《超級名模生死鬥》之後 KhrystyAna的非典型大尺碼模特旅程

(文末附上英文訪談內容/English version of this interview is down below.)

20歲和媽媽一起從西伯利亞移民到夏威夷,再從夏威夷到舊金山,最後落腳紐約,已經在美國待了將近13年,由實境選秀節目《超級名模生死鬥》成名的 KhrystyAna Kazakova,不只是模特兒,更是身體自主(Body Positivity)與性別平等(Gender Equality)的倡議者。

她平時參與拍攝,閒暇時舉辦活動,致力將「以自己的身體為榮」以及「尊重多元性別」的想法擴散、普及。她的Instagram風格捉摸不定,有時是當模特兒時拍攝的作品,有時候是與品牌合作的自製可愛影片,沒有單一制式的風格,讓大批粉絲每天都很期待她的更新。

KhrystyAna 25歲才入行,身形雖然和一般美國女性無異,但在模特兒界被歸類在大尺碼(Plus-sized),論年齡、論身材,KhrystyAna都是非典型模特兒,外媒常用Bubbly來形容她,然而她在鏡頭前的陽光、自信底下,有著更深刻的核心價值。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

紐約一夜的大雪過後,在布魯克林威廉斯堡的咖啡廳裡,KhrystyAna穿著寬鬆的運動服、大大的黑色毛帽把頭髮全束了起來,她素顏、戴著大眼鏡,一看到我就跟我道歉,說前幾天的一場拍攝,彩妝師用同一支刷子化每個模特兒,讓她的眼睛和臉腫了好幾天,到現在都還沒好,「而且好像還感冒了,但應該沒有傳染性啦!」她用沙啞的聲音這麼說道。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

而後,我們從《超級名模生死鬥》聊到身體自主,從紐約聊到社群媒體,KhrystyAna的非典型也體現在她的思考面向上。

「能不能跟我們分享一下,在《超級名模生死鬥》裡學到最多的是什麼呢?」

『我學會更有自信,更「擁有」自己,不過那是在節目很後段、幾乎快結束的時候了。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

在參加《超級名模生死鬥》的時候,我非常在意別人對我的評價,一直在尋找認同,可能講了一句話後會不停回想,會覺得:「唉,如果當初不要講這句話,或是換個方式講就好了。」也因此不斷批評自己,但我後來意識到,就算我一直在最後幾名,那又如何?我從來不覺得我可以擠進決賽。在這個節目中,我學會不要一直懲罰自己,也學會更相信自己一點。』

「在社群媒體上不斷更新自己的生活,和上真人實境選秀節目有什麼不同?妳兩者都經歷過了,不曉得能不能談談妳對於這兩者的觀感?」

『這兩者最大的差異,就是自己能決定「觀眾要看到什麼」的掌控程度。自己的社群媒體,你能決定要分享什麼、要讓什麼被看見,但實境選秀節目是別人幫你剪輯影片、別人決定什麼東西要被看到。像在《超級名模生死鬥》裡,我明明就是一個很瘋狂、有時候很愚蠢的人,但剪輯過後常常只呈現出我很天真可愛的一面,我當初講的那個冷笑話呢?被剪掉了。雖然我覺得他們剪輯我的片段其實剪得滿好的,但我還是希望能呈現更多面向的我,畢竟每個人都有好的和壞的一面,我希望能呈現最真實的我給大眾,我希望能讓觀眾發笑。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

我覺得現在社群媒體經營得很成功的人,都是最極致的控制狂吧!

我希望能在社群媒體上呈現最真實的我,但有時候「不真實」也是真實的一部分。有些人就只發佈修圖過的照片,或是只用同一種濾鏡,發文的內容也僅侷限在時尚、旅遊或是某個類別,但我覺得這樣的堅持就像把自己關進了箱子裡,侷限了自己,而且也因為你只發佈同樣內容或是類似風格的照片,觀眾就會開始對你有期待,但有期待一定伴隨著失望,當你有時候發佈了不同的東西,他們會覺得這不是以前的你了。

像我的追蹤者對我就沒什麼期待,我有時候會發完全沒修圖的照片,有時候又發修過圖的照片,有時候發模特兒硬照,有時候又發一些我朋友幫我拍的看起來很笨、很好笑的影片,我想上傳什麼就上傳什麼,這樣才能不侷限,不把自己關進箱子裡。我完全不知道我下一張照片會發什麼,但我覺得「不知道」有時候是件好事,它會將你帶到你自己也意想不到的地方。』

