only in this place, and not in her waking life.
One day, as she relaxed in the grass and peered up at the powder blue sky, she noticed a dove as white as snow, soaring in-between the clouds. She watched in amazement as it glided through the atmosphere like an angel before descending and landing on her shoulder. Suddenly, she felt an overwhelming sense of joy and peace; this presence was familiar, and she recognized it as the spirit of Jesus. Her body softened, and she was infused with a new strength: a healing power full of grace and love.
Light shone into her eyes, and she inhaled and drifted into consciousness. The little girl returned to her waking life, but she did not feel Jesus leave her. She yawned and sat up on the bed, and as she turned her body, she noticed a peculiar sensation in her legs. Her eyes widened, and she threw off the covers and gazed down. She slid forward; one of her feet touched the cold wooden floor then the other. She allowed herself to continue rising while holding onto the bed and released to find herself standing without braces. She took a step, and another, and for the first time in her life, she walked by herself.
This little girl was my momma, Sandy.
– Washed Away: From Darkness to Light pg. 261
My momma, Sandy, was a fighter all of her life. She was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects a person’s body movement and muscle coordination. Currently, there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, rather, it is a condition that an affected individual and family members learn how to manage. As a child, my mother walked with braces around her legs and tried to hide them underneath her long, cotton dresses. I don’t know if she felt sad or ashamed, but from the few pictures I saw of her during that time, she was always smiling and holding her fluffy, calico cat. I think that animals brought a lot of comfort for her, a way for her to cope with the mixed feelings she experienced from being adopted and having a physical disability.
Then one day, she had that dream; the dream of a dove that flew down from Heaven and sat on her shoulder. The next morning when she woke up, she walked for the very first time in her life without braces. The doctors were shocked; they had never seen such a thing before. Momma had experienced a miracle, but she would eventually lose her battle to her demons. The mental ones.
To be continued.
“I’ve been reading the recently released memoir of Nikki Dubose called Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.
I sense so much hope from this woman and her life’s message. To read about what she’s been through and how she is starting to rebuild a happy life for herself is inspiring.
Nikki was a fashion model who landed the cover of coveted magazines such as Maxim and Vogue in the peak of her career. While from the outside her photos portray a woman living the life many people dream of, beneath the surface she was dealing with severe depression, sexual abuse, anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse and much more.”
Read more and listen to the podcast on Getbusythriving.com.
God’s Love is so awesome. It has the power to heal and restore even the most damaged, bitter heart. His Love can literally resurrect someone on the brink of dying. I know because it happened to me. I was a broken, washed up person who had given most of my life to addiction, sex, abuse, and the quest for fame in the modeling and entertainment industries, and God still picked me up and loved me back to wholeness even when I wanted nothing to do with Him.
After all, He had let my mother die from her addiction. He had watched, as my mother was beaten over and over again, listened to her cries for years, and did nothing to heal her pain. He certainly had did nothing to heal mine. Why did he make my mother with mental illnesses? Why did he create me the way He did? Why was I born into a family, raised by male figures who abused me repeatedly, and removed by the police in my teenage years? Did I ever ask for any of that? No, I didn’t.
I definitely don’t have the answers for that, but I do know that He was with me the whole time. He gave me the strength to go through it all, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences. There is light in the darkness, goodness in the sadness, strength in the pain. We don’t grow by living in comfort, and that is not to excuse the people from my past or what happened to me, but what I’m saying is that I choose to focus on the good, and to use my experiences to help others. There are so many hurting people in this world, and we can all use our pain to help them.
On November 3rd, I participated in an informal Skype talk with the inspiring graduate counseling students at Multnomah University. (This was the first time I’ve done a speaking event via Skype, and it was really cool!) I shared about my debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, and told my story of recovery from mental health issues as well as what I’m doing to ensure that there is some sort of mental health education system in place for models and professionals in the fashion industry. It was an incredible talk and the students were highly responsive; to me, it was a testament of the power of God’s love and recovery. A few years ago even, if you would have told me that I would be an author and speaker, sharing my story with people, especially treatment professionals and students, I would have said you are crazy! I used to be terrified of counselors and anyone in the medical field because I didn’t want to release my secrets. But as they say, “We are as sick as our deepest secrets,” and I was dying because of them.
I still have secrets, and I am only human. And that’s why I need my relationship with God, treatment professionals, mentors and trusted friends because I am fully capable of failure every single moment of every single day. But I’m gonna tell you what. Writing, speaking, and doing advocacy to help others is what really lets my soul on fire, it gives me that purpose and that passion to keep on keeping on! And I know that God has a purpose for my life, and that is to help people, and I know He’s got a wonderful plan for you.
