It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Sixtine Rouyre's understanding of her body has always been influenced by outside forces. Like most people, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model cultivated ideas about what her body was, what it should look like and how she could change it to fit the standard through magazines, friends and social media. Those messages eventually led her into a dangerous place with an eating disorder, she tells Yahoo Life.
"I don't talk about it much just because I'm aware that it doesn't make me special. I'm not the only girl to say I have had an eating disorder," she says. "Which is insane."
Although the conversation about body-image struggles, eating disorders and those who have experienced them is more open today than it has been in the past, Rouyre, 25, was already partially aware of the prevalence of these issues when she was a teen going through them alongside her friends.
"In high school, my friends and I would kind of egg each other on in it," she says. "It was like 'Oh, how long have you gone without eating? How much weight have you lost?' It was a competition with all of us and it was just so weird."
Looking back, she's horrified at the fact that she was just 15 when she was running a Tumblr account focused on food, weight and idealized body types. At the time, it wasn't abnormal to see such content — and still isn't in some corners of social media, including TikTok, which has had to make efforts to keep harmful eating disorder-related content off of the platform.
Studies have shown how images on social media can negatively impact users, specifically when it comes to the risk of developing body dissatisfaction or an eating disorder. But that impact can also be used for good when media exposes people to diverse body types, according to 2023 research from the University of New South Wales.
Rouyre herself says that she experienced a "shift" in her mentality after seeing images of Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence in magazines. Following those women on social media, where they were speaking about body inclusivity and acceptance, changed her life.
"Maybe we don't have to live like this," Rouyre recalls thinking, referring to the constant struggle of striving to be thinner.
The confidence that Graham and Lawrence encouraged in their followers seemed to Rourye to be reflective of what they were actually experiencing. So, she decided to follow their lead.
"I just started posting every now and then something about body positivity or something about embracing myself. And [the posts] did so well that I was like, 'Okay, let me let me lean into this a little bit,'" she says. "I think at that point, I was fully faking it, you know. I'm sitting there posting about, like, loving yourself, and did I love myself? Probably not. But if there's one thing my mom told me, it's you fake it till you make it, right? I just kept doing it."
Rouyre's personal journey proved to her how powerful social media can be, as the empowering messages she posted on Instagram and TikTok ultimately changed the way she felt about her body and appearance. In the end, those two things didn't carry as much weight on her self-worth as they once did.
"It took me a lot of years to unlearn toxic diet culture," she says. "But [feeling neutral about my body's appearance] became so natural and so easy that I just stopped thinking about it altogether."
It even led her to start a swimsuit series in which she would try on different swimwear for her audience (something that she previously thought she'd never be comfortable doing) and gain recognition for it. That landed her a spot in the 2023 issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit before she also launched a swim collection of her own with Londre, featuring abstract body shapes. The line, called "Heavenly Bodies," is just an extension of the positive and empowering imagery she hopes to put out into the world to encourage self-love in those who might be struggling.
"I get messages from people saying, 'You've helped me so much. I wore a swimsuit for the first time today.' So even being able to change one person's life or two people or whatever, it's just so amazing," she says.
And she has no doubt that her younger self would be proud of all that she's accomplished now.
"If I hadn't gone through everything I did in high school, I don't know that I would have ever had the power or the guts to do what I've done," Rouyre says. "I wouldn't be able to be where I am without her."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please visit the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website at nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.