「妳都是怎麼面對網路上攻擊的言論與訊息呢?妳又是怎麼看待生活以及各大產業被社群媒體侵占的現象呢?」

『其實我並沒有遇過太多的攻擊或批評耶!可能會追蹤我的人都已經知道我的觀點了,所以這樣的情況並不多。不過如果遇到批評或是惡意的留言,只要有機會,我都會親自回覆,我覺得「溝通」是化解誤會、停止攻擊或是開啟連結最有效的方式。面對這些言論,要隨時準備好,不過並不是每個人都能隨時準備好,或是有勇氣挺身而出面對霸凌。我常跟我媽辯論,我覺得我只要能面對我媽,我就能面對任何人。再說,我也不是很在意那些Haters。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

我覺得社群媒體是當今社會的新規則,畢竟每個世代都有專屬於那個世代的東西。在現在這個世代,沒有所謂「真實生活」和「社群媒體呈現的生活」之別,這兩者間並沒有一道涇渭分明的牆。對一個12歲的小孩來說,他們可以同時做很多件事,並不會分成「滑手機時間」、「閱讀時間」或是「聊天時間」,對他們而言,所有事情都很自然而然,並不會打架,我覺得這個世代的腦子可能擴張得比我們還大,才能從善如流的同時面對這麼多事情。

不過對我來說可能就還是會有點區別啦!我33歲了,我還是會分成滑手機狀態和聊天狀態。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

還有,我覺得很重要、必須理解的一點就是,社群媒體不是「另一個」生活,或是「不同的」生活,它就是我們生活的一部分,沒有好壞之分。就像是咖啡廳一樣,有人一天要喝超多杯咖啡,有人就是會成癮,也有人上咖啡廳就只是當成生活中的調劑,端看每個人的選擇。不能說社群媒體就是不好,關鍵還是在於使用它的人。』

「能請妳分別談談在模特兒生涯中,妳曾有遇過最挫折以及最難忘的經驗嗎?」

『最挫折嘛⋯⋯就是遇到很髒的彩妝師!有些很有名的彩妝師不知道為什麼就是很髒,每次都用同一支刷子,且完全不清洗就化不同人,請他們使用拋棄式的睫毛刷或是好好洗刷子!我就是因為遇到很髒的彩妝師,現在眼睛和臉才會這麼浮腫,但偏偏這個彩妝師很有名同時又很戲劇化,我當時不想節外生枝就妥協了,結果過了這麼多天都還沒好!

我很幸運,在我的模特兒生涯中沒有遇過#MeToo的經驗,性騷擾在模特兒界是個很大的問題,但我覺得在紐約這樣的情況比較少,或者應該說近幾年應該比較少。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

最難忘的話,應該就屬被Todd Hido拍攝的經驗了。Todd Hido是個藝術家也是位有名的攝影師,他曾到世界各地拍攝。當妳是個模特兒,大多時候在鏡頭下妳要一直笑,而當妳又是一位「大尺碼」模特兒,妳就要表現得更開心,然而Todd Hido總能察覺我的陰暗面,他也喜歡那些幽暗的東西,並要求我表現出來。他可能會說:「好吧!妳今年過得不很順,告訴我那些不順、那些不快樂,Show Me!」

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

在他的鏡頭下,當模特兒對我來說是段療傷的過程、是種藝術治療。我覺得我童年的創傷、長大成人後的傷口都被療癒了。被Todd Hido拍攝,我不怕表現出我的黑暗面。當我被拍攝,我知道我終於可以好好放下那些過去,好好把那些不愉快的回憶收藏起來,我不該再把它們帶進我現在的生活裡。大多數的商業攝影,我都必須扮演(Act)別人、我需要一直笑,但和Todd Hido一起工作,我被要求表現(Show)而非扮演(Act)我的情緒,我可以如實的呈現出我的所思所感。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

現在在看這篇專訪文章的人,如果你不是模特兒,但想試試藝術治療,我很推薦你嘗試攝影,在鏡頭底下,你可以很自由、按照你想要的方式擺動你的身體,或是拍裸照也是件很美的事。對於裸照,很多人會強加進很多不好的念頭,但它其實是件很純粹、很療癒的藝術。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

