Social Icon Interviews: Sydney Porter
On self love, making change, and how she vibrates higher
Some days I’m still truly blown away by how amazing it is that we can find people all over the world whose thoughts or perspectives or words can shift the way we see something or feel.
Earth advocate, Model and Activist Sydney Porter is one of those people. She embodies what I feel a ‘Social Icon’ is — she speaks compassionately about so many important things, and does so in a way that gets to the core truth without being hurtful or accusatory. And she’s cultivated this beautiful gift by the young age of… 20!
No matter what age you are, I am certain that you will find something inspiring in Sydney’s interview. Keep reading to hear more about how her unique upbringing shaped her worldview. She also shares with us how technology can unite us in making positive change, why we should never let external definitions of beauty affect us, and some of the other topics she’s currently musing on.
Q: You are such a beautiful, heartfelt writer and you use your platform to share on topics ranging from mother nature and the environment to feminism, love, health, spirituality, and more.
Are there any particular experiences in your life that have inspired you or shaped what you decide to share?
A: I think my life thus far in general has really shaped who I am and why I view the world the way I do at such a young age. My upbringing was rather unusual; my mom is pretty free spirited and always wanted the best for me growing up. She never really did things by the book.
When I was four or five my mom decided we would move to Swaziland, a small country in Southern Africa, and volunteer to build an orphanage for young girls. This turned out to be the first of many wonderful adventures throughout my life. By the time I was 18 I had been to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Canada, and most of the Caribbean islands.
It plays a big part in why I have such an immense love for this planet and its people — there’s so much to love about life if you just take a chance and go out there to see it!
I’m also so grateful that my mom never forced any particular religion on me. When I would ask her what she believed in, she told me that she took teachings from all religions and philosophies. She was the first person to introduce me to the idea of ‘spirituality’ instead of religion. My mom meditated A LOT when I was growing up so naturally it has had a tremendous influence on my life.
When I was 17, I went to a Vipassana retreat for the first time and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We mediated for at least 7 hours a day, and spent hours in silence everyday. I absolutely loved it. That retreat was the first of many, as well as a major turning point in my life and my growth as a person. It was only a 6-day retreat, but I was totally transformed. That experience really opened me up to the power of compassion, connection, stillness, and silence. I could really go on forever about my strange, wild, and beautiful life experiences from modeling at 16 to spending 7 years in boarding school, but I think it’s best if I just stop here. I could write a whole book based off this question alone if you let me!
[Editor’s Note: Here are quick links to some of Sydney’s posts on these topics:]
Nature/ Our planet
Q: You’ve spoken about the importance of moving beyond internet activism, and truly putting our actions to use in the real world…
How do you think technology can most help us in making positive change? And, what suggestions do you have for people to help move their ‘online activism’ and beliefs into their day-to-day physical realities?
[See Sydney’s post about this topic here.]
A: In my opinion, the human race (or at least the youth and younger generations) have access to more information than all other people that have come before us on this planet, and where do the majority of people spend their time online? Social Media. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, it actually makes it much easier and far more convenient to spread a message.
Right now I think technology is the #1 way to go about making a change, at least for the beginning phases and first steps. The internet is great for informing people and spreading awareness, but then there must come action. When I say action I feel like most people think I’m telling them to become the next Malcom X or Angela Davis, which is the furthest thing from the truth. In reality, there will only be a handful of people who will rise up to the challenge and be really radical with their efforts, and maybe even become the forefront for a major movement. Most people simply can’t take that much time or effort to dedicate their lives to the resistance, and that is 100% okay!
What I really mean when I say take action is simple: the first step is to just identify what you’re really passionate about and commit to it. For me, the environment/sustainability would probably take the #1 spot. Then it’s just about being creative and finding ways to make a real life impact in a way that fits with your unique life. It could mean going to (or even organizing) protests or joining a local social justice group.