See Jeremiah 29:11.
‘”The director of my agency…was in his…mid-fifties, and I was in my early twenties. It was very clear that if I slept with him…I would book more jobs, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t work. I felt like, I felt like a whore.’ – Nikki DuBose
Former model turned author and activist, Nikki DuBose describes how she felt pressured to sleep with the director of her high profile agency to book prominent campaigns and magazines in the book trailer for her newly released, raw and inspiring memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.”
Read more on Feminine Collective.
Buy Washed Away: From Darkness to Light now on Outskirts Press!
“My modeling career was anything but typical. I wasn’t plucked out of a mall or grocery store; I wasn’t even discovered. I didn’t just ‘fall’ into the industry by chance, either, although I was a serious nerd who never thought she belonged with the fashion industry’s elite. I pushed my way into the business, desperate for love and acceptance, because quite frankly, I didn’t receive a lot of it at home. When I did start modeling as a teen and later in my early twenties, it wasn’t ‘exciting,’ although I often fantasized that I was a glamorous supermodel because it lifted my low self-esteem. At some point, I did reach a pretty high level in my career, and I paid a high price for it, as I talk about in my soon-to-be-released memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. I was more familiar with abuse, poor body image, and distorted ideals of love than confidence and beauty, which all pushed me to look for acceptance in places where I could never find it. The modeling industry was one of those places, and it proved to be an illusionary world, one where I felt that I had to remain high, drunk, or starved in order to exist in it.”
Read more on Business of Modeling.
“I prance down the runway like a queen, my body dripping with jewels. Like a lioness, I sway from side to side, moving to entice all who look my way; I am the beast who no one can touch, and no one can tame. As I glance at the rows of curious faces, however, the darkness begins to take over. Before I know it, my worst nightmare has returned: the demons have revealed themselves, with their black eyes and mouths full of jagged teeth. I cannot escape them; they are my masters, and I am their slave.
Voices command me to keep moving. Look forward bitch and keep walking. Don’t screw it up! They’re all going to laugh at you. I force my head higher and put my shoulders back as I push through the noise and approach the end of the runway. As my feet carry me to the edge, I hear no sound, experience no sensation. Despite the music and commotion, I am lost in a dreamland.”
Read more on the Huffington Post.
Recently, I was asked to be an expert reviewer for Harvard’s STRIPED’s new teaching case entitled, “Patina of Glamour: Forging Alliances to Investigate the Underside of the Fashion Industry.”
I am grateful to be a part of this, especially because the case deals with fashion models and eating disorders, two subjects often glamorized and mocked in our society. I believe that with this lesson plan for students and teaching note, we will forge ahead in our educational efforts and break down existing walls of shame and stigma.
I helped to review the Narrative Document Students (listed pg. 2)
and the Lesson Plan for Teachers (listed pg. 7)
I want to thank Dr. Bryn Austin, director of Harvard STRIPED for this wonderful opportunity, as well as all of the people who came together and made this possible.
“Ik begon mijn modellencarrière op mijn vijftiende. Ik was zo blij. Het poseren en de creatieve kant van de mode-industrie vond ik geweldig. Jong als ik was, had ik nog geen flauw benul hoe het er in de modewereld echt aan toe gaat. Mijn eerste knauw kreeg ik toen mijn coach me tijdens een catwalktraining voor schut zette. Waar alle andere meisjes bij waren, trok ze ineens mijn shirt omhoog. Ze tikte op mijn buik en bitchte: ‘Jouw buik moet er net zo strak uitzien als die van de andere meiden. Ga naar huis om te trainen!’ Dat was de eerste openlijke aanval op mijn uiterlijk, iets wat in de modellenindustrie heel vaak voorkomt. De psychologische spelletjes die worden gespeeld, kunnen enorme psychische schade toebrengen. ”
Read more on Grazia.
“On Friday, May 27th, 2016, California Assembly Bill 2539 was held in the suspense file and killed for the rest of the year. The bill would have awarded models workplace protections and health standards, granting them employee status, similar to actors who are employees of the brands they represent. As well, California modeling agencies would have been licensed as talent agencies. Although we fought hard to see this bill through, the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) and specific modeling agencies lobbied violently against it, which ultimately led to the bill’s death. As an executive board member of Peaceful Hearts Foundation and Project HEAL SoCal Chapter, two organizations dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and eating disorders, I am passionate about pushing forth legislation which will protect vulnerable workers from being exploited in the fashion industry. Furthermore, as a survivor of a more than seventeen-year battle with eating disorders, trauma, other mental health issues, and as someone who experienced the darker side of the modeling industry, I want to clarify the arguments that have continuously come up over the past few months concerning the legislation.”
