Name: Natalie Held
City: New York City (I actually live in Fairfield, CT - only an hour away from NYC!)
Fav thing about your city: Since saying everything would be too vague, I’ll narrow it down to all of the brunch places and museums!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself! I am a tea connoisseur; hence my social media name nata-tea! Some other fun facts about me are that I am only 17 years old, I’m obsessed with sharks and all things related to the ocean and I’m left handed and green-eyed which means I am apart of a group that makes up only 2% of the population.
What is your connection to mental illness?
My connection to mental illness began at a young age. I began dancing around the age of 7 and it became a real passion of mine, especially ballet. As I started to grow up and eventually join the competition team, this passion soon consumed me and became a negative part of my life. With girls constantly fighting for position and having insecurities of their own, I was thrown into a setting that only made my self-esteem plummet. I watched as other girls began to struggle with themselves as well, developing self-destructive behaviors and eating disorders. The studio didn’t make things any better; they would only encourage and foster the girls they deemed to be worthy, not giving anybody else a chance. I always felt I was never good enough. The environment I was in only made that clearer to me. As years went by, the dance classes kept piling up and I was dancing nearly twenty hours a week, the equivalent of a part-time job when I wasn’t even in high school. At this point I would fear walking into the studio knowing what I was wearing that day could make me a target. I would fear entering class knowing if I made a mistake or didn’t pick up the steps fast enough I would be called out. I would fear changing in the dressing room knowing I could be made fun of if my body looked differently than everybody else’s. My life came to the point where I feared doing something that I initially loved.
During my last few years as a dancer, I developed anxiety. I would be anxious walking into dance class, going to school, hanging out with friends, parties, you name it. Everything gave me anxiety. I began to self-loathe and couldn’t figure out why I was feeling the way I did. I hated myself for it. I felt like there was something wrong with no one and me could understand the way I felt. After an injury, I quit dance. I began to feel alive again without being criticized all the time and being able to go out and do more. My anxiety began to fade away as I surrounded myself with the right people and started to explore the world and myself. It was then when I developed a strong passion in writing and music. I believe my recovery was in my writing. It helped me express my thoughts and feelings and develop a voice I never thought I had.
My sophomore year of high school, my Canadian friend introduced me to Wear Your Label in the form of an application for their New York Fashion Week show. I remember thinking how amazing it would be to represent a brand that spoke up about a topic seldom talked about. I ended up applying and getting to walk down the runway in a killer “weakday warrior” romper. As someone who was already familiar with using my body as a form of expression as a dancer, getting to be a Role Model for WYL was something I felt I was destined to do.
What does your everyday look like?
Right now, I am still in high school and preparing for college in the fall. The coolest thing for me about high school is I actually go to two. In the morning I attend a marine science school called Aquaculture to fulfill my science credits. I am currently taking a biotechnology class at Aqua and working on a science project related to mental health. Part of the class is competing in a giant science competition to pitch an idea and prototype to the judges. My team and I have been developing FLY Charms, or First Love Yourself Charms. We are aiming to create individualized fidgeting charms for those that struggle with mental health. To check out our progress and see what we’re all about you can follow our Instagram @fly.charms and our website flycharms.weebly.com.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be authentically you. Don’t worry about what others may say or think. Life is way too short to not live how you want to.
Who is a Role Model to you?
One of my biggest role models is Josephine Skriver. Not only is she an amazing model, but an amazing person with a big heart as well. Jo isn’t afraid to speak up about what she believes in and will often take action in causes she is passionate about. Her hard work, drive, and determination inspires me everyday. Another huge role model of mine is Emma Watson. Seeing what she does at the UN for HeForShe is incredible and something I hope I can be apart of one day. Her intelligence, internal beauty, and generosity are all qualities I aspire to have.
How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
I usually spend my Self-Care Sundays sleeping in and then being productive. Whether that is cleaning my room, catching up on schoolwork, listening to new music or hanging out with friends, I try my best to make it meaningful.