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Layla Luciano

Fitness Professional

New York, NY

Through fitness modeling, I feel much better about inspiring women – especially Latinas – to be proud of their healthy bodies.

I used to be a fashion model in New York, doing runway shows and editorial magazine shoots, complete with the glamorous trappings of the industry like fabulous clothes and other perks.

Being immersed in an industry where outward appearance is 99.9% of how you make your money, comparing yourself to other models is very common. I look at pictures of myself from that time and think "Wow, I was too skinny, that doesn't look good." But at the time, I didn't see it because I was surrounded by very thin girls.

I kind of lost myself in modeling; it was a way to cope with not truly knowing who I was or where I was going. People outside of the industry were always in awe of the mystique of modeling. "Wow, you're so tall and gorgeous," they would say. I was hoping that being a model would make me feel better about myself, but on the inside it didn't help with my own lack of self-love and self-worth.

While I was modeling, I looked for a teaching job in New York because I had recently graduated with a degree in elementary education. Unfortunately the city put a hiring freeze on all new teachers as soon as I graduated.

As a student teacher at public schools in Harlem and El Barrio, I had noted the students’ unhealthy habits and lack of movement throughout the day, and so after feeling stuck for a while about my next move, I decided to take a risk and create my own curriculum to teach Latin dance and karate fitness programs through a summer school and after school program.

I had always been a healthy, active child; I was raised a vegetarian and started training in karate at the age of five. Being able to share my passion for fitness and the importance of building healthy bodies and lifestyles was extremely important to me.

Getting back to my roots helped me figure out that there is nothing I can't do with a strong belief in my own self-worth and true confidence. I took a risk and ultimately it showed me that all I had to do was to believe in myself and in my passion.

It pushed me to take my career to the next level and inspire people through physical fitness as a trainer and a group fitness instructor. My fitness career also put me back on track with my own healthy eating habits and training. Now through fitness modeling, I feel much better about inspiring women – especially Latinas – to be proud of their healthy bodies.