It’s Women’s History Month, and we’re picking the brains of bold, powerful women who represent our future. Today, meet model and activist Diana Veras.
Throughout time, we’ve counted on a small number of community leaders to push things forward, break perceptions, and bring change. And ladies, the past two years have been pivotal. We’ve seen–and struggled with, and spoken out against, and called shit out on–issues that have been pressing, and still continue to press, womenkind. It’s change that we want to champion throughout this month, while celebrating those who are propelling us into a far better future. So throughout March, we are focusing what matters to us most, right now: groundbreaking, culture-shifting, era-defying, and straight up goals women.
Text by Tiyana Grulovic
Photo by Maya Fuhr
When Diana Veras speaks, you shut up and listen. And not the kind of passive listening you offer to mere acquaintances or family members at awkward dinners. You LISTEN. Because the words she speaks are powerful, insightful, the kind of words that make you think. It’s a power that’s rarely wielded by someone who’s 22, let alone a power most models are even afforded. But Diana is the kind of model who is breaking down barriers using something most models aren’t always known for: her voice. She’s a passionate advocate for body positivity, for diversity, for women of color, and women who are far too often overlooked by the media–and she’s gonna do something about it. We sat down–and we listened–to her talk through identity issues, the importance of equal representation, why we need more diversity behind the scenes in fashion, and how her future career goals will make it all happen.
So how did you get into modeling?
My friends who are photographers kept putting me in shoots—so it kind of just happened. I got kicked out of college, but my mom told me I could do anything, so I went to JAG Models in NYC and they signed me. They were the first agency in New York City to take interest in me.
What was that pivotal moment when you were like, “modeling is it for me”?
Growing up, I remember gaining weight and the rest of my friends didn’t have to deal with that. My weight fluctuates—and that’s so normal. But when I was gaining weight at the time, I didn’t feel sexy and it didn’t help that I didn’t see anyone who looked like me.
The first thing I kind of saw myself in was a Lane Bryant campaign when I was in college, and I remember being like, that’s going to be me. I had already spoken about my body issues at that time, but actually seeing that made me feel like everything I believed was valid and real. Just seeing it encourages you.
“The first thing I kind of saw myself in was a Lane Bryant campaign when I was in college, and I remember being like, that’s going to be me. I had already spoken about my body issues at that time, but actually seeing that made me feel like everything I believed was valid and real.”
I think we’re so affected by the things we see and where we shop.
Our parents didn’t see as many images as we do. We’re on our phones all day looking at pictures. How is that not supposed to affect you in any way?
When you’re growing up and you don’t see yourself represented, what do you feel like that causes?
In my personal experience I feel like it caused me deeply rooted identity issues. It caused me to hate who I was and try to become someone else for a very long time. Until recently I didn’t start feeling like my truest and most honest self.
Everyone wants to feel good about themselves. Everyone deserves to wear clothes that they enjoy wearing. I feel good when I’m wearing cool clothes, everyone should have that.
What are you doing to make that difference?
I’m just trying staying true to my authentic self. If I make a difference in someone’s life, that’s great, but I’m just being myself. I’m in this industry, trying to figure out my own identity issues and trying to figure out who I am. I can’t be the representation for everyone! There are still a lot of girls who deserve and need a platform. It’s not fair that a size 20 girl has to to look at size 12 girls and try to relate. It’s unrealistic and counterproductive.
“There are still a lot of girls who deserve and need a platform. It’s not fair that a size 20 girl has to to look at size 12 girls and try to relate.”
Until pretty recently, models haven’t always been able to have a voice, or to speak their mind. But you’re strong, and you’ve got a voice–it’s such a part of why we’ve booked you now and in the past. Why is being vocal about issues of representation and body image important for you?
I feel like in this industry, you have to speak your voice because people don’t realize how much influence it does have on others and how positive it is to have people that you look up to believe in the same things you do. With so many people saying ignorant things in the media right now, it is especially important for us to use our voices in a way that uplift others!!!
What do you want to do next? What’s the dream?
I want to have my own casting agency. I want to be a Creative Director. I want to have say in the vision a magazine wants to project and cast whoever the fuck I want—in cool clothes. I want to be the person who’s in charge because I feel like one of the major problems that curvy women and women of color have is that there aren’t enough people representing and fighting for us in the workplace. We need more people of color in the offices, telling people what to do and making shit people need to see.
“In this industry, you have to speak your voice–people don’t realize how much influence it does have on others and how positive it is to have people that you look up to believe in the same things you do.”
What do you think are the major issued affecting women today?
I feel like there should be so much more done for women all across the spectrum. It’s a very important time for us to stand together. It’s also a very important time for us to create safe spaces for everyone to feel protected and to use our voices to advocate way more for those who need help being heard such as trans women and women of color. Right now especially is such an important time for us to not just be allies but to not speak over and listen to each other way more and to use our voices to uplift each other. Feminism isn’t feminism if it’s not intersectional.
“There should be so much more done for women all across the spectrum. It’s a very important time for us to stand together. It’s also a very important time for us to create safe spaces for everyone to feel protected… Feminism isn’t feminism if it’s not intersectional.”
Most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is to be myself under any circumstances.
Advice for your future self?
The only advice I can give myself is to always do what feels right and to keep a positive outlook on things !