diana veras’s 10 step guide to feeling beautiful
The 21-year-old Dominican beauty and body image activist wants you to stop comparing yourself to others.
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Diana Veras is more than just another model. A body positive pioneer and a campaigner for racial diversity, the Dominica-born beauty is leading the youthful charge by redefining outdated standards of beauty and using social media to open up new conversations about the industry. She shares her 10 step guide to feeling beautiful and loving yourself just the way you are with i-D.
"I grew up in Santiago in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City when I was seven years old. I was a smart kid, always observant, always aware of my surroundings, but I didn't speak an ounce of English so the American school system wasn't the easiest to adjust to. American school children were also not the friendliest, but I managed. I wasn't shy; I just didn't know the language. And since everyone bullied me, I grew up telling myself, "You are special."
Growing up in the Dominican Republic was exhilarating. I got to climb trees, I got to hang outside till the sun went down, I played with animals, I went to beaches and rivers, and overall it was a pretty amazing experience. I also watched a lot of television. Television was my one way of having a peek into American beauty standards and man was I blown away. The blue eyes, the blonde hair, the skinny bodies. All I wanted to be was an American, as did everyone else in the Dominican Republic. I wanted to grow up to be one of the girls in the magazines: I wanted the hair, the eyes, the body, everything. I quickly got over that once I moved to Washington Heights and realized nothing was like it was on TV and in the magazines. My mom was beautiful to me, her friends were beautiful to me. They weren't stick thin, they didn't have blue eyes, and they didn't speak English either.
As a teen I never felt like I was ugly. I didn't think I was beautiful either. I thought I was alright; boys didn't really like me, and that had a huge effect on my confidence. And when they did like me it was just to use me. It wasn't until I found Tumblr that I started feeling beautiful. I quickly started filling the internet with selfies and everyone loved it. People loved everything about me, from my annoying personality, to my hair, my gap teeth — everything about me that for such a long time I had hated. I found girls that looked like me, girls with the same boy problems, girls who had a tough time loving themselves, and we talked for hours. And for a long time it was my coping mechanism. As long as there were girls on the internet like me, that meant I was less alone. It meant I found my path to self-love.
Beauty to me means being yourself authentically. I feel like I've said this a million times but when you accept things that you can't change about yourself you begin to see a difference in your life. You will not thrive until you learn to love the ugly parts of yourself as much as you love the pretty parts. But what do I know is I'm only 21 and I'm still trying to wrap my head around this concept. As long as I'm myself, I can continue doing what I love to do. If it means I inspire others on the way then I am happy. Beauty is much deeper than looks to me, and I hope that translates through my work."
1. Fuck boys
"For a long time I thought the more boys liked me, the more attractive or cool I was. This is a big lie. I've been in relationships where boys didn't quite understand me and all it left me with was a feeling that I wasn't enough."
2. Surround yourself with positive female energy
"Nothing in this world feels better than having a positive female support system. Love girls, support girls, and watch how the universe manifests beautiful things for you."
3. Self care
"No, I'm not just talking about face masks and laying in bed and indulging in Netflix eating ice cream (even though that's awesome too). I mean if you need to talk to someone: go do it. A counselor at school, a therapist. If you need to talk, find a safe place to do so. As someone who has dealt with a lot of mental health issues, taking care of my mind really helped me care for everything else."
4. Get over yourself
"Sounds harsh, but get over yourself. No one cares if you're not perfectly dressed, no one cares if your hair is a little frizzier than usual today. No one cares about you as much as you think they do because a lot of people are concerned with themselves. Be free, be spontaneous, and wear what you want."
5. Find what you are passionate about
"Find something you are obsessed with, come up with a plan, and execute it. Nothing makes you feel more beautiful than accomplishing your goals."
6. Talk to your mom more
"I'm 21 years old and I live on my own in New York City. It gets lonely, but when I call my mom and talk to her about things I feel less alone. My momma is a superwoman. If she's okay and alive and breathing after everything she's been through, I will be okay too."
7. Write, write, write
"Write everything down — your ideas, your thoughts, your feelings. Write down observations, draw doodles — whatever you want. Whenever you look back you realize how much you have grown."
8. Stop comparing yourself
"You are YOU. Sounds corny as hell but you are the only you that exists. You are not in competition with anyone. As someone who is constantly compared to other women this is something I've had to deal with a lot. We are all meant for different things. There is enough room for everyone to be a star."
9. Learn about your culture
As an Afro-Latina woman, I didn't know my identity for a really long time. I wanted to look like someone else. I wanted to be white. And until I learned to love my culture, I didn't love myself.
10. Look at yourself in the mirror more
For a very long time I didn't look at my body in the mirror. I've been marketed as so many things in career, so I didn't know where I quite fit. So I avoided mirrors and didn't care. I bought a couple mirrors recently and started looking at my body more and accepting more. So look at yourself in the mirror. Take some nudes even if you don't send them to anyone. Take selfies. Do your makeup even if it's just for selfies.
I hoped this helped! Love y'all <3
Diana Veras is with Milk Management