Victoria Secret Model & Mental Health Advocate Ali Tate Cutler On Developmental Mental Health, Body Image, and Working to Replacing Stigma with Hope

She’s shaken weight and body image stigma’s hold on the fashion industry by becoming the first curve model to be hired by Victoria Secret, an institutional brand notorious for its stringent messaging and definition of beauty and is entering her 3rd year of hosting her mental health podcast series The Love You Give.

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week and upcoming World Mental Health Day (October 10, Saturday), Ali’s joined us at ATEM to share her thoughts on all things wellness. We talk about the objects, practices, and thoughts she leans into to stay well, her journey towards getting comfortable in her own skin, mental health and the fashion industry, and where mental illness fits in “wellness” and self-care.

Name: Ali Tate Cutler 
Role: Model, Podcast host of The Love You Give, Mental Health Advocate 
Based in: New York City 
Age: 30 
Photo provided by The Lions Talent Management

1. In your words, describe who you are.

I am a curve model, a podcast host, and environmental and mental health advocate. 

2. How’s your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health this week?

My week has been challenging. I have had some serious PMS emotional swings and lethargy. 2020 has been a difficult year for most and I think we need to normalize that we are not always going to feel amazing. What is normal is taking it day by day and allowing ourselves to have some time off. I am working on getting my spiritual connection back because I realized that I haven’t done any meditation or breath work in a while and I am feeling far from source right now. So today I am doing acupuncture and then going straight into my breath work.  

3. What does self-care mean to you? 

When thinking “self-care” many people conjure mental imagery of baths and working out and face masks. That’s all great. But to me, my “self care” is realizing that not everyone is going to like you: you are not for everyone and that is okay. Let that belief light up everything you do.  It leads to self-liberation– the freedom to act completely in your self-interest and to do things that make your life feel good to you.

4. You have an incredible podcast series on mental health at large called The Love You Give.  How has your background and experiences influenced your decision to use your platform and voice to advocate for holistic wellness and mental health alongside your modelling career?

I have had many mental health struggles in my life, whether surrounding my body shame or depression and anxiety. I discovered that spirituality, meditation, breathwork, and talk therapy were ways that I could heal. I started to believe in the innate fact that the mental health crisis is related to the way that we aren’t talking about the universal struggles of the human experience. Just talking can make us feel less alone and more empowered. Then, when we’re trying to cope or get better, we can then look at what has worked for others. This podcast is a great tool for anyone struggling. I realized with my platform as a model, I need to use it the best way I know how- to help others. And I love doing my podcast interviews. I get to talk to amazing people with a lot of experience in mental health and spirituality.  

5. There’s an immense pressure to look a certain way in the modeling industry. In fact, the modelling industry today is considered a high-risk demographic for developing mental illness such as body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders, similar to the dancer community due to its highly competitive nature and metrics for success centering on the basis of form and appearance, but things are changing. What’s changing? What’s not?

I agree that the fashion industry lends itself to mental health issues. I definitely started encountering my own issues when I became a model. The fluid nature that comes with our industry focusing on “the next big thing” or what is considered attractive gets to a model’s head. One season she is in, the next, she is out. That level of inconsistency can mess with models’ heads and it’s hard to not take these circumstances personally. A central act of fashion is that it commodifies. In that alone, and when we look at things through a majorly material lens, we usually develop mental health issues because my and others’ belief is that happiness can’t come from what we buy, what we wear, or how we look. 

6. When was a time you vividly remember struggling with your mental health? 

I struggled with my mental health as a child a lot. It was in regards to my own body. I always felt fat, and believed no one would like me or date me because of it. It was only in my 20s that I let that belief go, and then I discovered anxiety about other issues. But the main struggles in my life were always about my sense of unlovability. I just didn’t feel worthy of connection or love and if I don’t keep on top of that, it comes up in my life today.

7. There are people in the wellness community engaging in “all things wellness” and yet avoiding conversations like mental illness or trauma. Can our wellness community be inadvertently stigmatizing mental health? 

I believe that wellness isn’t always pretty and happy and positive. If members of the wellness community are speaking about topics though a rosy-glass of toxic positivism, we are doing a disservice to the real healing that needs to take place. 

8. Describe your wellness regimen. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically?

My wellness routine involves sweating three times a week. It involves breath work once a week. Calling my friends and family on the regular. Watching funny videos for big belly laughs. Getting into nature as much as possible. 

9. Care to share with us a few of your favorite wellness or skincare picks? 

My favorite feel good supplements are probiotics and probiotics from Amazing Grass Superfood Powder and I love taking vitamin D, C, E to keep my immune system strong. I also start each morning with ceremonial Cacao instead of coffee. The magnesium leaves me feeling connected and calm throughout the day and it’s great for skin. My skincare routine involves a Korres face wash and Innisfree green mud mask. I use Amberlight Beauty face balm as my organic moisturizer option for night.

10. What are your goals for The Love You Give in the coming years? What other projects are you excited about? 

My goals for my podcast are to continue having on amazing guests that can normalize mental health struggles and challenges and of course, to help as many people as possible. I would LOVE to interview big players like Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, and Mooji. I want to get the viewership at the levels that attracts guests like that.

11. Letters to My Younger Self: If you had any advice to give your younger self, what would it be? 

I would tell her: you are loved. You are wild. You are free. You are abundant. Not everyone likes you, and that is what makes you powerful.

12. How should people shape their own self care plans?

The key is to discover what lights you up. What gives you a feeling of peace? Once you can discern that, give time to yourself for an hour every day to do that. 

Complement this read with an exploration into how creative sectors can foster mental health illness by professional dancer, Ali Deucher, how Executive Director of leading mental health non-profit, Sad Girls Club, Brianne Patrice turned towards a career in mental health advocacy, and cooking or art as a means for catharsis.

Interview and Edited by Susan Yoomin Im

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