Get to know Iskra & Philip

Model and entrepreneur Iskra Lawrence and music industry entrepreneur and former UT football player Philip Payne open up on love, family, 2024 & more

Article by Jennifer Birn

Photography by Jenna McElroy

Originally published in Austin Lifestyle


Austin Lifestyle spent a delightful day at Soho House Austin with Iskra, a model, mom, entrepreneur and founder of SaltAir and Self-Funding, Philip, a former UT football player turned music exec who founded Plan A and next semester will also be a professor and their adorable three-year-old son Alpha. We later caught up for a chat on Zoom in the run-up to the holidays.

Let’s start at the beginning, how did you meet?
Philip: I had known who Iskra was from social media and from what I saw she seemed like a really genuine person. I knew we’d connect, but I was very intentional about when we would meet. We had opportunities to meet before, but it wasn't time yet. We eventually met at a Grammy party for an artist I used to manage. I saw her and tried to not act like I was looking at her. She said she caught my eye, but I thought I was being pretty smooth. I walked up to her and the first thing I said was, ‘Are you in a relationship?’ She said, ‘It's complicated,’ and I introduced myself and put my number in her phone. Then I just walked off. I thought I left an impression. She smiled, it was perfect. But, she didn't text me immediately, so I was like, did this not work? So, I found her number from someone. I wasn’t going to text her, but I texted her the next morning and asked why she didn’t text me. From there we kept in touch and work would put us in the same places, which is how we got to build our relationship. She was in LA doing a show called the Marriage Challenge and invited me to set and I got to see her really help people work through struggles, whether it was body image or with fertility.

Iskra: It was a very emotional but wonderful day. I've met many humans on my journey and for a man, I know how hard it is to tap in emotionally, and then be able to communicate that. I have exes who couldn’t be comfortable on set, conversational or blend in with everyone - and care about what I'm doing. Philip walked on set and immediately it felt like he was meant to be there. His presence just made everyone feel seen and comfortable, made the whole vibe calm and peaceful. He still does that to this day with our son and anyone. It's definitely a gift of his to make everyone around him feel at ease.

Iskra, you’re from London and lived in New York and LA. How did you guys come to the decision to settle in Austin?
Philip: I always told her Austin was where I wanted to raise my children and I wanted it to be home base, but I didn’t expect us to get that reality so fast.

Iskra: I’d lived in multiple places in Europe and Turkey, New York, New Jersey and LA and I was a bit of a nomad. Philip was my emotional rock and I knew he would be my home, it didn't really matter where we were. He had deep roots in Austin and anytime I visited his community was so welcoming, I could see myself feeling more settled in Austin than where I was. As much as I loved my community in the cities where I’ve lived, it was much more about work and after a pandemic and baby, you realize maybe some of them were more transactional. I felt like the genuine community Philip had was something I wanted and was necessary when you're having a child. You need that community and his friends felt like family immediately. It’s a very special group we have here in Austin, we literally have a group text called The Village. We all had kiddos around the same time and all do things together. Austin has everything you need in the sense of activities, the outdoors, music and culture, great food and great weather. It’s a little bit too hot in the summer, but it generally has great weather, so it's easier to do things here. It was like choosing the easy path on where to start this family, where we feel most at ease, at home and settled.

You bought your future ‘dream home’ in January 2020 but it needed a huge renovation. You’ve been open about how the contractor swindled you out of a lot of your savings and the weekend of our shoot you were moving into a new rental How’s everything now?
This new house is definitely my favorite home we've lived in as a family yet.
Philip:  I like that it’s smaller, I like the intimacy. We've had to regulate how much stuff we have and downsize.

What’s the status of the house you’re building?
It’s on pause.  I’m the kind of person who likes to move on from negative things and just keep working really hard, make more money and get it done rather than drag out something that's such a negative, so I’m releasing it. It was a mistake but I’m moving on from it and being cautious financially and saving. When we feel secure we’ll go back and get the project finished. It might be at least a year hiatus until we start on it again, but we’re really happy right now and it will get finished.

What do you have planned for the holidays?
Thanksgiving we did bigger with our village and then Christmas we like to do at home with intimate family moments. My parents come in and I love to cook and eat all the pies. We love picking out a fresh tree and decorating it together.

