Between overcoming an eating disorder in college and managing her psoriasis for the last 25 years, swimmer Dara Torres is fully prepared for any body image conversations her 11-year-old daughter Tessa throws her way.
The 12-time Olympic medalist says the questions have already started.
“She has talked to me actually a few weeks ago about body confidence, because she had to go to an end of the year school party and it was a pool party, and she wanted to talk to me about her body and what swimsuits to wear and having confidence,” Torres, 50, tells PEOPLE. “And it was the first time she ever really approached me about that on her own. So I was proud of her for being open about that.”
Torres says her own background made it easier to relate.
“I think the fact that I had an eating disorder in college, and then developing plaque psoriasis, I definitely had some confidence issues and self-esteem issues,” she says. “So I definitely am completely educated and ready to talk to her about any body image questions she has.”
Dealing with her plaque psoriasis as a young swimmer — Torres first noticed the itchy, red rashes as a 25-year-old during the run up to the 1992 Barcelona Games — was tough at first.
“I was really embarrassed by it, because my business suit is a swimsuit. I needed to be on the pool deck in a little Speedo with these red patches all over me,” Torres says.
But gaining the confidence to ignore her psoriasis was key to managing it, particularly because Torres’ is triggered by stress. Now she works to share that strength with other psoriasis sufferers by working with Otezla and Celgene on their Show More of You campaign.
“I want to get the word out that you can have confidence and you can follow your dreams,” Torres says. “You can be yourself and not worry about what other people think.”