Robyn Lawley is one of the world's most famous models. She was the first so-called "plus-size" face of Ralph Lauren and also fronts brands including Chantelle Lingerie, Violeta by Mango, and Pantene Australia. If you haven't seen her on a talk show by now, you've surely seen her featured in the pages of Cosmo around the world. Lawley, 25, is now 7.5 months pregnant with her first child. In her first in-depth interview since announcing her pregnancy, Lawley chats with Cosmopolitan.com about considering an abortion, her cravings, and getting back to work after her pregnancy.
How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant? It was unplanned and came a little earlier than expected, but when I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited. I had been eating super clean for the two months before because I was coming back from working on my cookbook, which is filled with decadent dishes. For a month or two, I decided to eat all organic, local, fresh produce. I cut alcohol and other things that people usually cut when they're trying to have a baby. Plus, my partner was doing it at the same time, to support me. So it was kind of ironic that it happened!
Once I started researching pregnancy, I saw that 25 is an optimal age for women to have a baby. A lot of people said I'd have an easier pregnancy and easier labor, so I was like, "I might as well do it" [laughs].
[Update 5/12 3:10 p.m.: Robyn reached out to Cosmopolitan.com after this interview was published and asked to expand on this answer with the following: "I still think planned pregnancies are better for society or [for parents to have] a deep want of the child. There's so many deciding factors [in having a child], but my main reason was that I chose Everest as my life partner years ago. He and I discussed kids often, so although it was sooner than we thought, we always knew we would have one together. I just had to decide if 25 was OK to do it."]
So, you were considering not having it? Why's that? I've been modeling for 10 years; [my career] seems like it's come very sudden to a lot of people, but it hasn't. I have been working and traveling like crazy for years. That gets exhausting! I wanted to slow down the modeling, and up the designing and the cooking and other things that interest me. I love modeling, but I was already on my way to cutting back on that work to focus on quality over quantity. I was keeping exclusive clients like Chantelle, Ralph Lauren, and Pantene while trying to cut out some catalogue. Still, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had to take all options into account, because with a baby, I'll have to majorly slow down — and I'm very career driven. That scared me.
What factors helped make your decision? I talked to so many women for advice. I spoke to a lot of career women that I respect who chose their careers over babies and had abortions. Even my mom had an abortion in her early 20s that I didn't [previously] know about. Women have always been expected to raise the child, but now it's great because dads are more involved. I know my partner's going to be a great dad, so that takes some of the pressure off. Another reason I kept the baby was because I was worried about possible fertility problems down the road. What if I aborted the baby now and in five years time, I wouldn't be able to have one? That was my biggest fear.
You're a feminist who's pro-choice. Were you surprised by your own decision to keep the baby? I am pro-choice. I donate to NARAL every year. I always thought it was a very easy decision to make, to get an abortion. I thought if you need it, you can get it. I thought it'd be so easy! I'd just walk in there, and it'd be done so quickly, but then I called them and heard the process and thought this is a serious, full-on thing. I decided then that I wanted to keep the baby. Had I been in a different circumstance, without a partner or had I been raped, the decision could have been different. When you're actually confronted with the possibility of an abortion, it's an immensely hard decision. If people think this is an easy decision to make, they're grossly mistaken.
So, at that point, you were having the baby, but only the people you had consulted knew about the pregnancy. How did you tell the people you work with you were pregnant? After I decided to keep the baby, I was so scared to tell my agency. I think that's something a lot of women go through. I had a friend who was pregnant call me, and the first thing she told me was that she was scared to tell her workplace because she'd just gotten the job. She was scared of getting fired, because that still happens. Women are still unequal in the workforce.
The agency ended up being very supportive, and we discussed what the best course of action was. I couldn't tell some clients for a while, so I had to continue working while pregnant. I would be working bikini shoots thinking, I look bloated today. Oh right, I'm pregnant! It ended up being six months of working while pregnant without announcing it. Which was hard because I was a lot weaker. Some clients noticed something was off, because I'm usually very easygoing, but I had to start saying, "I can't do this, or I can't lift that." As a model, as soon as you say you can't do things, you're a diva! [Laughs.]
