The Interview: Diana Sirokai, curve model and activist
Diana Sirokai is a curve model and activist who has accrued 1m followers on Instagram and uses her following to effect change in fashion and champion body positivity. She talks the TheIndustry.fashion about how she has used her following as a force for good and what the future holds.
Can you please tell us a bit about your background and how you first came to work as a model?
I am originally from Hungary. We moved to London with my family when I was 12 years old. I have always been very insecure about my body. Especially living in Hungary where only slim bodies are accepted. That’s what inspired me to one day become a plus size model so at the age of 16 i started applying for castings. First started in music videos which was a great way to gain experience in front of the camera.
Was it while working as a model that you saw the need to promote the need for more diversity or body positivity in fashion, or were you thinking of it before that?
I first thought of it when I was 6 years old. My mom is a nail technician and I would spend most of my afternoons with her at the salon. That’s when I realised that women that come in and out of the shop are always just complaining about their looks and they had no confidence even though I saw them as beautiful women that inspired ME.
When moving to London I learned a lot about different body types being more acceptable and my confidence started to grow. I still didn’t feel welcomed at shops when shopping for jeans. I was made to feel “big“ by many brands. It was soon after moving to London that I realised this is a serious issue and I want to be a plus size model and change the fashion industry by being more representative for curvier women.
How did you first go about getting your message out into the public realm and what was the reaction?
After three years of modelling I started my Instagram page. I wanted to build a platform where I can have a voice and inspire women for self-love. Women from all around the world are very inspired by my content which makes me happy and they frequently send me supportive messages which makes my day!
You are very known for having recreated some iconic fashion ads (e.g. Calvin Klein, Stuart Weitzman) putting yourselves and other plus size models in the imagery, what was the response to those from both the public and the brands?
The response to these recreations have been amazing! Only positive - even from the brands. There has definitely been some changes from the brands and now they are welcoming more sizes. Some brands soon after the stunts went live introduced a plus-sized range after they saw the amazing response.
Instagram is often cited as the cause of negative body perception, in particular among young women, given some of the images are manipulated. How do you feel about the platform and the role it plays?
Any social media platform can be very negative for the mind. However, I think there is more positive than negative and I like social media. It might be because of the way I approach it. I intentionally only spend a maximum an hour or two daily on social media and try not let it affect me. You have to really select who you follow and how they make you feel. You also need to have a thick skin should the trolls decide to rear their ugly heads to try and dampen your light!
You now have 1m followers, which is an extraordinary number, how did that happen?
I posted a picture in lingerie and in the caption I explained my insecurities and how I got to love them. The post had an amazing reaction, so I continued ever since and now I am blessed to say it has more than 1 million followers. Celebrities have also been a part of this as they have become fans of the content and body positivity messages too. This has led to further work as well which has been very fruitful!
Outside of social media, how do you use your profile to effect positive change?
I now do a lot of Panel talks and attend events to network and build my own brand. Also I am starting to do something with schools to inspire young students on how to help each other grow instead of bullying each other and why this is so important (as I was bullied, I like to stand up for those who have ever experienced it and change bullys’ mindsets on how to help themselves instead of bringing others down).
Do you think progress had been made in fashion and what more needs to be done?
A lot has changed in a positive way since I have been navigating my way around the industry. We now need even more representation for different sizes, races and generally people in the Fashion industry and getting rid of labels such as “plus size” – we don’t need labels we just need WOMEN to be represented and make “diversity” a natural and organic occurrence.
Looking ahead for you personally, how would you like to see your career evolve?
I would love to start charities and build more platforms and “safe places” for women around the world where they can be open and be themselves without being judged. I would love my modelling to go from strength to strength and 2020 is set to do this for me and further expand my platform which is a blessing. I would also like to get a few more magazine covers under my belt 😉 (stay tuned for April 2020!).
We know there are brands and retailers who need to do more to improve the diversity of their imagery, but to end on a positive note, which ones do you most admire?
My absolute favourite is FashionNova Curve. I always struggled with finding the right jeans that fit my body as I have wider hips and a small waist. I also love Pretty Little Thing for making stunning outfits that are made for all sizes and they don’t change the overall design just because the size is bigger... so you should be more covered.
And, of course, Ann Summers is my absolute favourite in lingerie. They have the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen and I am super happy that they fit me perfectly!
Diana Sirokai will be taking part in the “Activate not advocate: how to persuade people into action” panel discussion at Pure London on Monday 10 February at 2pm. The session will be chaired by TheIndustry.fashion Editor in Chief Lauretta Roberts. Register at www.purelondon.com