Khrystyana. Remember this name. Khrystyana is not just a very beautiful and talented professional model. She is the biggest revelation of America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) and, by far, the most loved and fan-favourite contestant ever. Khrystyana slayed the competition during her participation in AMNT reality show and proved that you can be so beautiful inside as you are outside.
Khrystyana’s beauty and intelligence are some things that cannot go unnoticed. She is 32, she comes from Russia and she is a fierce activist. The plus-size model is a vivid example of what body positivity, love and empowerment should be.
During the show, she impressed us with her modesty. Outside the show she keeps impressing us with her activism. Khrystyana is the founder of The Real Catwalk (#theREALcatwalk) that started one year ago in New York. During this catwalk that was organised in a couple of days, people of all shapes, sizes and looks promoted body diversity and inclusivity and highlighted that it is better to focus on our togetherness rather than our differences. Catwalk and modelling can be for everyone who wants to be a part of it. “After seeing so many different people blending, you will feel related and you will not focus on the differences of the people and you will stop seeing these differences that for some people is what identifies you. People will see that you are a unique person with so many different aspects” she says and the message spread could not be more powerful. This year The Real Catwalk travelled to London and numerous people spread the message of love and empowerment in the middle of Trafalgar Square showing that love and positivity can make a change.
I had the pleasure to meet Khrystyana and I have to admit that she is one of the most genuinely charming, optimistic, positive and talented influencers I have met. I’m sure her ~400K followers on Instagram feel the same way about her too! We laughed, we discussed, we got emotional and we enjoyed it a lot. Couldn’t be any more YASS!
Do you feel there is a big competition between professional models and all the social media models?
Yes and no. Instagram influencers are one of the most powerful marketing platforms that businesses have, many have started to use them in recent years. But being an agency model is a slightly different career path to being an Instagram influencer. Each profession requires a different set of talents outside of just being able to take an appealing photo. There’s only really direct competition between the two roles when somebody has decided to pursue both at once, which honestly is do-able and a smart move in this day and age.
If you can model and be an engaging influencer – you’re a powerhouse. Recently I’ve seen huge brands book influencers straight from Instagram to be the faces of their entire brands, which is something very new and exciting. I’ve seen influencers get signed by model agents when they wouldn’t have had that opportunity without having built their brand first. One difference between the two is that influencers have more freedom to be diverse and unconventional. They’re really demonstrating how the media is changing. To be one you have to utterly believe in yourself and be able to show how cool and comfortable it is to be you, with your body and your face.
Meanwhile, with agency models the standards are still pretty strict, whether you’re a traditional straight size model or plus size. But from my own research and experience, it’s top agencies that still book the top fashion jobs. But I do believe things are slowly changing, with a steady increase in more diverse campaigns and more opportunities for diverse models.
How has your life changed after ANTM?
Mostly ANTM taught me to push harder and take bold risks, it gave me a lot of fuel for my career. I feel like I was really seen for who I am too, which has helped me build an even stronger community of people around me, people who all share the same passions and beliefs that I do. And that family is still growing too.
Were you always confident?
No, not at all. Growing up I was like a ghost. Despite my height and being bigger than my classmates, I was the person who was always missed, unseen, and unnoticed. While sitting right in front of them teachers would ask “Is Khrys not in?” It happened a lot!
Being confident wasn’t one of goals until I got much older. Firstly I just wanted to be heard or noticed by the people that I cared about. Now my new-found voice has grown into a roar, thanks to the Director X moment during the anti-bullying episode of ANTM. I can now stand my ground with confidence and ask for what I want, finally unafraid.
How do you manage to stay so positive?
I don’t know. I’m not always positive though. But allowing myself to choose positivity over negativity and really owning that decision, and then following through, it’s made me feel more empowered and in control of my emotions.
Do you feel that modelling is a very difficult field to work in for body positive people or people who don’t follow the conservative norm?
It depends on a lot of things, your personality, luck, location, style etc. some of those things you can control more than the others. You could have the coolest style but If you live in Siberia it’s a lot more difficult to be noticed than if you live in the United States, for instance.
Although luck plays a part, you also need to be on top of it at all times and treat this seriously if it’s really your passion. You need to watch the trends, subscribe to fashion magazines, always practice and always study. Laziness usually doesn’t bring out a lot of luck! This industry is not for the lazy, you need to stay strong and persistent because out of 100 rejections there might be only one “yes”, but that yes is worth all the effort!
How did you come up with the idea of the real catwalk?
The first walk was just me on my own. It was my runway walk submission for the ANTM casting, which requested an “unusual location in a bikini or lingerie”. When I posted my walk, a video of me with all my cellulite and rolls out, it drew a lot of attention. People liked it for how empowering it was.
A week later I brought a few people together for something similar in Times Square. We held hands a peeled off our layers one by one, shouting statements towards what we see as beautiful. Like Seana’s “Trans is beautiful!” or Ariel’s “My black body is beautiful!’
The latest Real Catwalk, which took place in London, had the most people yet, with an incredible amount of representation. We had beautiful people from all walks of life. It’s exactly the type of event I was hoping to put on, something driven by love and positivity to celebrate how diverse beauty really is. We had people representing different sexualities, skin colours, ages, sizes, disabilities, trans people, people with scars, people with mental illnesses, and many more. It was important to me to help show that this is how diverse people really are, to have as many people involved as possible.
The aim of the Real Catwalk events is to show people that there is so much more to beauty than the type of bodies we always see in the media. And that no matter what someone’s own body might look like, they are beautiful too.
Follow Khrystyana here: www.instagram.com/khrystyana
Stay tuned in YASS for the full coverage of The Real Catwalk that took place in London in the next days!
*all images are courtesy of Soraia Fnine Photography (www.instagram.com/soraiaf9)