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.
Hayley Hasselhoff has been a big name in the curve industry since she began modeling at the young age of 14 before going on to star in the ABC Family show Huge and break barriers as the first curve model to appear on the cover of a European Playboy magazine. But in conversation with Yahoo Life, the 29-year-old body acceptance advocate talks about how she's finding her purpose in deeper conversations about body image and mental health on her podcast Redefine You.
While Hasselhoff says, "my body doesn't define me, I define me," the model and actress acknowledges how her figure had played a role in her upbringing and how she has utilized her experience to pave a successful path for herself.
"I've always been curve — beautifully curve — but, you know, it came with its own set of challenges. I grew up in Los Angeles. The idea of society's standard of beauty was not [curvy] at that time," she explained. "When you're a teenager, you're developing, you don't understand why you don't look like the person next to you. I developed very, very early."
Hasselhoff recalls comparing herself to people around her at a young age and even being teased for wearing a bra before the rest of her peers. Even as she came to understand her relationship with her body and her personal struggles with body dysmorphia, she continued to face unsolicited opinions from people who had a perception of her because of her body.
"I've run into fatphobic doctors, I've gone into juice bars and have people have conversations about how my health is determined by what I eat when I'm eating a juice!" she says. "I have dealt with a lot of the people who still feel like society has a standard of beauty, or that if you're curve, you're not healthy."
Luckily, Hasselhoff felt a kinship with the growing plus-size community and found solace in identifying with it as a young teen. She explains that working as a curve model and finding herself in rooms filled with women of different body types made her feel accepted.
"A lot of people have a lot of resistance towards the word plus-size and curve and fat. A lot of people will use them in a derogatory way," she explains. "Start to look at those words in the way that you want to perceive them, how they mean to you in a positive light rather than a negative one. I'm so comfortable with the word plus-size and I'm so comfortable with the word curve. I think it's really, really important."
She also benefitted from having a great deal of support from her parents David Hasselhoff and Pamela Bach, who are both well known for their roles in Baywatch. "I never, ever looked at it as, 'Oh, look at their bodies' or an idea of society's standard of beauty," she said, noting that the public perception of the actors didn't impact their relationships at home. "I've always had love and support from them about my body and celebrating my body."
Still, she recalls the challenge of developing differently from the woman who she had admired the most. "It's hard when you look at your mother or you identify not looking like what you think beauty should look like," Hasselhoff shares. "It brought up a lot of different conversations. My mom and my dad are just so proud to see how far that I've come and how resilient I think that I am."
That resilience, she says, is not only a result of the tough conversations she had with others but also how she worked on herself to overcome the insecurities that they brought up.
"When I look back at my childhood, I do think I had a lot of social anxiety and anxiety at times, and many of which [were] triggered because of the conversations around my body image or my self-image," she says. "I, as somebody who may seem like I'm very confident and very grounded in my body, it takes time and it takes work."
She continues, "I still have to do that work because I'm talking about my body on a consistent basis. If we start to open these conversations up, then it eliminates more people from feeling like they're going to go to a crisis and have nowhere to go."
As she shares her story and embraces her figure on different platforms, Hasselhoff continues to learn the true and beautiful impact that authenticity and vulnerability can have on other people.
"It's about being able to lift people up for living their authentic truth and their beauty and their love for themselves," she says.
-Video produced by Olivia Schneider
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