我25歲才開始當模特兒,也是那時候我才決定要當一名藝術家。身體就是我創作的媒介,我常常想很多,也有很多東西想追求,但我覺得最重要的是,不要害怕去追求、不要害怕去尋找你自己。』

「妳在俄國的經驗是否影響了妳看事情的態度呢?」

『當然!美國與俄國的審美標準差非常多!在西伯利亞我居住的那個小鎮裡,size 4 以下才是美、才能被社會大眾接受,在我的成長經驗裡,俄羅斯就是個有著嚴格要求女性身體標準的國家。在西伯利亞,服裝店都只賣一個尺寸的衣服,而且賣的都是Sample Ssize,因為他們認為美只有一種標準,瘦就是美,當然莫斯科、聖彼得堡等大城市可能又不一樣了。我的身體在美國就是個正常女性的尺寸,在美國的模特兒界算是大尺碼,然而在俄羅斯就是超胖,會一直被社會和周遭的人有意無意的提醒這件事。

在我以前居住的那個小鎮,因為女性人口多於男性,對於外貌有點像在比賽,一定要表現得很女性化、出門一定要化妝,不這麼做的話就會被品頭論足。像我今天出門就穿得很Hobo(新波西米亞風),還大素顏、戴眼鏡,如果被我媽知道了,她一定會開始批評我,但在紐約沒有人會覺得這有什麼大不了,我自己能接受、我自己開心就好。』

「紐約對妳而言是一座怎麼樣的城市?在紐約的時尚產業裡工作有什麼心得感想呢?」

『New York is the BEST!這裡有各式種族、年齡、性別的人,我可以跟我年齡相仿的人當朋友,同樣也可以跟79歲或是12歲的人喝咖啡,這裡太自由了,想做什麼就做什麼、想當誰就當誰,沒有人會認為你該怎麼樣,或覺得這樣對或不對。我想,相互尊重,是這座大熔爐之所以能一直接納截然不同的人們的關鍵。

我雖然在俄國出生,但我總覺得我在紐約重生。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

紐約有太多讓人自我探索的機會,在這裡我成長飛快,也更了解我自己,更能接受自己真實的樣貌。雖然我現在正在跟一個異性戀男子交往,但我的自我認同是酷兒(酷兒用來統稱性取向或性別認同為非異性戀者,諸如同性戀、雙性戀和變性者),如果在俄國,尤其又是我出生的西伯利亞小鎮,酷兒不但無法獲得大家的接受,可能還會遭逢生命安全的威脅,某一天走在路上突然就被殺掉也不是不可能。

搬到紐約對我來說是夢想成真。紐約耶!是紐約!聽起來就有點嚇人,但我終於鼓起勇氣跨出一大步,搬到這座我夢想中的城市,我面對了心裡那個龐大的恐懼,我好像又更勇敢了一點。在這裡,我有很多機會探索我是誰?我喜歡什麼?我以前是個怎麼樣的人?我以前被要求、被教導要成為什麼樣的人?而我自己又想成為怎麼樣的人?像我媽一直希望我可以成為一個電腦工程師,但在這裡,我聽從自己心裡的聲音,追求當一名藝術家。在當藝術家前,我已經做過太多工作,有過很多不同的經驗,而藝術是一條會讓人有點害怕的路,但在紐約,我開始真正學會接受我自己想要什麼,也開始接受自己是個什麼樣的人。我想,「尊重」是紐約的時尚產業最讓人心生嚮往的理由,也是它之所以能運作得這麼好的關鍵。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

在紐約,模特兒是個受人尊重的職業,人們知道你是耗費了多少努力才成為一名模特兒。以前在舊金山工作的時候,大家都對模特兒很不以為然,還有一句廣為流傳的話:「在這裡,每個人都是模特兒。」比如說,我的商業拍攝案是2000美金好了,在紐約,如果對方預算不足,他們會很誠懇的和我討論,但在西岸,就會得到「妳少來!哪那麼貴,Come On!」非常不尊重我的專業。』

