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Celebrity stylist, Bravo TV personality, blogger, podcaster, influencer: Ali Levine’s CV is a mile long, and this firecracker fashionista is showing no signs of slowing down. Her styling work has been featured everywhere from the The New York Times to Vogue Italia, as well as countless A-list red carpet events.
While her professional life is a constant stream of glitz, glamour, and razzle-dazzle, Ali is also fiercely transparent about the raw realities of parenting. With social media as her platform of choice, she has emerged as a champion of postpartum body positivity, shedding light on the lesser-known challenges experienced by countless new mothers.
We sat down with Ali to talk about weaving self-love into different aspects of our lives, through the lens of a mother who is actively – and openly! – figuring it all out
Your social media is full of postpartum-positive content! What made you decide to become an advocate for body love among moms?
Honestly, it wasn’t a decision I made – I feel it was made for me. When I had my C-section, I felt that my body had been changed forever, and that was a hard reality for me to swallow. Going from a natural water birth to being transferred to the hospital after 42 hours and winding up with a C-section, I didn’t expect my birth to be what it was. The physical trauma alone, on top of my own mental and emotional trauma, was way more than I expected it to be.
I was laid up in bed for almost 3 weeks and could barely move from the pain, let alone hold, nurse, or change my daughter. That was earth-shattering for me. The idea of “bouncing back” went right out the window. I struggled for a good year or more with my new body, losing myself and then finding myself all over again – a new version of myself.
As I began stepping into my new self, I started to embrace my body and felt called to share it. I found my sovereignty when I started releasing my own feelings around my body (the good and the bad). I also yearned to be real and raw about my struggles, to share them for myself, and in the end, for others too.
What did your own “mom bod positivity” journey look like? What were the ups and downs along the way?
I believe I am still on this journey. Body positivity doesn't mean you just love your body every minute of every day: it means you learn to love your body and practice that love every day.
I do daily affirmations to love on myself fully. I meditate almost every day to remind myself of the positivity I want to see and feel for myself. There are many ups and downs: there are days I love my body and I embrace it. There are other days I still cry over it, pull on it, criticize it.
This is why I have my practices. As soon as I feel myself doing that, I do my affirmations. I look in the mirror and love on myself a little harder. I remind myself how important and incredible my body is for carrying and birthing two babies – this is the body that went through a major surgery and 42 hours of hard labor, then an incredibly powerful VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section). My body amazes me – some days I am in real awe of her.
So as I mentioned, it’s an ongoing journey. I no longer cry every time I look in the mirror. I no longer shame myself and my body. I no longer allow myself to compare. I don’t flip out every time I look at my C-section scar. Now I rub it and massage it and usually cry some happy and sad tears. I remind myself how grateful I am for this body that has carried me in so many ways and now carried my two babies.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is surprisingly common, but so many women don’t know it exists. How did you navigate your battle with PPD?
At first, I thought my feelings were normal because everyone calls it the “baby blues.” It’s blamed on your hormones, the fact you are not sleeping, etc. Of course these things play into our health and emotional well-being, but it's much bigger than that: PPD can happen right at the beginning, or it can happen later on in the first couple years after having our babies.
I felt so alone when I was going through it. I wasn't even aware I was depressed until those around me started noticing something wasn't right. I told my husband I felt I was mourning the death of myself. I had no idea who I was, what I was doing, and what was happening to my mind and body.
It felt like a twilight zone. I kept getting darker and darker, and I felt shame for feeling this way, which is why most moms don't want to speak about what they’re going through. I have family who also believe they had PPD, but because years ago it was simply dismissed, they never said anything and suffered in silence.
So the first step of my healing and recovery with PPD was admitting I had it. That was not easy to come to terms with. The doctor who did my C-section wanted to put me on antidepressants, but I didn't want to go that route, so I started cognitive and visual therapy. Meditation and affirmations became my way to get my mindset right every day, especially on days when I struggled to even function. Journaling has also been a valuable tool for me.
It wasn’t until about a year or so into my practices that I started feeling better, finding some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I now have my toolbox that I turn to daily, and sometimes I have to add in extra pampering, extra sleep, whatever it may be. I feel I am actually healthier now than ever before, but it’s a constant practice to stay there and not go backwards. I also have to be very real with myself and my husband, family, and friends: I communicate where I am emotionally and physically.
Diastasis Recti is yet another postpartum experience that few women know about! What was it like putting this “imperfection” front and centre as someone in the public eye?
UGH! I didn't know how to say this or spell it, let alone know what it was! This is something I am definitely still struggling with, and I’m not gonna lie, it can get me down at times. I had no idea that DR could happen from a C-section and can be very hard to repair. It’s a work in progress for me.
It’s not easy being in the public eye with your body, thats for sure – even though I am pretty sure we are the ones judging ourselves the hardest. DR is hard because my body still sticks out, even after losing the weight from my first pregnancy and having my body change after giving birth almost another year later with my second. I have people ask me quite often if I am pregnant, and in those moments, I want to cry. A lot of times, I do.
There are different levels of DR: I have about a 2-3 finger gap, which is moderate. It can be corrected with the right exercises, but it’s really not easy, and it’s something I feel nobody wants to talk about. I had no idea millions of women had this, because it gets written off as a pooch – a normal body for a mom and something to accept as part of motherhood.
As a stylist, I imagine you encounter so many different bodies. How do you weave your signature body positivity into your career?
I think this might have been the hardest part for me. I have always said "confidence is your best accessory.” I lost my confidence when I became a mom, and that was a hard pill to swallow. Having that realization while I was helping other women and celebs feel confident in what they wore … I felt like a fraud.
At the same time, I started to understand many of my clients’ issues with getting dressed and trying different styles. It’s actually helped me become a better stylist in the long run because I can relate to their bodies more. I think my signature “body positivity” aligned with my real, raw messaging about motherhood, alongside everything I was sharing as a stylist. I was sharing my truth about everything I was going through, and it naturally became part of my brand and image.
You now have two daughters. What's one lesson you'd like to impart to them when it comes to self-love?
I think about this often. I want them to LOVE the H*LL out of themselves! Always, unconditionally, no matter what anyone says or what society dictates.
Just love on yourself and know how incredible and magical you are! You are uniquely you, you are imperfectly perfect. Embrace your body, embrace your uniqueness, embrace your scars – they are part of you. Don't be afraid to shine! Self-love is the best kind of love you can give to yourself!
My girls and I do daily affirmations and meditations, and I will give them even more tools to help them continuously work on their self-love!