by MIKE CHAIKEN
Model Niki Peacock ultimately didn’t win the Miss Bikini US competition in July. But as the competition progressed the blonde blue eyed 19-year-old did win the attention of the photographers on hand.
Her demeanor was bright and cheerful. She was all for trying unusual poses and locations, always with a smile on her face.
But in quieter moments, the Florida resident spoke briefly about darker moments in her life up to this point.
And after the competition was done, and the photographers dispersed to the four winds to handle their editing, Niki sent out a request.
“Since my platform is based on body naturality I kindly ask you to not edit my body in anyway… due to my mental disorder it does hurt to see an edit of something that’s not really me.”
You see, Niki has dealt with body dysmorphia that has led to eating disorders.
In an email interview, she spoke about what her life was like before she recognized there was an issue to be addressed.
“Every single day I would waste hours poking and prodding and analyzing my body and my figure and it determined my worth every day,” said Niki, who is a dancer.
“If I felt skinny and pretty that day, I could have a good day where I would smile and I would have fun,” said Niki.
“If I even looked a teeny bit overweight or if I looked bigger that day than I normally would, or I was wearing looser clothing, I would feel depressed and ugly and unhappy and unsatisfied with my life,” she said.
“My body image had a tight grip on my feelings and had complete control over my happiness,” said Niki.
Physically, said Niki, “I was underfed. I was starving myself for days. I was restricting my eating and refusing myself sugary drinks or drinking anything other than water.”
“I would pass out.”
Subsequently, Niki said, “I would get ulcers in my stomach from not eating for weeks. I got to the point where I couldn’t even dance or speak because my body was so malnourished it was bleeding from the inside and not letting my body function the way it was supposed to.”
“Mentally,” she said, “I felt weak.”
She spent so much energy on this negative behavior because, she said, “I felt as if everyone else was doing this and they were completely fine and they looked way more beautiful and more skinny than me and I thought that skinny met beautiful.”
“I felt that I was alone and that I needed to lose weight in order to make myself a proper person.”
Niki’s feelings impacted her day-to-day life. “It stopped me most days from leaving my bed and from being able to do the things that I love to do so much right now such as dancing and modeling and learning.”
“I would not shower for days because I felt like I didn’t deserve to be clean because I wasn’t up to society’s standards,” said Niki.
“Eating was always a task for me- and deep down I love eating- but I felt as if it was a chore to keep my body alive so I would only eat the bare minimum if anything,” said Niki.
Mind you, the model explained, this was all before she was eighth grade.
Niki’s world began to shift when she took a health class in school. She realized she was not doing what everyone else was doing. Her feelings weren’t shared with the rest of the world.
Niki realized she had an eating disorder and she needed help.
Being a dancer exasperated the eating disorder, she explained.
In dance, said Niki, “Everyone is supposed to be the same size and be the same height to fit in with that.”
“Luckily,” she said, “I had a very inclusive dance teacher at that time who talked to me a little about eating disorders and tried to educate me as well and that if I wanted to keep doing what I loved I had to properly nourish my body because I didn’t have the energy that I wanted and that I once had when dancing.”
To help herself, she does what she has asked the photographers who work with her to do.
“I… no longer edit my photos/body,” said Niki.
“It might sound silly but if I am the most real and raw person I can be, that helps me feel better about myself because I know people love me for who I am,” said Niki. “I celebrate my uniqueness every single day.”
“It’s really comforting to know that I can look back on a picture of myself any single day for the past two years and know that’s what I look like… I am being completely transparent.”
Additionally, to cope with her feelings, she provides herself reminders to eat. She also preps her meals to give her “something easy (to eat) and lots of snacks to fuel my body throughout the day.”
Combatting the negative feelings about herself all the time is not easy, said Niki.
“It honestly is pretty difficult going from hating yourself and your body to thinking you’re the beautiful person you are,” said Niki.
But, she said, “It’s all about reminding yourself and keeping track with your thoughts.”
The negative feelings about herself have not disappeared entirely. She has good days. She has bad days.
However, she said, “I now have the tools to know how to aid my feelings.”
Niki said she tries to surround herself with people who recognize what she is going through. She tries to push off those people who feed her “toxic energy.”
Media imagery does make it tough for Niki as it does for other women who don’t fit the size 0, 5’8” template of a model.
“Growing up I never saw my body type in media representation especially in a positive way,” said Niki. “I remember most notably going to Victoria’s Secret and seeing that none of these models look like me I must not be pretty or sexy.”
Now, she said, she realizes this way of thinking is wrong.
She tries to provide other women, who don’t fill the Victoria’s Secret mode, with representation of someone who looks like her.
Niki said she now places less weight on the opinions of others when it comes to her appearance.
“I fully stopped caring about not showing my cellulite or my stretch marks or my acne,” said Niki. “I’m no longer scared that people are going think I’m not feminine enough or not perfect enough or not skinny enough.”
“I am Niki.”
To others who are struggling as she has struggled, Niki said, “I think my biggest advice would be to educate yourself on how you’re feeling.”
“Once you can categorize it and put a name to (the struggle) you’re going to feel so much better,” said Niki.
But, Niki said, “It’s an everyday battle and for most of us it never ends.
“So,” she said, “fall in love with yourself, fall in love with your life, and be the main character of a story you would want to read.”
Follow Niki peacock on Instagram @presidentniki.