Just 36 percent of grade-six Canadian girls consider themselves confident. By grade 10, that number drops to 14 percent, according to a Public Health Agency of Canada report. Yes, we now live in a world where plus-size models like Ashley Graham can appear in Vogue. But the pleasingly proportionate, plump-lipped, size-14 model still represents many archaic beauty standards: an hourglass figure, no bulging belly, a conventionally pretty face and big breasts. So what of the pear-shaped ladies who don’t fit the Kardashian-model for socially-acceptable curves? FLARE interviewed three diverse women in the fashion industry who challenge these traditional beauty standards to ask about their personal experiences with body discrimination. First up was Calgary-based fashion and lifestyle blogger Inemesit Etokudo. Next, we have Instagram star and model Diana Veras on how she was able to embrace her unique look and wield it to her advantage in the modelling industry.
New York-based Diana Veras has over 215,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts pics of chic outings with friends, her vintage outfits and the occasional selfie. But Veras’ career goes beyond social media. She has been able to use her Insta fame as a catapult to score some big modelling gigs. Veras has most notably appeared in campaigns for Aerie and in the pages of Teen Vogue. With her big curly hair and major curves, Veras is breaking barriers in the modelling industry and working against the media’s narrow definition of beautiful. But the model says it was these very attributes that once made her insecure. Veras was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City when she was seven. Growing up in North America, Veras recalls moments when she felt out of place. “I would straighten my hair, I didn’t smile much, and I’d make sure my hair was covering my jaw,” she confessed. But Veras has since built a career around her unique look.
Peep our full Q&A below to find out how Veras embraced her curves and transformed her insecurities into confidence.
How would you describe your style in four words?
Chill, relaxed, casual, baggy.
What does the term plus-size mean to you?
I don’t care about it. People will label you always, especially in the fashion industry. I am a model, so that’s what I’d like to be called.
How does it feel to be in an industry that is hyper-focused on your body?
It’s annoying because it is just my body. But it’s also cool because I get to help other people [accept their bodies].
Can you pinpoint a specific time in which you felt underrepresented in the modelling industry?
I’ve always felt underrepresented, and still to this day. A couple inclusive campaigns doesn’t mean I’m represented.
You have such a large following on Instagram. How do you remain confident in a world of internet trolls?
I’ve always had internet trolls, which is why I feel like I’m so headstrong and opinionated. I remember one time people just kept commenting on how much weight I’d gained, and I broke down and took down the picture. I put it back up but it was a really bad time for me.
You appear very confident online. Were you always this confident?
I never really thought I was ugly. I just knew I looked different. I have a big jaw, a [teeth] gap, really big hair, and super-pale skin but I found a way to hide my features. I would straighten my hair, I didn’t smile much, and I’d make sure my hair was covering my jaw. But it became exhausting, so I said f-ck it one day and decided to just be myself. Being confident stems from accepting and just being real with yourself.
What is some of the best positive feedback you’ve received?
I get tons of messages every day of girls just thanking me for being myself and that’s so fulfilling. It makes getting bullied and constantly talking about my body worth it.
What messages do you hope to spread now that you have this platform?
To just be yourself. Being yourself and showing people that you’re a real person always pays off. People know authenticity.
Are there any women in particular who inspire you?
Rihanna, Beyoncé and my mom.
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