「在妳以前的訪問裡,妳曾多次提過妳其實是個害羞又內向的人。然而在時尚產業工作,尤其是當模特兒,一定要很活潑、主動,還要很會社交,才有辦法達到自己想去的地方。妳是怎麼在真正的自我和呈現出來的自己之間取得平衡的呢?」

『如果我再更會社交、更不排斥外出一點,我鐵定會比現在成功很多!但怎麼說呢?我很多時候就是不想出門啊!理智告訴我要出去Hang Out,但我常常在最後一秒決定不出門,決定的那個瞬間我覺得好快樂啊!彷彿那是全世界最棒的事情,然而不出去社交的確會影響我的工作。如果我多參加朋友的慶生會、多去參加藝廊開幕,我絕對會有比現在更多的機會。一對一的朋友碰面我還行,但我真的不喜歡人多的社交場合。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

其實模特兒是個24/7全年無休的工作,你需要不停社交、不停建立連結、不停拍攝,更不用說你要控制自己的飲食、要健身保持良好的體態,從來沒有停下來的時候,當模特兒其實不像外人看來那麼容易,尤其我又不喜歡外出,也很慢熟,和人不是那麼容易建立連結,少了很多人脈,對我的工作來說又多了一層難度。我不會說我呈現出來的樣貌和我真實的樣貌有「平衡」,因為我一直以來都希望能表現出最真實的自己,我不會強迫自己做不喜歡或是不想要的事,所以也就沒有什麼平衡,螢幕前的我就是真實的我。』

「是什麼事情驅使妳成為身體自主的倡議者?在這眾多的聲明與活動裡,妳得到了什麼?」

『其實沒有特別驅使(Trigger)我的事情耶,我很自然而然的就栽進去了。我從來沒想過:「嘿!我要當一名身體自主的倡議者!或是我要致力推廣性別平權!」,我只是因為自己的經驗與周遭朋友的遭遇,很自然的就在網路發表看法或是分享自己的故事,而後當別人開始為我冠上一些類似的頭銜,我也覺得:「噢!原來我是個身體自主運動行動派(Body Positivity Activist)啊!聽起來好像也很不錯!」如果說,提倡身體自主是出於愛、是出於我個人的自我探索,那麼倡導性別平等,則是出於我親眼見到我朋友如何被對待的憤怒,然而憤怒其實也是愛的一種,只是是不同種類的能量罷了。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

一個我最好的朋友是個跨性別者,她在還沒動手術前,就算女性生理特徵很鮮明,但留著短頭髮,在舊金山灣區要進女廁時,會被店員指指點點甚至出言羞辱,但我當時什麼也不能做,也不能向店經理投訴,然而,憑什麼她要受到這樣的對待?就是因為這樣的憤怒,讓我更意識到性別平等的重要,進而在網路上發表看法。而當她動手術變成男性後,自我認同又變成是女性了,雖然知道的當下我覺得「What the fuck?」,但我清楚知道這是一段很艱難的性別認同過程。2017年我在紐約時代廣場舉辦的「The Real Catwalk」,是我覺得截至目前為止我辦過最成功、讓我最有成就感的活動。這是個給所有人的伸展台,很開放、很真實,不分年齡、種族、高矮、胖瘦、性別,只要想走秀,全都能上台大方秀出自己的美麗。我覺得那才是真正包容、真正對所有人開放的時尚。』

「請問妳是怎麼看待當今精品品牌追隨時尚產業裡聲量越來越大的『多樣性』、『包容性』的『規則』的現象?妳覺得他們真的擁抱這樣的理念,還是只是象徵主義,又或是只是品牌為了避免爭議與批評、為了維持其政治正確,而不得不做的選擇?」

『我覺得是後者,大部分都只是品牌為了不被批評、為了跟上潮流做出的決定,越有名的品牌越怕跟不上時代、越怕被拋在後頭。很多在時尚產業工作的人,不曉得他們的影響力有多大,在地球一端的某個決定,可能會影響地球另一端、另一群人的生活,這樣的蝴蝶效應很可觀。現在這個時代,沒有什麼不可能,尤其在時尚裡更是沒有極限,這種自由很酷,它是時尚,但又不只是時尚,它還是整個世界。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

有些品牌主打多樣性和包容性,獲得廣大的迴響和讚賞,但其實他們的多樣和包容只侷限在少數族群,像是身心障礙、大尺碼、跨性別或是少數族裔,這樣當然很好,那些過去被忽視的聲音終於有機會被聽到。然而他們從來不僱用「正常人」,這樣何嘗不是另一種排外?

