Emily DiDonato is a full-time model, but in her spare time, she’s a lifestyle vlogger. On her YouTube channel, the brunette beauty gives her followers a taste of her lifestyle, sharing tidbits like her beauty secrets, workout tips and travel hacks. But most recently, the 28-year-old got a lot more personal with her followers, detailing her personal journey to body positivity and confidence.
DiDonato has modeled for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Victoria’s Secret, Maybelline, Vogue Germany, Giorgio Armani, Chanel — and the list goes on. She started her modeling career in her junior year of high school, moving to Manhattan to commit to the gig full-time at the age of 18. She was scouted at a mall (like many models are), but when she stared to connect with agencies, they gave her consistent feedback saying she was “too curvy, too big, and too athletic.”
“To be successful was to be thin,” says DiDonato. “I was like, I’m going to do whatever it takes — and I did. I was eating as little as possible and was very obsessed with what I was putting in my body. And I was over-exercising.” According to the model, she went from 140 pounds to 118 pounds in a matter of a few weeks. “I’m like 150 pounds now,” she says.
“I would never take a train or a taxi — I walked everywhere” she admits. “I was like, alright I didn’t go to college, so I have to make this work. I thought that if I didn’t succeed as a model, I felt like I’d be embarrassed. I was putting an obscene amount of pressure on myself.”
At a photoshoot with Maybelline in the beginning of her career, DiDonato was approached by her friend, Julia Stegner, and Maybelline makeup artist Charlotte Willer. “They knew there was a very big change in me,” says DiDonato. The two privately expressed their concern regarding DiDonato’s weight loss. The change was also noticed by her family and modeling agencies, all of whom said that DiDonato looked healthier — and better — before.
“I ended up gaining all of the weight back, and then some […] I felt like I was failing all of these agencies and these people that believed in me and wanted me to succeed.” After moving home to reassess her goals and get healthy, the model set her goals on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. She ultimately landed the gig, but was unhappy with the results of the photoshoot. “I hated the way that I looked. I thought I looked so big. I thought clients will see this and know that I’m big.”
Unsurprisingly, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot had the reverse effect — she started booking more roles than ever. She credits this “freeing” experience to one of her first big steps towards feeling great in her own body. “I felt freed knowing there were pictures out there of what I actually looked like and that people were celebrating it. It gave me reassurance in a way — not that external reassurance is what you need, but it helped me in that moment.”
In addition to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot, she also found that banishing negative self talk played a crucial role in her growth — as well as focusing her attention on hobbies, people and activities outside of the modeling industry.
The model concludes, “There’s nothing sexier than a woman who’s comfortable in her own skin and body and that’s something I’m working at every day.”