model diana veras on body positivity, racial diversity, and the problem with plus-size labels
The 20-year-old beauty opens up about her journey towards loving herself, just the way she is.
Photography Petra Collins
Growing up surrounded by images of blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauties -- women who didn't resemble anything close to herself -- Diana Veras always felt inadequate. Born in a small town in the Dominican Republic, she moved to New York City when she was seven-years-old and has loved living in the city ever since. After all, it was here where she was first scouted to be a model after being cast by Douglas Perrett for the Chloé Sevigny x Opening Ceremony show. Since then the 20-year-old has modeled for Me + You and #mycalvins, and currently stars in Carly Rae Jepson's video for "Boy Problems," directed by bff, Petra Collins. But it's Diana's views on body positivity and on loving yourself unconditionally that has made her the role model she is today. With over 150,000 followers on Insta, Diana has become somewhat of a mentor for young girls who don't necessarily conform to what society thinks of as beautiful. In short, she's become the role model she always wished she had growing up, and in doing so, continues to inspire girls worldwide. Here she opens up about her journey towards loving herself, just the way she is.
What does modeling mean to you?
Modeling is a way of expressing myself. Every time you show up on set, you're portraying a different side of yourself that you don't necessarily have to show the world on a regular basis. It was one of the ways I became comfortable with myself.
Have you ever felt pressured into looking a certain way?
When I was younger I did. I used to watch too much television as a kid and all I used to see were white women with perfect teeth, and blonde hair, and light colored eyes and I used to cry because I wanted to be one of them so badly. I wanted blue colored contacts for Christmas as a seven year old! It just goes to show how representation really does go a long way.
How has modeling changed you as a person?
Modeling has made me feel empowered. Knowing that I can help people feel good about themselves makes me feel amazing.
What's been your career highlight to date?
My career highlight definitely has been posing nude for NARS x Paper Mag. I had always been so against nudity just because I was so scared of what people might've thought of my body if they saw it not looking 'perfect.' On Instagram and through selfies you can pose a certain way, and you can hide all of your flaws. With a camera you can't really do that. So I went in there and let all that fear go and I just felt so liberated and free. I felt sexy.
How do you feel about terms such as "plus-size" and "in betweenie"?
I hate that it separates us because we're all just models. We all do the same thing. Why do I have to call myself a plus model or an in betweenie? Why can't I just be a model? Why is it such a big deal?
What was it like working with Barbie Ferreira and Petra Collins for the Me + You campaign?
It was amazing. Barbara, Petra and I have a great bond, and when we work together it's just like hanging out and there's a camera there that catches us in our best, most vulnerable moments.
What changes have seen you within the industry over the years?
Well, first of all, I am in it now. Five years ago, if you told me someone was shooting the girls that looked like me who weren't 5'9 and white with what people consider the 'perfect' body, I would have said you were crazy.
What changes would you like to see moving forward?
I just want to see all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. I want to wear fashionable clothes and I want to walk shows. I want to do it all, and I feel like it's completely possible. Not just different body types, but people of all ages, people with disabilities, MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR!!! We all just need representation.
How do you feel about things like diversity within the industry?
I wish there was more of it. I feel like every time I watch a runway show or look at a campaign, I see the same girls, same celebs, same body types. It's the same girls I used to look at when I was seven and wish I looked like. I'm so uninspired by the industry as a whole just because of the lack of diversity.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty to me is being able to love every single part of yourself, not just physically but internally. I went through the hardest time of my life earlier on this year, and I got to know parts of myself that I didn't think I'd ever be happy with. Beauty to me is being able to accept your flaws and love them.
What advice would you give to young girls hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Honestly it sounds so cliché, but be yourself, love yourself, and don't let anyone tell you that you cannot do something or be who you want to be. There are so many things that are obtainable if you just put your mind to it and ignore anyone who's trying to get in your way.
You have a lot of fans on social media. Why do you think people are drawn to you?
I feel like people are drawn to me because I'm myself, and also because I really don't care what anyone thinks of me. I honestly don't.
What's the best thing about being a girl in 2016?
I feel like girls are so much more supportive of each other in 2016. We're not in competition with each other. Also I feel like it's so much easier to relate to other girls now, especially with social media. I can still look online and see girls that look like me, and that makes me happy and I feel comforted.