Do you have any unique Christmas traditions?
: Not unique, but we love to play music while I'm decorating the tree.
Iskra: I love stockings. In England growing up I always had to have a little orange in everyone's stocking. In England it was Terry’s Chocolate Orange, it's a special chocolate my mom will bring over for Christmas for each of our stockings. This year Alpha’s really excited for Santa and in October he asked me if Santa was making presents already and when I said yes he asked me, ‘So why haven’t I sent my letter already?’

Do you know what Alpha wants at Christmas?
Everything. His love language is gifts. He doesn't need my words of affirmation yet, it's definitely gifts. It doesn't have to be anything crazy, it could be a $1 toy from HEB, but if you give this guy something he will be your friend.

Do you do New Year’s resolutions?

Iskra: We usually do a family vision board, that will be something we'll be doing right before the new year with goals for our family, and individually too. I want more vacations as a family. I’d like to visit more places because I want Alpha to experience and understand different cultures.

What are you most proud of from the last year?
I’m pretty proud of SaltAir. I’m proud of constantly showing up in many areas of life. It's been tough sometimes. I've felt burned out and tired, but I've continued to power through. I feel guilt sometimes for being away as a mom, but I know that what I'm doing shows my son that I work hard for what I want. I really found my groove again this year. It was tricky with Covid and post-partum, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to model again and had a knock of confidence. I feel like this year my confidence came back, I'm modelling again which has been really fun and I've remembered who I am and that I can bring in that old version of myself but still be a mom and ever-evolving.

I'm also insanely proud of Philip because he's been a fantastic dad since Alpha born, but this year in particular he's created an unbelievable bond with Alpha and he's teaching him very positive ways to handle his emotions and his feelings. And when I'm traveling, I don’t have to wonder if Alpha’s lunch is made or anything. I don't have any doubts or questions he’s being cared for and not having that weight on my shoulders enables me to go out and be my best self and do what I need to do. I’m very proud of him for the way he's stepped up and balances his work and ambitions in his career while also being an incredibly present dad who gives a lot of time to our family.

Philip:  I feel the same. I'm proud of our resilience as a family. We've been through a lot in the last couple of years, not only with the renovation but both of our careers have changed and we've had to pivot. I was looking after an artist who was the majority of my income and had to find my identity and value outside of that. I started my own business (Plan A) and became an entrepreneur. And Iskra taking a shot betting on herself, starting Self-Funding and of course SaltAir. It's those shots that we're taking while also showing up for each other that I think has shown that if you can push through and you have each other, you’ll be okay. I’m proud that we've been able to love each other and understand that this is a season and our love and our trust has sustained. Alpha’s done a great job of embracing the change too, so our resiliency as a family is definitely what I'm most proud of this last year.

I’m also about to be a professor. I’m going to be teaching the first music course ever at Huston-Tillotson University and it's amazing. SXSW and C3 are sponsoring scholarships for it and the students who complete the course get priority consideration to have internships at either C3 or SXSW.

You did a podcast together, do you plan to get back to that?
The podcast was very fulfilling and I really enjoyed the conversation, but is a lot of work, so not right now. Our individual careers have been so demanding that when I get time with Philip I just want to sit there and be with him and not have to concept an episode or film or shoot. It feels like the time that I have with him is so precious that I don't want it to be work-related. Not that the podcast felt like work, but it is. I know we'll get back to it one day, but I don't want us to burn out and feel we’re doing too much.

And anything you would like to add.
If you're reading this, don't compare your relationship to our relationship, whatever you're going through is valid. And always know you're enough. You're enough single, you're enough in a relationship. Go into any relationship knowing that you're already whole and that the person is going to add to you, they shouldn't taking from you or making you feel like you’re not enough without them.

Philip: At the end of the day, we're all just figuring it out that day. But, what I would love to say is take every single moment and cherish it because time moves so fast. Cherish every moment, especially with your family. Put your phone down and try to connect as much as possible.


Favorite restaurant in Austin?
Loro and we’re pretty obsessed with Tacodeli. Alpha’s favorite restaurant is Tacodeli. Philip: Carve American Grille

Last thing you bought online?
: Inflatable decorations from Walmart

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to slow down time…Or healing, that would be really special.
Philip: The first thing I was going to say was mind-reading, but I think I already have that, so it would probably be to fly. 

If you could ask advice from anyone living or dead, who would it be?
I love Michelle Obama. I've been in a room with her and it was just electric.

Favorite independent artist

Philip: Piff Marti

Follow Iska and Philip on Instagram at @iskra and Philip @PhilipaPayne.


"It was like choosing the easy path on where to start this family, where we feel most at ease, at home and settled." - Iska on settling in Austin

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