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

真正的「包容」與「多樣」應該是所有人擁有同樣的機會,而不是將機會只給予少數人,如果他們要將重心放在少數群體上,那也很好,但就不應該用這樣的詞彙來行銷、來造成誤會。』

「在時尚產業裡,有沒有一個最欣賞的指標?」

『Jillian Mercado!她是我朋友,她超完美!她能每天都出門,而且都是好好打扮過、畫了全妝的完美狀態,我真的超佩服她!她最近也推出自己的配件品牌,除了給坐輪椅的人另一種選擇,一般人也適用。』

「你覺得妳五年後會是什麼樣子?有沒有一些想完成的事或是正在進行的計畫?」

『我覺得我可以繼續當模特兒當到79歲、當到100歲,但其實我也還蠻想嘗試藝術指導的。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

我對視覺呈現很有興趣,很多人也會模仿我的構圖、創意來拍照。被模仿這件事,一方面讓我覺得蠻有成就感的,畢竟有很多人喜歡我的想法,但另一方面又覺得有點惱人,那是我的創意啊!關於未來,我不自我設限,我會繼續當模特兒,但也蠻想嘗試其他跟視覺呈現相關的工作。』

「對妳來說,時尚是什麼?」

『時尚對我來說,就是一種透過服裝呈現的藝術形式,就是這麼簡單。我很喜歡當代的時尚,它不像過去每個年代都有非常鮮明的風格,當今的時尚像是杯果昔,什麼都摻一點,有各種風格、各個年代的特色,我覺得這樣很棒!這樣的時尚很自由,而自由正是創作的源頭。過去的時尚雜誌要表達友情,大部分都是兩個相視而笑的朋友,很陽光、很燦爛,但現在,可能是三個發脾氣的小孩坐在一起,這個表現更真實了。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

時尚也是一種療癒,它治癒了這個世界的不開心與憂鬱,不只對個人,對整個世界未嘗不是一種救贖。我覺得時尚是人類擁有世界上最強大的東西,它讓人們看到更多選擇、更多可能性。』

後記

對KhrystyAna來說,模特兒不是時尚產業裡穿著華服拍照的載體,更是有主體感官、思考的藝術家。在訪問之間,她突然說,她以為這次專訪會像她以前的訪問一樣,都問些表面的問題,大概15分鐘就結束,沒想到這次訪問的問題都很深入,她很喜歡,還要我一定要寫個英文版,她想放進她的作品集裡。

▲(圖/Elise Ay攝)

一個半小時下來,可以深刻感受到,KhrystyAna不像大多外媒形容的那般Bubbly,她的確很可愛、很親切,但更深一層,她是位哲學家。從西伯利亞一路輾轉來到紐約,做過各式工作最後降落在模特兒跑道上,對於自己的身體、性別以至於人生,都經歷過或深或淺的衝擊與反思,她說她喜歡思考,但常常想太多,然而大概也是這股「想太多」,才讓她的作品有著靈動的神韻吧!

(English Version)

Immigrating from Siberia to Hawaii at 20 with her mom, then moving to San Fransisco and finally settling down in New York, KhrystyAna Kazakova has been staying in the United States for almost 13 years. KhrystyAna gets her fame from the popular reality TV show, America's Next Top Model, but she is not your stereotypical model. In weekdays, she might be doing shoots, while in her spare time, she would attend or host events to practice her beliefs in "be proud of your own body" and "respect every gender identity."

In terms of age and body type, KhrstyAna is not a typical model.

She isn't a model until the age of 25, which is a fairly old age to start in the model industry. She is also a plus-size model, even though she looks just like a normal size American woman. Many journalists would describe KhrstyAna as bubbly. However, under her radiant smile, shiny confidence and bubbly personality, KhrstyAna actually has something more to tell.

Can you please share with us what's the most important thing you've learned in America's Next Top Model?

In America's Next Top Model, I learned to be more confident, to own myself more I'd say, but that was in the very end of the show. When I was in the show, I cared so much about how people saw me. I was desperate for validation because I wasn't confident enough. Sometimes I might think what I just said over and over again and kept criticizing myself for saying that. But at the end of show, I realized I'd been at the very bottom, but so what? I didn't know I was gonna survive that long. From then on, I learned to not punish myself and to believe in myself more.

