The conversation of body image, self-acceptance, and self-love is one that continues to be an important piece that all girls and women must hear, no matter the age, must have. It includes all body sizes, shapes, and varieties. Promoting healthy body images should be a priority for media publications tailored for females in the 21st century and we, at SHEEN Magazine, reiterate the importance of loving the skin you are in and embracing who you are, whether you are thin, curvy, muscular, or athletic. We talked to Olympian athlete and YouTuber, Natasha Hastings about her career, lifestyle interest, and self-love!

Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images South America

Natasha Hastings, 30, better known as the 400m Diva, is a USA Track and Field World, National, and two-time Olympic gold medalist that captured the eyes and hearts of Americans this past summer when her and Team USA teammates, Courtney Okolo, Allyson Felix, and Phyllis Francis swept the competition in the 4x400m relay, continuing a streak that has not been lost by USA since 1996. Just this past week she competed at the Penn Relays in the USA vs. the World series of races in the 4x100m with USA teammates Kala Funderburk, Jaide Stepter, and Turquoise Thompson. Team USA came in 2nd by less than 1 second to Jamaica. According to Hastings, this is the busy season for the Track and Field athletes as they prepare for the Nationals in June, leading up to the World Championship in London in August. Yet when it comes to Natasha Hastings, there is more to her story that meets the eye and she has taken to social media, YouTube particularly, to use her platform as a world-renown athlete to share her insights into her career in sports, her passions of beauty, hair and fashion, as well great conversation on self-acceptance and body image.

Photo: Jason Long/USA Today Sports

Hastings accepts and understands that all sizes and bodies are not universal, especially in the retail business where at times we can find ourselves stuck in shops whose sizes interchange from store to store. “It’s funny because sometimes I’ll go shopping and I don’t know if the sales associate is trying to make their sale, but they’ll be like ‘Oh, you can fit into anything,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I can’t,’ just because I’m fit doesn’t mean I don’t have to make certain choices.'” Fashion has become a form of self-expression for the track star, who has used her YouTube channel to also showcase different looks that girls with athletic bodies can pull together to compliment and accentuate their features that others deem too boyish. “I remember growing up, I went to a private school, so I didn’t get to wear clothes, clothes until I went to high school. So once I was able to wear my own clothes, it became an expression of self. The fashion piece is a piece where I get to have fun and I get to step out from what people are used to seeing me in. Just having fun with it, I don’t think there are many rules to fashion. I like trends, but I like having my own sense of style and having my own statement, just a cool little expression of Natasha.”

She was a student athlete at the University of South Carolina and graduated with her bachelors in exercise science. At USC, she discovered that body image issues don’t end after high school and some of the women who have it worse are the female student athletes.

“I have to give some credit to my mom; my mom was always very expressive to me and my brother, telling us how much she loves us, just the outward expression of love from my mom really helped with that. When I went to college, I remember having to deal with ‘Well, you have to lose weight.’ ‘You could be a couple pounds lighter,’ which I think is something that is very common in college as well, for female athletes because they’re pressured to be a certain size, but the fact of the matter is we’re all different. There is no cookie cutter. I’m probably going to be bigger than the girls I’m competing against, but you know what? Even though I’m bigger, I’m doing amazing things. I’m still achieving the goals I had set out for myself, so how can I hate this thing that, at the same time has been very empowering.”

She continued. “We live in a generation that lacks empathy; we don’t take the time to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. If you’re willing to love yourself, love the journey and work towards whatever goal it is that you may have, I feel like that is what will make it so much easier. You [also] have to redefine beauty. By that I mean, you are the definition of beauty. I think it has changed a lot since I’ve come up, in terms of the ideals of beauty that we shove down our throat. Now we are starting to see more articles like this, them putting full figured models on the cover of magazines. We are starting to see more of those images, but I think within yourself, you have to define what beauty is. Beauty is you. That’s not to say you’re going to wake up tomorrow and love every part of your body, but love the journey. If you feel like there is something that you need to change”

Check out more from Natasha Hastings in our Shades of Blackness issue on stands June 27th and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe to her YouTube channel here