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What is your life’s purpose?
My purpose in life is to uplift and inspire others to live a full and meaningful life.

How are you living your purpose?
As a body positive activist, I am inspiring others to love and accept themselves on a daily basis. I decided to make my modeling career meaningful by adding a message of being body positive to it. I use my social media platforms to reach people all over the world by sharing my story and how I am making a daily choice to accept my body. I still have days when it’s really hard, especially with me being a model, but I know that I can only change an industry from the inside out. I am fighting for more body diversity and inclusivity in the modeling industry!

I am also an inspirational speaker who spreads the message of body positivity and self-love.

And, after completing my degree in psychology, I am currently busy with my practical training to become a life coach. I am seeing clients on a regular basis and the transformations that I have seen happening in front of my eyes are truly magical.

How did you find your purpose?
As a young girl growing up just outside Paarl, South Africa, I always dreamed of becoming a model. As I reached high school, I realized that my body will never be small enough to meet the strict requirements of a modeling agency. I also dreamed of being a finalist of my school’s beauty pageant, but I wasn’t seen as pretty or popular at that time. After high school, I decided to study drama as my plan B, with the goal to make it big in the entertainment industry. But after three years, I chose to shift gears and pursue a degree in psychology at Stellenbosch University; I have always been passionate about uplifting others.

In 2015, while I was studying psychology, my life took an interesting turn. A Miss South Africa finalist from a previous year scouted me at an event and encouraged me to enter the pageant. I thought she was joking because I knew I didn’t have the perfect pageant body. She suggested I get my body in better shape and gave me her personal trainer’s number. I thought about it over the weekend and decided that I had nothing to lose, except weight. I waited to start training with that personal trainer until a month later because my academic schedule kept me so busy.

I lost 14kg (31 lbs.) in four months to be bikini-ready for the first regional round of Miss South Africa in August 2015. I made drastic lifestyle changes to lose the weight in a very short amount of time: I cut out all sugar, starch, red meat, and alcohol. I also worked out 2 to 3 hours a day, doing intense weight training with my personal trainer and cardio in my “free time.” I remember riding up to 4 spin classes a day when I had the energy to do it. In the end, I was selected as a top-12-finalist of Miss South Africa 2016. The pageant process spread out over seven months, during which time I struggled to keep the weight down. I fought a daily battle with my food and my body because I wanted her (my body) to be smaller than what she wanted to be.

The pageant ended in March 2016, I went back to my normal lifestyle, enjoying a glass of champagne with my girlfriends and a “ braai choppie” with my family on the weekends again. I was still training 3 to 4 times a week, but my body went back to her happy place: a size 14. Honestly, I don’t think I was ever truly myself in a smaller body, even though the world thought I was rocking hot.

I signed my first modeling contract three months after Miss South Africa, as soon as I was back into my size 14 jeans. That didn’t mean that I was suddenly the most confident woman in the room, but being body positive was something I was actively working on. My new mantra was being kinder to myself and appreciating my body for the fascinating vehicle she was. I did not step on a scale once after Miss South Africa. I decided that I would never be defined by numbers again, nor will my shape or size determine how worthy I am. Today, I am an International Curve model who works in London, Germany, and South Africa.

My body transformation journey gave me the insight to educate women about self-love and body acceptance. There is no specific size that determines if you are healthy because healthy looks different on every body. My favorite hashtag is #healthnotsize and I use it in all my posts.

The biggest myth around curvy girls is that we are lazy and unhealthy. Such nonsense! I still train 3 to 4 times a week, I lead a healthy lifestyle and I am still a size 14. Yes, I have my piece of carrot cate if I feel like it, but I also love my daily vegetables and green juice. You must do what works for your body and your lifestyle. Find what makes you happy, whether it’s swimming, yoga, kickboxing or hiking, because exercise is a celebration of what your body can do!

I encourage women to focus on being healthy instead of trying to be skinny all the time. The diet industry is a billion-dollar business that is billing off our insecurities. Cellulite, stretch marks, and rolls are all normal and totally okay, but we never see them on TV or in magazines because the images are photo-shopped to perfection. We need to educate young girls and women about the truth of self-love and body acceptance. We are allowed to love and embrace ourselves with every “imperfection” that we are born with. My advice: Always strive towards being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.

What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Never stop looking for what excites and stimulates your soul. It’s never too late to start over or to change your direction. Magic happens when you are in line with your destiny! I truly believe: Whatever you seek is seeking you.

What resources do you recommend?
Body positive role models on Instagram: Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence, Sonny Turner, and BodyPosiPanda
The Body Wars: Why Body Dissatisfaction is at Epidemic Proportions and How We Can Fight Back by Dr. Aric Sigman
The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf

Connect with Marciel Hopkins
Email: marcielhopkins22@gmail.com
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ICE Modeling Agency link