Is there any difference between keeping updating your life on social media and starring in a reality TV show? What's your insights about these two?

The biggest difference between these two is the control you own. On your own social media, you can decide what to share and what to be shown to people. But on reality TV, people edit it for you. For example, when I was in America's Next Top Model, I sometimes told a really bad joke, but when the episode was out, the joke was edited. Most of the time, they only showed my cute side. I'm actually a crazy and goofy person. Don't get me wrong, I really like their edits. But if I had control of what to show, I'd hope to show the public more about the real me. Everyone has their good side and bad side. I want people to know every side of me. I want to make people laugh.I feel like whoever's successful on social media is probably the biggest control freak in life ever.

I want to show the real me on social media. But sometimes, being not real is part of the real. Some people stick to never editing their photos, or to always using the same filter, or only posting photos in specific categories: fashion, travel for example. However, I feel people are putting themselves in a box. You're limiting yourself by doing so. And after you limit yourself in specific categories, people have expectations on you. If you don't post as what you used to, people get disappointed. They start to feel like you're not the real you anymore.

My social media is to embrace all of me, instead of parts of me. My followers have no expectations for me. Sometimes I post unedited photos, sometimes I post edited photos. Sometimes I post my model work, sometimes I post some silly but funny videos my friends took for me. I post whatever I like. I think without the limits, I'm not putting myself in a box. I have no idea what I'm going to post next. I feel like "not knowing" is a good thing. It brings you to places you've never imagined.

How do you deal with hateful messages and comments? And how do you see the dominance of social media in the fashion industry?

Actually I didn't get much criticism or hateful comments. Probably my followers have already known me and what I stand for before they decide to follow me. But if I get hateful messages or comments, when I get a chance, I'll try to reply them myself. Starting a conversation is always the best way to end hatred or misunderstanding. And you have to always be ready. I know not everyone is always ready, or have the courage to stand up to a bully. I just do it. I kinda enjoy it. I used to argue with my mom. I always feel if I can stand up to my mom, I can stand up to anybody. Besides, I don't really care about haters.

I think social media is the new norm nowadays. After all, every generation has their own thing. In this generation, there's no such thing as "real life" and "social media life." There's not much wall between these two. For 12-year-olds, they know how to do it all. For them, everything's so natural. I really feel the kids' brains are expanding, so they're able to do so many things at the same time. But for me, I'm 33. There's still a difference with cell phone time and talking time.I think there's something very important to know. That is, social media is not "another" life or a "different" life. It is just part of our life. It's such like everything else. It's like going to the coffee shop. Some people need to drink so much coffee everyday, some people just get addicted. But some people just go there for a cup of coffee and for the pastry. It's just personal choice. You can't say social media is bad. It only depends on the people using it.

Can you share with us one of the most frustrating and one of the most unforgettable experience in your model career?

The most frustrating is that the makeup artist is dirty! I don't know why some famous makeup artists are so dirty. They do every model with the same brush! Wash your brush or use disposable ones!I look so puffy right now just because the makeup artist is dirty, but he is also dramatic. I didn't want to get into trouble, so I didn't say anything then. So I ended up like this for so many days!I'm very lucky that I don't have any #MeToo moments during my model career. Sexual harassment is a big issue in the model industry. But I feel like there's less sexual harassment happening in New York recent years.The most unforgettable experience is working with Todd Haido. Todd Haido is a famous artist and photographer. He's been to all over the world for shoots. When you are a model, you're asked to smile. When you're a plus-size model, you're asked to smile more, you're supposed to be happier. However, Todd Haido can see my darkness. He actually likes darkness. He would say, "You've been through a shitty year. Show me how shitty your year has been."

Under his lens, modeling is like a therapy, an artistic therapy. I feel like my childhood trauma and my adulthood wounds are all healed. When I work with Todd Haido, I'm not afraid of showing my darkness. When I am photographed, I know I could finally treat them as past and move on. I shouldn't bring them into my present life anymore.In commercial shoots, most of the time I need to act. I need to smile a lot. But working with Todd Haido, I was asked to show, not act. I can really show what I'm feeling.