Not everyone is meant to be in the forefront of a movement; if everyone wanted to be the leader, there would be too many trails and not enough people to follow them. Getting active about activism is really just about seeing where you fit, and making small changes in your life that make a huge impact in the long run.
Q: What topics or causes are you most passionate about sharing right now - something that could really help the world if everyone did it/ got on board?
SUSTAINABILITY SUSTAINABILITY SUSTAINABILITY
Recently, I’ve made a few big changes personally to be more sustainable. The first was learning about the fast fashion industry and how destructive it is. Watch the documentary The True Cost to learn more. I started doing clothing swaps and thrifting most of my clothes. If I do buy something new, I make sure I love it and I’ll wear it at least 30 times to offset the true cost of making it.
The second thing is buying as much as I can plastic free by buying food from the bulk bins and bringing my own jars. In the motto “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, recycle comes last for a reason - it’s not the most efficient process, and reducing what we buy and reusing is much more effective and sustainable.
Knowledge of self, your true self!
Q: If you could speak to young girls everywhere, what’s the #1 thing you’d share?
A: Get off the internet, put down the magazine, turn off the TV, and stop listening to what anyone else has to say about you and your physical appearance. Literally just stay away from anyone and anything that tries to tell you what beauty should look and act like.
Let your own heart and mind show you what true beauty is, not some IG model or magazine cover. People will try to demean you and make you feel worthless about yourself or the way you look, but if you know with unshakeable faith that you are beautiful, intelligent, and worthy beyond measure, then any crap people try to throw at you won’t even matter. Their BS isn’t true and it never will be.
Q: In our culture that is highly focused on the past and the future, it can be challenging to stay ‘present’ and be in the Now. It’s something a lot of people are practicing and trying to be more mindful of.
What helps you to be more present?
And, what really excites you about being alive in the world today?
A: Breathing and gratitude really keeps me in the present moment. Remembering to take several deep breaths and really tune in and connect to my body does wonders for me.
Appreciating the beauty around me no matter where I am is like an anchor. Not only does it bring me back to the present moment, but it really brings so much joy and peace into the little unnoticed moments of my day. It’s really exciting to me that there is an endless number of things that could happen on a day-to-day basis.
The world is so vast and rich with life, magic, wonder; there’s really no telling what could be waiting around the corner, good or bad. But really, it’s all beautiful to me. Just being able to feel and experience life is exciting in itself.
Q: After a long or tough day….how do you unwind and get set up for a restful night’s sleep?
A: Well that depends, if it’s a REALLY tough day, a long hot shower with some ugly crying followed by tea and a great book will do the trick most of the time. If it’s just one of those ‘I did a lot today and my whole body aches from the amount of effort it takes for me to be alive right now’ kind of day then I might do some bedtime yoga, eat some chocolate, have tea, do my nightly skincare routine, write in my journal, and read myself to sleep with a lighthearted book.
Q: What is the one question you wish people would ask you more often?
A: Wow, that’s a really hard question. For the most part I surround myself with like-minded people who don’t really do small talk, so nearly all the conversations I have on a day-to-day basis go way beyond surface level. But, more recently I guess, I’ve been wanting someone to ask me what I’m thinking about or what’s been on my mind lately. I’m not really the type to lay all my thoughts and emotions out without someone asking me to first.
So, I guess my response would vary every time, but in this moment I would say I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about gratitude, my goals with modeling, nature, and staying on top of my health.
Gratitude has really been a driving force in my life. I mean, life is complicated, messy and beautiful, and just taking a few moments to think about or write down what I’m grateful for is a total mental reset for me. It can be first thing in the morning or any time. (Gratitude is an all day, every day thing!)
I’ve learned that when I take time to be thankful, I can offer more to the world by being in a good place mentally. I have more to GIVE. And, I believe that being grateful attracts a lot of other good things to your life as well.
Q: What does being a Social Icon mean to you?
A: When I decided to use my platform to spread awareness on certain topics it just seemed like the normal thing to do; all these people are listening to me, so why not say something that matters.