Thurday Thunder is back with a bangin’ babe! Meet Maria Merckens (24). She is a mix of a Dutch dad and a Surinamese mom, considers herself an island girl after living in the Carribean for years and has been modeling fulltime since last year. What is her view on body love and self acceptance?
What are the things that make you happy?
“Is it cheesy if I say good food and wine? I love going out for dinners/lunches/breakfasts, but also enjoy cooking myself. I like to surround myself with the people I love and enjoy good cuisine and one too many glasses of wine.
I’m also addicted to traveling. Have had a lot of opportunities to see the world and parts of it that are hard to visit. Not planning to stop exploring anytime soon!”
Photo: Heather Hazzan
What inspires you in life, and why?
“I love seeing people thrive in what they are good at. To see that someone found their or a good reason why they are on this planet. Seeing someone being super excited doing what they do -this can be something trivial as working in a library or taking care of others, doing hair/make-up, etc- is super inspiring to me! My mom is a good example. She knew she wanted to be a nurse and go to Africa when she was 6 years old and she did it. She stared a medical post in The Gambia, financing and managing the whole project all by herself. She sent more than ten 40 feet containers from Holland to Gambia, filled with medication, wound dressing supplies, furniture, clothes, toys, etc. Those are quite big shoes to fill. I’m very proud of her!”
Photo: Heather Hazzan
Can you share some insights about the relationship you have with your body?
“I used to be a lot heavier than I am now. However, I was always very comfortable in my own skin. I was never really into sport and loved to eat, which resulted in some weight gain when I hit puberty. Living in the Caribbean it was sometimes difficult, you spend about 60% of the week in a bikini, to be surrounded by all your skinny girlfriends, but I was never very insecure about this. Even though I was bigger than them, I was never embarrassed. I just had a bigger belly and hips, so what…”
Have you always been body positive?
“To be honest, I’m not really involved in the “body positive” movement. I don’t have anything against it, of course not, don’t get me wrong! I just think it’s dumb that people need to ‘defend’ themselves in this matter. I find that every body is beautiful. Fat or skinny, curvy or straight. I think it’s beautiful that -especially the female body – comes with so many curves and shapes! As long as you’re comfortable in your body, you should rock it. If you are not, do something about it. Want a bigger butt? Eat more protein and squat! Want to lose a few inches? Exercise and eat less sugar. Sounds easier than it is, but you are the only one that can change you.
I think it’s ridiculous that something like ‘body shaming’ exists. Children are dying of hunger and here we are using our energy to call people too fat or too skinny on the internet. Use that energy to do good. Bring more attention to the starvation rate in Africa or people smuggle.”
Photo: Heath Latter
Do you have a secret to (body) confidence?
“I am the most confident I have ever been. For me personally this has everything to do with the fact that my body and mind are the healthiest they’ve ever been. I have spent five months in Cambodia working my ass off with a trainer. Working out two to four hours a day has changed me on the out and inside. It means so much to me that I can now run for miles without wanting to die every few minutes. Or being able to lift heavy weights. My body can do things that I never imagined and it feels really good squashing new goals! I think being and feeling healthy brings (body) confidence. If you feel good on the inside, this radiates on the outside.”
What do you do on the days you feel a bit down or less happy?
“If I had to give advice I’d say go out, get some air, hang out with friends, buy something new, go to the gym or get a massage, but to be honest… Isn’t it the best (hmm.. or maybe worst) feeling in the world to just sob, stay in bed all day, watch Grey’s anatomy and eat two (or six) bars of chocolate? I do it all the time! I would probably feel better going for lunch with my girls or watching a feel good movie, but sometimes you just need to cry and feel sorry for yourself… I do a little bit of both.”
How do you make sure you stay in a good place with yourself?
“I don’t punish myself anymore. If I (or better said when I) eat that whole bag of Easter eggs, I’m not mad anymore that I did. I found a good balance of giving my body the nutrients and exercise it needs and giving my mind its cravings for sweets. I also make sure I learn new stuff as much as I can. This can be by reading articles, but also discovering new music, working out with a new gym buddy, thus learning new exercises, talking to my friends about their experiences, traveling and learning about new cultures! Need to keep my brain fed as good as my belly!”
Photo: Heather Hazzan
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned body wise?
“That I can do any – excuse my language – fucking thing I set my mind to. No more excuses! I used to say “I’m not a runner”. Hell yeah I can run! I’m doing the Ladies Run in Rotterdam in May. No more I cant’s. We can train and practice for everything! It might take a week or a month or a year… So what.”
Best advice someone ever gave you when it comes to feeling good about yourself?
“My friend told me not too long ago that you forget how beautiful you are, because you get used to your own reflection in the mirror. This really made me think for a while. You have to listen, believe and accept when someone (for example your lover) finds you absolutely stunning, even if (at that point) you don’t feel that way yourself. You don’t look at you the way they do. Those gorgeous legs and beautiful eyes might look normal to you, but rock their world!!”
As a model you get a lot of feedback on your body. How do you deal with the positive and negative comments?
“Well, I haven’t been modeling for very long and luckily I haven’t come across any negativity yet. Everyone, actually, has been super nice so far! The plus size industry is really booming at the moment and I think my path is a lot easier compared to queens like Iskra (Lawrence), Sabina (Karlsson) and Ashley (Graham) who have paved the way.”
Photo: Heather Hazzan
What do you hope to teach girls/women who look up to you?
“To kick ass! Being pretty is not the most important thing in life. Heck it isn’t even in my top 10. We have to leave the world in a better state than when we arrived. Be good, be kind, be gentle. Help each other! I hope we all make it one day – in whichever way that is.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“That I too am smart and loved.”
Want to keep up with Maria Merckens? Follow her on Instagram!
The opening image of Maria Merckens was made by Kels Felter