For anyone reading this interview, if you're not a model but want to try artistic therapy, I'll recommend photography. When you're being shot, you can be free. You can do whatever you want with your own body. Nudes are beautiful as well. Many people might have some ill thoughts about nude photography, but it is actually a real and pure form of art.I started working as a model when I was 25. That was when I decided to be an artist.I always think a lot and have so many things to pursue. I think the most important thing is that don't be afraid to seek or to search for yourself.

Does your childhood experience in Russia affect how you see things?

Of course! In Russia, I'm considered pretty fat! The beauty standard in Russia and that in the US is so different. In the little town in Siberia where I grew up, only bodies that are below size 4 are considered beautiful. It's the only acceptable size for the society. It's a different form of body shame. In Siberia, there's only one size of clothes in shops. Only sample size. That's what they think of beauty. I believe in Moscow things will be different.As for me, I'm size 8 to size 10. In America, I'm just an ordinary woman, but in the model industry, I'm a plus-size model. The beauty standard in the model industry is pretty much like that in Russia.

In the small town I used to live in Siberia, because there are more women than men, it's kind of competitive. You have to be very feminine. And it's impossible to go without makeup. If you don't do this, people will criticize you. For example, I dress very hobo today, wearing baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants. I don't have makeup on and I also wear glasses. If my mom knew, she would absolutely criticize me of how I look. But in New York, nobody thinks it's a big deal. It only matters that I'm okay with it and I'm happy.

How do you like New York? How do you feel like working in fashion in New York?

New York is the BEST! There are all kinds of people here: different race, ethnicity, age and gender. It's truly a melting pot. You start to feel okay about who you are. I don't have a single friend that has the same background here. I can befriend with people around my age. I can also have a cup of coffee with a 65-year-old or a 12-year-old. There's so much freedom here. I can do whatever I like and be whoever I want. Nobody will think anything of you. I think mutual respect is the reason why this melting pot can keep embracing all kinds of different people here.Although I was born in Russia, I felt like I was reborn in New York.

There are so many opportunities of self-discovery in New York for you to explore who you are. I grow so fast here. I know myself more, and I can easier accept who I really am. Although I'm dating a gender straight guy, I still identity myself as a queer person. Russia is not the safest place to come out, especially in the small town in Siberia. I might not be accepted by the public. My life might even be threatened or killed, maybe by the government or maybe by the people I don't know. It's not impossible.For me, moving to New York is a dream comes true. I mean, it's New York! People love New York. It sounds a bit scary, but I finally brave up to face my fear. Here, I get the chance to discover who I am, what I like, what I was like, what I was asked and taught to be, what I was wanted to be and what I actually want to be. My mom always wants me to be a programmer. But here in New York, I'm able to listen to my inner self to become an artist. Before becoming an artist, I've done so many different jobs. I have so much different experience. For me, being an artist is a scary path, but in New York, I learn to embrace what I really want and try to accept who I really am.I think respect is the key factor why fashion industry in New York can work so well.

In New York, model is a respectable profession. People know how much effort you've made to get here as a model. When I was working in San Fransisco, people didn't take models seriously. They always said, "Everybody here is a model or an influencer" something like that. For example, I charge $2,000 for e-commerce shoot. In New York, if they don't have the budget, they will genuinely tell me so and discuss with me, while on the West Coast, people would just say, "Come on, seriously?" They don't really respect me.

In previous interviews, you've mentioned multiple times that you're actually shy and introverted. But in the fashion industry, especially working as a model, you must act very outgoing, active and of course social in order to excel. How do you balance between your real self and your work/presentable self?

If I go out more often, I will absolutely be more successful. But sometimes I just don't wanna go out. I know I should hang out more, but I always make my decision at the last second of not going out. Every time I make the decision, I feel so happy, as if that was the best thing in the world. Not going out really affects my career. If I go to my friends' birthday parties more often, or go to gallery openings, I definitely will have more opportunities than I have now.

Being a model is a 24/7 job. You have to keep socializing, keep making connections, keep shooting, and not to mention you have to keep control of your diet and keep working out. It never ends. Being a model is never that easy as people see it. Especially for me, I don't really like to go out. It's also harder for me to build connections, which makes things even harder.I won't say there's a "balance" between what I show and who I really am. I always want to show the world the real me. I won't force myself to do something I don't like or I don't want to, so there's actually no balance. It's always the real me.

