Interview: body love model, Khrystyana

Teaching us all to be more body confident – the one and only Khrystyana…

Khrystyana Kazakov is the 32-year-old, Russian born model and a fully fledged body love activist who’s inspiring everyone to accept themselves for who they are.

Making a stand for diversity in the fashion industry on America’s Next Top Model, and since creating her own catwalk show ‘The Real Catwalk’ in New York where she currently lives and in London’s Trafalgar Square – she’s the role model we all need.

Khrystyana is one of the beautiful models to star in the Figleaves autumn/winter18 campaign so we took the chance to chat to the inspiring lady herself. From challenges she has faced in the industry, to how she feels about brands moving towards being all inclusive and even her love for watermelon, she reveals all…

What makes you feel most confident?

Do you think confidence is important when it comes to lingerie and swimwear?

When I feel physically strong and energetic, I project confidence.

I think it’s VERY important to feel confident in lingerie and swimwear – I used to be afraid to look at myself in the mirror because I assumed that what I saw was flawed. Self love made me realise everything I saw under those pretty lingerie sets was truly unique and awesome. If you’re confident in yourself it becomes contagious and  you share it naturally – people around me tend to also feel super confident when we all head to the beach for example.

Being confident is contagious and it really IS available to everyone.

You’ve been open about being under pressure to conform to skinny stereotypes as a model – how have you overcome this?

The fashion industry sets a very specific line between straight size models and plus size models leaving the girls that are in-between questioning themselves due to being so under represented.
I was one of the girls thinking “well… I think I’m closer to the straight size standards. In order to work and pay rent I need to lose 30lbs and get my hips to 36 inches” which was a really unhealthy obsession.

I spent up to three hours at the gym almost daily and ate greens without any dressing, mentally I was devastated and operated on auto mode, much like a robot.
I was so self-obsessed that I neglected the people that I care about, and as low as I got in my measurements I could only get to 37.5 inches. “At least get to a size 4” my agent said, but I couldn’t. It was a never ending chase.

When I let go of “skinny” I gained my weight back and signed as a plus girl (at size 8-10 / 10-12UK) who was now “too skinny”, so I tried to gain weight by doing more weights and eating more. I needed to be 2 sizes bigger in order to get booked as a curve model… but ended up unhappy again. I learnt to accept my body as it was -gain or lose weight, I take care of my body and mind first.

What do you think needs to change in the fashion industry to make sure it’s all inclusive?

It’s already changing – smaller brands started to cast diverse models and now bigger brands see how people actually DO crave to see all kinds of people in campaigns and ecommerce. I’m beginning to see a real change and it makes me so happy!

But there’s still a long way to go – I’m not a fan of attacking brands and blaming them, but I do think designers can help with the specific weight obsessions. If designers start making samples in larger sizes then agencies would have to start scouting those girls. If the designers ask for models with different abilities – agencies would have to sign those models.

Brands are starting to see that there is a demand to see all kinds of people in their campaigns – I’m starting to see a real change and it makes me so happy!

What’s the most important thing you learnt from taking part in America’s Next Top Model?

I learnt to take risks – I’m usually the person who plays it safe and stays within the frames of what I think works best but being on the show pushed me to expand my horizons, take risks, be innovative and to trust my instincts.

It also taught me to be okay and accepting when I didn’t get the results that I’d hoped for because I was already appreciating the journey so much.

What inspired you to create The Real Catwalk?

And how did you make everyone involved feel their most confident?

Not seeing my friends represented in famous runway shows and magazines. So I created The Real Catwalk to show them – and I can guarantee that it planted some seeds!

A lot of people had severe anxieties – we rehearsed fully clothed before the actual show, as stripping down to your bikini and lingerie can make you feel so vulnerable. To boost confidence, I’d massage their shoulders and tell them how amazing and brave they all were, seeing their glowing faces and smiles as they were coming back down the runway was heart warming and inspiring. It was like a light switch – the models went from nervous to happy as soon as they saw how accepted they were and how confident they felt rocking their beautiful bodies.

Quick-fire questions:

Describe yourself in 3 words? Energetic, Innovative and a joker.

Cats or dogs? Both!

Bralettes or plunge bra? Bralettes – they’re soft, supportive and comfortable.

Who/what is your greatest love? Watermelon.

Follow Khrystyana’s inspiring Instagram @khrystyana

Harriet Davey

As a fashion editor and stylist for many publications and brands, Harriet is here to deliver exciting fashion news and interviews, discuss the latest trends and collections and be on hand for endless style inspiration.