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Q & A with Carré Otis: On Body Image, Healing, Yoga, Meditation & Orgasms

Jason Wachob
February 22, 2012
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
February 22, 2012

Carré Otis is one of the most recognizable faces in modeling, headlining in campaigns for Guess, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and appearing on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. She’s worked with many of the world’s greatest fashion photographers, including Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, and Peter Lindbergh.

But there was a flip side to Carré's success as she struggled with addiction, an eating disorder, and an abusive relationship.

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In her book, Beauty Disrupted: A Memoir, Carré shares her unique insight into the business of beauty and the high price it demands by giving an honest account of her struggles with love, identity and spirituality.

Now a wife and busy mother of two, she’s found a new voice as a passionate advocate for young women in and out of the modeling industry.

MBG: Can you tell our readers a bit about your struggles with eating and addiction? 

CO: Looking back, I see that at the heart of all of my disorders (eating disorders as well as a kind of disordered living -- being in a constant state of imbalance and/or living in a state of excess) was an unaddressed sorrow and suffering. There were serious issues beneath the surface, and I had not previously had the tools, resources or courage to examine them. By engaging in many healing and treatment modalities and disciplines I began to recognize some deep-seated patterns. By shining a bright light on that which had been in darkness, that which had previously existed only in the recesses of my mind and heart, I was able to see what I needed to work through. Therapy, yoga and meditation became much needed friends.

How did yoga, meditation, and therapy help you in the healing process?

It has been so beneficial to have had the privilege of precise instruction and guided practice. I found it necessary to engage in dialogue, in talk-therapy, so as to process the information and energy that felt stuck in my body. Being able to find language to work through this pain -- pain that was stored physically -- was a life-saver. I understand that dysfunction can get 'stuck' in certain places. Through dedicated practice --yoga, meditation and talk-therapy -- I was able to embark on a journey of authentic healing.

What do you love about yoga? Can you talk about your yoga/meditation practice today? 

My yoga and meditation practice has fluctuated through the years. I've gone through periods where my practice has been quite intense. And other times it is less regular, less focused. For me it's a constant adjustment, and somewhat of a balancing act, given all the other areas of my life that I choose to give attention to. Sometimes my practice needs to be very disciplined. For years, I would wake up at 4am, do my meditation practices, and then do yoga for several hours. At the time, I needed that dedication then. Now, it's all about softening my expectations.

How has your practice helped you as a wife and as a mom?

When children are involved everything changes! Sometimes I experience this change as week by week, day by day, and even minute by minute. I begin my day thinking it will go one way, thinking that I'll have time for a formal 'sit' or yoga practice... only to discover that my real practice and yoga is to abandon previously established agenda and go pick up my daughter from school because she has a fever! This IS yoga. To me, softening my expectations reflects the true flexibility of a practitioner.

Why is body image such an important issue today among women?

It seems like the oversaturation of media-messaging is unprecedented. We have never been inundated with so many images and messages -- some delivered subtly and some delivered aggressively. So here we are, experiencing the impact of this tremendously media-influenced culture; and we're witnessing the direct effects media have not only on our western population but in other populations as well. I think it's crucial to have healthy, exploratory and realistic dialogues about this. Our young people need education, awareness and protection. Most young women think that these contrived "standards" of beauty and ideal body-size are something to believe in, to emulate. Many of them also believe these images are real. It's important to break down the truth about air-brushing and photo-shopping, to educate these women about photo "enhancement" and the power of technology to change a real woman's image online or in print. This could help to shed light on the fact that these so-called "standards" are being irresponsibly dictated by an industry for the purpose of making money. And, these "standards" are literally IMPOSSIBLE to attain.Attempting to look like these women, whose images have been drastically changed, is a futile, dangerous, and potentially fatal mission.

What's going on in the modeling industry right now that scares you the most? What has you the most excited?

There STILL is no union, no distinct health and safety regulations, no child labor laws. This is greatly concerning, considering every other industry has these basic protections in place. That scares me -- not only for the kids in the industry but also for the millions of young people who regularly absorb these often inappropriate images, looking for inspiration about how they "should" look. Not everyone is 17 years old and a size 2. In fact, a miniscule segment of the population actually is. The great news is there is a new movement, headed by fellow model, Sara Ziff, called The Model Alliance. It's well organized and it addresses these very concerns. It's so encouraging.

What's one piece of advice that you can give someone who might be dealing with an eating disorder/body image issue right now?

The reality is you can fully recover from eating disorders. This is the truth. There are many of us on the other side of it now and there are tremendous resources available to us. My mentor, Carolyn Costin of Monte Nido Clinic has several books available, such as Your Dieting Daughter and 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder.

Something you've talked about in the past is how serious inner work not only lead to happiness -- but also to the big "O" -- orgasm?

Ha! Such a great discussion and that's actually the subject of my next book. Many of us are winding our way through healing and self discovery. Many of us have been abused in some way or another and often moved to abusing our own selves. Often times when there is a sense of disconnect -- from ourselves, from others, from the world -- it stems from survival instincts. Disconnecting was a coping mechanism that we needed to survive at some point. We find this plays out in our intimate lives -- personal relationships, romantic relationships, and in our sex lives. For me, this disconnect held me captive. I was unable to surrender to the freedom and love that can be discovered, received and expressed in sexuality. It was through some profound inner training and healing work that I was, in my late 30's, finally able to experience the overwhelming explosion of bliss in intimacy. I have to emphasize: It took work and dedication. And now, on the other side of it all, I'm honored to celebrate and rejoice in this freedom!

What is your philosophy on food? 

I have a beautiful and healthy relationship with food today. I'm present to my wonderful relationship with food when I'm grocery shopping, when I'm preparing food, and when I'm eating it. I'm truly in tune with what my body needs. I honor when I am satiated and am no longer on any roller coaster dictated by emotions and mood. I raise my daughters to understand the body-food connection, that food is fuel and medicine. We never say the "F" word (fat) nor do we talk about diets in our household. Rather we rejoice in shapes, not sizes, in health, not thinness. And I do my best to role model a sense of balance. I try and instill the basic tools, such as checking in with their body-wisdom. My husband, daughters and I are, for example, finished with a meal when our bellies feel full.

What are you working on? What's next?

Ohh! So many things! I'm a featured writer on Huffington Post. I'm collaborating with several different activists and artists who share my mission and message. I'm also full throttle into my next book on "The Big O." And first and foremost, I'm focused on raising my daughters, encouraging them to have a powerful and stable foundation so that they can emerge into the world with essential tools that will enable them to navigate their beautiful lives.

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Jason Wachob
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.