updated 05/09/2013 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/09/2013 AT 3:20 PM ET
When Ireland Basinger Baldwin signed her first professional modeling contract in March, the 17-year-old daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger had high hopes.
Not only does she aspire to some day grace the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue or pose for Victoria’s Secret, but “I want to be an inspirational model,” says the 6’2” teen. “I want people to look at me and say, ‘Wow, she looks healthy.’ “
But since announcing her new career with IMG – the same agency behind Gisele Bündchen and Kate Moss – she not only has experienced the encouragement of fans, she’s also heard her fair share of snark on the Internet.
“I have received nasty e-mails, messages on Twitter and ridiculous comments not only about my size but my family,” Ireland tells PEOPLE. She reached a breaking point in April and posted an open letter on Tumblr saying, “I understand that I am not a size .008. What I don’t fully understand is, what is the good in commenting on a photo of a 17-year-old girl calling her fat, ugly, etc?” Of the backlash, Ireland admits, “I didn’t expect it. It was really surprising to see how negative people can be towards someone they don t even know.”