Why didn't you tell clients right away? I didn't tell clients right away because of some contractual obligations and also because I wanted to do it on my own terms in my own time. I blurted it out to Ralph Lauren at their spring 2015 fashion show in New York. They were like, "Have some Champagne!" and I said, "I'm pregnant!" They're so supportive, they're kind and family-oriented. My agency told Chantelle, and they were supportive too. For the latest ads they used old images of me. I'm lucky, because I worried about stepping out of the light and someone stepping in and taking it all.
How has your body changed since you've been pregnant? What's been surprising about it? My body has actually changed more than I thought. Obviously, the first to change was my stomach. I'm 30 weeks pregnant now, so it's time to get big [laughs]! I don't think my boobs will ever be the same, they've changed a lot. At first it was actually quite painful. Everything's just … tight.
Have you been on a different diet? What are you craving? If I don't eat every two or three hours, I feel nauseous, like I'm going to faint or collapse. I have to eat regularly, which I wasn't used to. I used to skip meals and have a big meal. Now I have to eat and drink a lot of water — I've had to really take care of myself. I don't eat GMO foods, overly processed foods, corn syrup, preservatives, and other harmful products. I still eat my junk and my decadent food, but I make it or buy organic. My baby craves salty, salty food. I've tried to eat kale everyday, and a lot of vegetables and fish because omegas are really good for the developing brain. What I eat is directly affecting the baby, so I'm really trying.
Are you worried about gaining a certain amount of weight while you're carrying? I've tried not to weigh myself, because every woman varies so dramatically. Gaining weight now, I am so horrified when I think about people who ostracize celebrities who gain weight while pregnant. What the tabloids did to Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian is cruel and damaging. We should talk about what women go through, not how much weight they gain! On the other hand, I'm [over 6 feet] tall with 42-inch hips, so I wasn't showing for a while and people were telling me I didn't look pregnant. That worried me so much. I went to the doctor thinking my baby had died because of what everyone was saying.
So people's comments were affecting you? How did you deal with that? After that, I was a bit apprehensive telling people how many months along I am because I don't want people judging how big or small I am. At four months, I really wasn't showing at all. But now at 30 weeks, I am, and people don't realize that their remarks like, "Oh wow! You're so big!" can be somewhat insulting or taken the wrong way. Things like that have made my confidence lower while I've been pregnant. I've always been proud of my body, but I feel out of control and I don't know when I'm going to get my body back.
What else do you worry about? The one thing I'm quite worried about is stretch marks. I don't have any yet — knock on wood — but if they do happen, I'll just have to live with it. Don't get me wrong, I'm covered in stretch marks already, but they're white now because they happened when I grew as a teenager. Post-baby, I want to be able to get back to work pretty quickly, and my worry is that if I do get them, they'll take time to fade to white from red. As a lingerie model, that's not ideal. I don't think women should feel bad at all about having stretch marks. I want women to know that it's a normal thing that happens, and the only worry I have about them is that it might keep me from some work.
There are lots of models who have babies and return to work. Take some Victoria's Secret angels, for example. Doutzen Kroes, Lily Aldridge, Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum… I was actually looking at images from the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show this morning on Instagram, and I was thinking two things. One is positive: It gives me confidence and inspiration that I can get my body back. Look at Doutzen, she has a six-pack! Had I not seen those models bounce back and return to work so quickly after having babies, I would have been more scared. There's another side of me that's like, "Oh god, there's so much pressure." I just don't know if my body's going to bounce back. All those models had really great core strength before they got pregnant, and I didn't. I don't know if my body will return like theirs did.
Well, what are you planning on doing to try to get your body back after the baby is born? I'll go back to the workouts I was doing before. Kickboxing, martial arts, yoga, and definitely weight lifting. It'll make me faster and stronger, and it's the quickest and easiest way to get there. I'll eat clean, but I'll still have my Nutella, mac and cheese, and meat pies [laughs].
What else do you have planned post-baby? Recently, my partner and I have moved from New York to California. I'll be closer to Australia, so I'll be able to work more on my swimwear, because it's based there. I'll also be able to work on my activewear line, which is coming soon, and I'm thinking about starting another fashion brand. If modeling was to stop or I don't get my body back, I can work on those things. I know that my career isn't just modeling and I'm not just making decision for myself anymore.
If you have another baby, what are you going to take away from your first pregnancy? What I've learned is that there's so much information and opinions on how women should be when they're pregnant, so you just kind of have to take a deep breath, try to be as healthy as you can, and don't be so hard on yourself. I'm so excited to have the baby, and see her or him smile. I hope I'm a good mom. I'm scared. But I hope.