What triggers you to be a body positivity activist? What have you learned through all the events and statements?

There's nothing "triggers" me to do it. I just fall for it. I've never thought: "Oh, I want to be a body positivity activist, or I want to promote gender equality!" I just share my own stories or what happened around my friends very naturally. When people start to call me a body positivity activist or something like that, I would think, "Oh, I'm a body positivity activist! That sounds cool."If advocating body positivity comes from love, from self-discovery, then promoting gender equality comes from the anger I see how my friends are treated. But even anger comes from love. It just has different energy.

My best friend is a trans-gender. Before having the surgery, she would be judged or even humiliated when she was going to restrooms in cafes at Bay area, even when she still looked very feminine. I couldn't do anything about it. I just see it happen all the time, and it's frustrating. But why should she be treated like that? Because of the anger, I started to notice the importance of gender equality, and started to share my thoughts on the Internet.

The Real Catwalkthat I hosted on Times Square in 2017 is the most successful and fulfilling event I've ever held. It is a runway open for everybody. It's open and it's real. It doesn't matter what race, age, body type or sexuality you are. As long as you want to walk the runway, then go. I think that's the real inclusive and open fashion for everybody.

How do you see the phenomenon of luxury brands following the "rules" of diversity and inclusivity? Do you think they really embrace the concepts, or do they fall into tokenism and just want to avoid criticism and be politically correct?

I think it's the latter. Most of the brands just make their decisions to avoid criticism and for fear of being left behind.Many people working in the fashion industry don't know how influential they are. Sometimes a decision made on the one side of the planet might affect the other side of it. The butterfly effect is huge. In this current era, nothing is impossible, especially in fashion. The freedom in fashion is cool. This is fashion, but it is also how it's gonna be in the world as well. It makes you breathe.

Some brands market themselves as diverse and inclusive, and gain so much applause. But it turns out that their inclusivity and diversity are limited to the minority. Normal people don't get a chance. It's nice for the minority to finally be heard, but then you can't say yourself inclusive and diverse. It's the wrong terminology to use.

Who's your role model or style icon in the fashion industry? And why?

Jillian Mercado! She's my friend. She's perfect.

She can go out everyday and all dress up and have the perfect makeup. I really admire her. Recently, she launched her own accessory line, not only for people in wheel chairs, but for all people.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you have any other projects or plans coming up?

I don't mind keeping modeling till I'm 79 or 100 years old, but I actually really want to try art direction. I'm really interested in visual presentation. Many people will recreate my vision. Being recreated on the one hand gives me a sense of satisfaction that people do like my stuff, but on the other, it's a bit annoying. That's my creativity!

For the future, I don't have limitations. I'll keep working as a model, but I also want to try some visual-related works.

For you, what is fashion? How will you define contemporary fashion?

Fashion for me, is an art expression through clothes. That's it.

I really like contemporary fashion. It doesn't have a specific traits like the past. It's like a smoothie of everything. It's fashion becoming. It's pretty cool. In the past, if fashion magazines wanted to represent friendship, they might have two happy friends smiling at each other; but now, it might be three grumpy kids sit together. It's more real.Fashion is also healing. It affects the world's unhappiness and depression. It's not only for individual, but for the whole world. I see fashion as the most powerful tool in the world in all human kind. It makes people see more options and possibilities.

For KhrstyAna, model is not just a medium for beautiful clothes, but an artist expressing her thoughts and emotions through her body.After this one and a half hour interview, I find KhrstyAna not as bubbly as she is always depicted on media. She is friendly and lovely indeed. But to put forth, she is actually a philosopher. She came all along the way from Siberia to New York. she's done all kinds of jobs and finally landed on being a model. She has contemplated so much about her body, her gender and as far as her life.

KhrystyAna says she loves to think, but always thinks too much. But maybe it's exactly this overthink that makes her so spiritual and so different.

延伸閱讀:

|那些伸展台上大放異彩的傳奇|誰說「Social Media Model」只是曇花一現?
鞋櫃裡一定有,但還是會一直買的定番單品:膠底帆布鞋
類比潮:卡式錄音帶的再生

【本文由 Wazaiii.com 提供《ET FASHION》專用,任何網站、報刊、電視台未經授權許可,請勿轉載!】

回到最上面