ניבר מדר
Nibar Madar
Photo: Shai Arbel
Nibar Madar

All that glitters is not gold: Israeli model Nibar Madar opens up about mental health struggles

Chronic depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and ADD: 26-year-old model who graced covers of world's biggest magazines opens up about her long battle with mental health and psychiatric treatments that saved her life

Miri Ben David-Leivi |
Published: 02.19.22, 09:32
Don't let the glamour and fame fool you, Nibar Madar is a laid-back, simple woman despite gracing the covers of world's most prestigious magazines. She shows up to interviews with a pony-tail, no make-up, and an oversized sweatshirt. Madar is a 26-year-old internationally-acclaimed model, who hails from northern Israel. She's always been told how beautiful she was, and was already pursuing a modeling career at the age 17.
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  • "I was finishing 12th grade, after several years of self-work I had finally gained some confidence," Nabar tells us at the star of our interview. "I was bullied a lot throughout my life, and suffered from all kinds of attention deficit problems... My dad heard a lot of comments about me and how pretty I was, and decided that this was a good path to explore at the end of high school. He thoroughly examined all the options until he decided on an agency, and only told me after they had already informed him they wanted to pursue me. He didn't want me to experience disappointment or sadness."
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    ניבר מדר
    ניבר מדר
    Nibar Madar
    (Photo: Shai Arbel)
    Madar continued to build a successful career in Israel and abroad. Her first gig was modeling for Israeli fashion retailer Renuar. She then went on to model for magazines including Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire, and today she's the leading model of Bloomingdales - an American luxury department store chain.
    Madar lives what seems to be the perfect life, and she upkept this façade until recently when she exposed her battle with chronic depression to the public. "I experienced depression as a child, and I never talked about it, neither with my parents nor with anyone else."
    When asked if being subject to bullying had anything to do with this, she was unsure. "That's a good question. I wasn't diagnosed early [with depression] because of the lack of awareness towards mental health at the time, that question was never asked."
    Madar says that as a child she felt a lot "sadness". "I didn't want to get out of bed. I constantly thought of what I could do to avoid getting up altogether. I didn't want to leave the house. I wasn't in a place to tell my parents. I was perceived by society as weird and lazy, not depressed. There was no awareness at the time, my parents also had no clue. I understand. Who would've thought I was going through something? Today, I speak about it a lot because it can save a lot of people.
    "A child can be lost in a second. A teen or an adult. It's such a slippery slope to suicidal thoughts. And I had a lot of those. I didn't try to do anything but I checked what pills I could take in order to die. During COVID, I had thoughts of hurting myself, of cutting myself and seeing blood, which is what I'm most scared of in the world. I decided to talk about it so that people will know how to identify the warning signs."
    In response to being asked if she was scared this kind of exposure would hurt her career, Madar said the importance of the subject trampled all fears. "People don't need to be embarrassed that they're depressed. There are solutions, and if it's treated right you can have a perfectly normal and beautiful life."
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    ניבר מדר
    ניבר מדר
    Nibar Madar
    (Photo: Shai Arbel)
    Regarding diagnosis, Madar shared that "psychiatrists dug deep, and then I understood that I needed help beyond conversations. I was scared of myself. I got to the psychiatrist and he diagnosed me with chronic depression. This took so much weight off my chest. Finally, validation of what I'm feeling, I'm not messed up. There's a diagnosis. It has a name.
    "Because comments on weight are embedded into the modeling field, I also had an emotional eating problem. I would binge eat. I could come home and go through the whole fridge. I talked about this with the psychiatrist, and started taking a low dose of Fluoxetine, an anti-depressant that treats eating disorders as well. With time, I increased my dose, and added another anti-anxiety medication - Lorazepam."
    After becoming more balanced through medication, Madar says she saw positive changes in all aspects of her life. "I was balanced all of the sudden. Things were no longer this extreme, the world wasn't against me, and I deserve good things. Today, I'm emotionally available to things that threatened me back then. I'm able to call my mom and say 'Hi mom, how are you?', get out of bed and meet up with my friends, pursue fields that scared me before, like acting class."
    Madar describes that medical treatment helped her gain emotional stability that allowed her to enter a healthy relationship after years of dating men who reflected her instability. "I dated men aged 40 and up when I was 20-21. I looked for a figure that would hold me, someone who was already stable in his thoughts and knows what he's doing in life.
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    ניבר מדר עם החבר בראן סוזר
    ניבר מדר עם החבר בראן סוזר
    Nibar Madar and her ex-boyfriend
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    "I still don't know who I am," says Madar as she describes what she learned about herself throughout this period. "I'm in the process of exploring myself, but I believe in myself more and don't let the background noise silence my dreams".
    Madar's experienced complicated relationships with food and fitness. "Even before the food issues I was told I should engage in physical activity for the sake of my emotional state," she says, "and I say - all these years I danced everyday, from age five. How did this help me? I was always depressed. Only at age 17 did everything I ate start to influence my body because I wasn't burning energy and working out consistently, and then my body started to change. When my body transitioned from that of a girl to that of a woman, that's when comments started about my body size and measurements -down to the centimeter.
    "I got tired of this obsession that lasted years. I went to all types of nutritionists and fitness trainers, but nothing stuck because of the emotional binge eating, I had a hard time balancing out. At the same time I was suffering from loneliness and depression, and even when I would reach my goal and be skinny with good measurements, I still wasn't skinny enough for them. At this point I really lost motivation, and because of this today I still don't have a habit of a healthy food routine or obsessive exercise... I eat healthier because I know what's healthy, but in my eyes, despite all the studies, I need to eat what makes me feel good. I let my soul decide what's good for my body. I let myself eat pasta, because in my experience, binges arise when I eat what I don't want. I think that I look better than I ever have and I feel great. Mental health is above everything.
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    Nibar Madar
    (Photo: Shai Arbel)
    She says that contrary to stereotypes about models, she does not like or eat exclusively salads. "I have an anti-salad outlook because of modeling. Even if I diet, salad is out of the question... Today I don't have a special passion for a sport. Generally, I like yoga, pilates, and dancing, but I don't practice consistently."
    Madar ended our interview by expressing her thoughts on the relationship between modeling careers and depression with some words of inspiration.
    "I think depression doesn't chose a career. It doesn't eliminate or encourage a certain career. There are triggers in life. You can do anything with depression, you can live with it. Everything is attainable, you don't leave or chose a career because of depression. It doesn't decide for you what to chose, only you do."
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