Read more on The Huffington Post.
To the people,
I regret to inform that California Assembly Bill 2539 was held in suspense on Friday, May 27th, and was killed for the rest of the year. I want to personally thank everyone for their hard work and attention to these critical issues, as the workplace protections and health standards outlined in the bill do not just affect models, but society as well. As an executive board member of both Project Heal SoCal Chapter and Peaceful Hearts Foundation, two organizations dedicated to raising awareness on eating disorders and child sexual abuse, I am passionate about preventing these issues, especially in the fashion industry where they are rampant among minors.
We worked tirelessly to see AB 2539 come to pass, however the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) and specific modeling agencies fought hard against it, which ultimately led to the bill’s death on Friday. Nevertheless, we will not give up! Although California lawmakers have denied models their right to health and safety standards this year, we will forge ahead until we win.
Author, Speaker, Mental Health Advocate
Executive Board Member
Project HEAL SoCal Chapter
Peaceful Hearts Foundation
“I am a survivor of child abuse. Starting at age four, I was repeatedly beaten and called names that no child or adult should ever be called. Then from eight through thirteen years of age, the abuse escalated to sexual victimization by a close male figure and my mother, who suffered from mental health issues. At nineteen and through my early twenties, I was re-victimized as an amateur model and again as a professional model. Now at thirty-one, I have been in strong recovery for a few years, am an author (my memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light hits stores Summer 2016), speaker and mental health advocate. I understand the long-lasting effects of abuse and how it can trigger other serious mental health conditions, yet I am also a believer that full recovery is possible. On the other side of the coin, I grasp the concept that hurting people hurt people and that forgiveness is a powerful force in this world – for ourselves and others.”
Read more on The Huffington Post.
“Unfortunately, eating disorders are common in the modeling world. These former models, all of whom have suffered eating disorders, are speaking out about their experiences in the appearance-focused industry-and revealing how they eventually recovered from its effects and gained body confidence.”
Read more on Mode.
“On April 6, 2016, I met with Assemblymember Marc Levine at the California Capitol Office in Sacramento with a group of powerful, passionate women who aim to establish workplace protections and health standards for models. Sara Ziff, Executive Director of the Model Alliance, Madeline Hill, a former model and Model Alliance member, Dr. Bryn Austin, Director of the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders at Harvard University, attorney Cassandra Soltis and I all came together to voice our support for Assembly Bill 2539, which addresses the critical need for workplace protections and health standards within California’s modeling industry. The bill also received a great deal of support from other individuals and organizations who submitted letters explaining why they also felt the bill was needed.”
Read more on The Model Alliance.
“For most models, the work isn’t lucrative, leaving them particularly vulnerable to those who hold the keys to more jobs. Model-turned-mental-health advocate Nikki DuBose has said she was pressured to sleep with the director of her modeling agency: ‘When I did I worked more, and when I didn’t the work stopped coming.’
Read more on LA Times.
“Levine and backers argued that his bill would help young women who absorb unhealthy body image expectations from advertising. Former model Nikki DuBose relayed her struggles with eating disorders and referenced research in which around half of the girls surveyed said they felt moved to lose weight by magazine images.”
Read more on The News&Observer.
UPDATE! On April 6th, 2016, Assembly Bill 2539 passed the Labor Committee!! We are so excited and are looking for more Letters of Support. Please see below for instructions on how to submit yours.
I am honored to be working as an advocate on AB 2539. Harvard STRIPED, the National Eating Disorders Association, the Model Alliance and Assemblymember Marc Levine have been working hard to introduce the Bill, which may be the first in the United States to see that the health standards in the modeling industry are changed and that the labor rights of models are finally exercised. From my own experiences as a former model, I can attest to the poor regulations in the modeling industry, and therefore this Bill is something that is greatly needed. Below is my official Letter of Support addressed to Assemblymember Marc Levine.
Here are more resources for AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/policy-translation/california-ab-2539/
Tips for writing letters of support for AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/how-to-write-a-letter-of-support-for-ca-ab-2539/
Resources for Advocates AB 2539: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/resources-for-advocates-california-ab-2539/