Ali Michael is an American model who is known for more than just her clear complexion and amazing eyebrows. While she starting modeling at the age of 15 and graced the prestigious catwalks of Chanel, Christian Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier, her success came at a price.
After taking some time away from the business to get healthy – and bravely sharing her story of overcoming body-image issues with the Today show, Teen Vogue and plenty of girls who were in the same boat – she’s back in front of the cameras, but this time on her own terms. We’re so inspired by this young girl’s ability to find a healthy balance that works for her, so we thought we’d ask her to share a little bit of her wisdom and talk healthy habits, nutrition tips and what real beauty means to her.
When did you first become conscious of eating right and exercising?
“I was a pretty active kid and spent a lot of time riding horses and running around farms, but I never really equated that with exercise. My diet growing up consisted of mostly fast food and sweets. I first made small changes when I was fifteen and signed with my agency in Texas.”
How has your diet evolved since you first began modeling?
“Finding balance in my diet has definitely been a process that I’m grateful for because it provided me with the knowledge that I have about treating my body the right way now. After following vegan, raw vegan and macrobiotic diets, I’ve found that the best approach for me is to be aware of what my body responds to as opposed to following rules and regulations. I usually have oatmeal with unsweetened coconut milk, walnuts, almonds, figs and goji berries in the morning. I like breakfast being my heaviest meal because it gives me energy for the rest of my day. Lunch and dinner are usually mostly vegetables and a protein like salmon. I’ll usually have a beet, carrot and apple juice at some point, too.
I try to eat organically grown foods and keep any meat to grass-fed. I personally feel best when I don’t eat dairy, but I do love goat cheese. One of my favorite foods would be steamed or baked Japanese vegetables like kabocha squash, Japanese sweet potato and lotus root. The simpler, the better for me. Of course, I can’t talk about my diet without mentioning dessert. I had a childhood obsession with Snack Pack pudding. Since that’s not exactly the most nutritious choice, I’ve found that the Irish Moss pudding at Planet Raw in Santa Monica, the chocolate coconut pudding at One Lucky Duck in New York and the cacao pudding at EarthMatters in New York are all valid replacements. I also love raw chocolate by the companies Sacred Heart and Fine & Raw.”
How has your exercise/ fitness routine changed?
“I’ve never been a fan of running on the treadmill or being on an elliptical, so cardio was always a bummer. When I started preparing to get back to work, I started working out with the beautiful (and ripped) Vanessa Giorgio, owner of Lotus Kitty Yoga and Power Cycling in Los Angeles. I found the results of cycling to be great – not only physically, but also mentally. When you’re really present on the bike and in sync with the music and feeling your body, it becomes almost like a meditation.
I came to New York and was introduced to Soul-Cycle, which I am now absolutely obsessed with. Danny Kopel is my favorite instructor. I typically go six days a week and I miss it on my day off. The staff is incredibly warm and helpful, the music is amazing and the energy in there is so powerful. Going to each class is like therapy for me. They’re also opening up a location in West Hollywood in February, which I’ll be going to when I’m on the West Coast.”
Where are some of your favorite spots to eat?
“My favorite places in Los Angeles are Cafe Gratitude, Inaka and Erewhon. I also like going to the Chateau Marmont and ordering the beet salad with goat cheese or the salmon. My favorite places in New York are Souen and One Lucky Duck.”
Do you take any supplements or herbs?
“I take B-12 lozenges from Erewhon that have made a huge difference in my energy level. I also order supplements from WeCare, which is a retreat center in Palm Springs, California. I’ve never been, but some of their supplements are great.”
What is your skincare routine like?
“My skin changed a lot when I moved to Los Angeles for a year. After trying a ton of different products, facialists and treatments, I’ve finally found a regimen that seems to work, regardless of where I am living. I use La Roche Posay cleansers and moisturizers. It’s a brand that used to only be carried in French pharmacies but is now being sold in American ones like Duane Reade and CVS. It’s great for my sensitive skin. I also love Thayer’s Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera. It’s completely natural and comes in a bunch of different scents. I like lavender. Thayer’s also makes some astringent pads that are great for on the go. I take them to the gym and in my carry-on bag when I travel. My favorite spot treatment is the one by Mario Badescu.”
How has your self-image influenced and or changed over the years?
“I think that my self-image will continue to evolve and grow as I evolve and grow as a person. That being said, I would say that over the past few years, I have gained a true sense of self-respect. My Mom always says to “treat yourself like you would your own best friend”. Having a sense of understanding and compassion for others tends to come naturally, but having the same senses for myself can be a challenge for me. Mom’s advice helps me put things into perspective.”
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
“My absolute favorite thing is to be around horses. I grew up riding when I was a kid and even though I don’t get to be at the stable as much as I’d like, I find it to be the best therapy for me.”
What’s your favorite comfort food?
“My favorite comfort food is definitely the Yosenabe from Inaka. It’s this amazing stew filled with a bunch of different Japanese vegetables like lotus root and daikon radish. I get it with the kabocha pumpkin broth. It feels very grounding. I love it.”
Going back into modeling after taking a break from it, do you think or feel differently about it then you did before?
“I think that taking time off has provided me with a new-found appreciation of the job that I didn’t completely have before. I started working at fifteen and experienced a pretty great amount of success right off the bat. I loved the job and took the responsibilities very seriously but in that process, I stopped allowing myself to be a regular kid. The time off that I took was instrumental in my development of my self-worth without defining myself by the job. I’m excited to get back into it with a really supportive team, a couple more years of experience under my belt, and an ambition to make the best of all of it.”