We’ve gotten to know the beautiful Danika Brysha and her story about her struggles working in the modeling industry and the courage it took to start a new career path creating healthy, Whole30 meals delivered right to your door. She even sources her pasture-raised chicken for Model Meals from our founder’s family farm and she swears by our deodorant (so does her boyfriend!). We can’t wait for you to get to know Danika, too, in our exclusive interview and hope you’ll take away some valuable self-care tips and inspiration to stay true to what you believe in.
Your story is incredibly powerful and has impacted so many people. Would you share a brief summary (aka SparkNotes version) of this long, but beautiful journey you’ve been on to becoming your best self, inside + out?
Thank you so much. The short version is that I struggled with food and my body for most of my life. I was always a bigger girl and didn’t equate that with being beautiful. I’m 5’10 and people would tell me I had a pretty face which lead me to believe that something was wrong with my body. I wanted to be a model so badly because I thought that that would make me feel like I was enough.
I started dieting which eventually turned into bulimia and years of struggling with disordered eating. Eventually I’d had enough and decided to let my body settle at its natural size of a 12/14, and soon after was discovered by some modeling agents and started my career as a plus size model. Flash forward to today and I’ve been working as a curvy model for over 8 years.
About three years ago, in January of 2014, I moved to NYC to continue modeling and I did the Whole30 challenge and was blown away with how much healthy food could change my life. Empowered by how much I was able to change in such a short time, I started adding in other wellness minded practices like meditation, gratitude, journaling, yoga, and so much more. I’d lost nearly 40lbs during this year of self exploration and wellness but had unfortunately lost most of my modeling jobs as a result.
I quickly started struggling financially and decided I might be able to make some money sharing this healthy food with others so they could understand how powerful it was. I started cooking out of my NYC apartment kitchen and delivered those meals around NYC and called it Model Meals. By January of 2015, I was three months late on rent and made the decision to move home to California and into my parent’s garage so I could take some time to regroup and get my feet back on the ground.
In August of 2015 I teamed up with a friend and we launched Model Meals in Southern California. I lived in my parent’s garage for two years until I finally moved into a little house in Costa Mesa, CA. Better yet, I was able to rebuild my modeling career as I settled at my natural size with my balanced lifestyle. Model Meals has been growing ever since and we now serve Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and the San Francisco Bay Area and have expansion plans for other locations on the horizon.
What was one obstacle you faced in your modeling career or creating a business and how did you overcome it?
In modeling I always struggled with feeling like my success wasn’t dependent upon who I was as a person. I was so used to being able to work hard and connect with people to advance myself and in modeling it felt like a big game of luck. And while you can certainly work hard in modeling to advance your career, it tends to be a lot of waiting around for the phone to ring (from your agent) and for me that’s really hard. Model Meals gave me something to put my energy into that I was passionate about.
The biggest obstacle in building Model Meals was probably the self-doubt in the early stages where I had moments of “am I just a dreamer?”. The outside world was telling me that one day I’d have to get “a real job” but I stayed firm in my vision for what my future held. I am so glad that I did!
Our entire team is completely obsessed with your meals! What was your motivation to make Model Meals happen and what inspired the name, Model Meals?
The name model meals is about being a role model. Modeling how to live and eat cleaner. It’s why we put such a strong focus on providing free recipes and content to help people create this lifestyle for themselves. I really believe that healthy food can change the world so I wanted to model a mindful way of doing that.
The other play on the word model is of course from the actual modeling industry. I was blown away at how quickly my skin cleared up and started glowing, I trimmed excess weight, and my hair and nails became stronger than ever. My motivation to keep going with Model Meals was driven by the fact that after struggling with food for so long, obsessing over diets and counting calories, I found something that had mindfulness built right into it and helped me to heal a lifetime of disordered eating, first by changing what I ate, to give me the clarity to start working on how and why.
You successfully balance a busy schedule full of photoshoots, trips, running a business, spending time with your boyfriend and planning the most epic birthday parties! How do you do it + what tips would you recommend to thrive even with a crazy calendar?
I am an actual psycho about my calendar. I schedule everything. And I don’t do that for just work either. I schedule my self-care as a top priority. Self-care for me is a non-negotiable. I spend about 3-4 hours every morning (I wake up at 5am) strictly working on self care. I have a checklist where I enter in things like gratitude, affirmations, a future biography of myself, lessons I learned, monitoring new habits I’m implementing, healthy movement, and more.
I schedule ALL of this on my calendar. From sleep to showers to work breaks and the hours I shut off all technology. It helps me to ensure that work and the constant “doing” doesn’t take over and deplete me of my health and wellness. I even schedule my open days and creative days with open space. Aka, I’ll block out 6 hours for a creative day and not schedule things within it knowing that that open space is reserved for free flowing thinking.
In addition to this, I have A LOT of help. My boyfriend is an absolute dream and takes care of most things around the house. Our team at Model Meals is incredible and really make everything run. My agents make travel and modeling jobs seamless too! And my birthday party, well I have you guys to thank for some of that 🙂
More than a model and business owner, you are a self-care advocate. We know you’ve created a self-care checklist that has carried you through the past few years and would love to learn a bit more about your self-care practices + wellness rituals you wouldn’t want to go a day without.
I mentioned a few of these above but some that really help me are:
Making my to-do list capped at 3 things. Every night I sit down to finish my checklist with my evening bullets (gratitude again, writing down the day’s takeaways, writing something I celebrate for that day, and setting up the next day’s checklist and calendar). When I set up the next days checklist, I decide on the three most important things that need to get done the next day and I prioritize those. I can only have 3. No more! I schedule those on my calendar first to ensure I have time to complete them.
Bio from my future: I’m really big into manifesting and visualizing. Because it works! Every day I write a biography of myself from the future. As if someone is writing it about me from 5 or 10 years in the future and everything I would like it to say. It’s incredible how powerful this is!
Meditation, Sleep, Healthy Movement, and Clean Eating are the pillars of my wellness. These four things are priorities for me and have a huge impact on how I feel and experience life.
In your pursuit of transforming your health and well-being, you discovered us! Why was it important for you to switch to completely clean products + what PP products have become a staple in your skincare routine?
I am a HUGE fan of PP for so many reasons. I actually got my first Primally Pure cream when I was out visiting the farm at Primal Pastures two years ago because we get our Pasturebird Chicken from you guys for Model Meals (Best Chicken Ever). It was a beauty cream and I was instantly hooked. Once I learned about all the artificial junk that goes into so much of our “food” I started reading labels on everything. I realized that it was just as important that I put clean stuff ON my body as I did IN it.
When I found you guys I was so happy because not only did I love your family and how we worked together with Model Meals but you had a product that was really SO SO good. For me, working in the beauty industry, that’s really important, and it really does have to do with what you put IN and ON your skin. The deodorant is one of my top faves of course but I love the new blue tansy beauty cream, the dry shampoo, and the face mists. Ok I really love everything.
Your message is so much deeper than food + physical beauty. You have become a powerful body love advocate and share your positive self-image so openly. What encouragement would you leave with others to become more confident in their own body + self?
This question is so important but yet a hard one to answer. It was such a long journey for me. I had to stop reading fashion magazines. I filled my newsfeed with curvy models and a variety of body types and beauty representations. That made a huge difference. I realized that I could choose what my “normal” was. We all can. We just have to step up and take control over that instead of letting the media decide for us what is beautiful. Because we ALL are beautiful and deserving of love and abundance and joy just because we are alive.
Photography by Lindsay Kujawa