Let's Get Physical

with Model and Activist Khrystyana

Model and activist KHRYSTYANA is a force to be reckoned with in the modeling and fashion industry.

Earrings: Sophie Buhai | Top: Adam Selman Sport | Legging: Adam Selman Sport | Socks: Falke

Can you talk a little bit about how you broke into modeling?

I broke into modeling like an aggressive turtle breaks into a long race; a focused and hardworking turtle who made every possible mistake any model makes. But slowly I began to have a clear understanding of the fashion industry as time passed by.

What was the hardest thing about breaking into the fashion industry at a time when full-figured women were far from being considered mainstream?

Being told to be thinner was something I could never get used to. I tried it all obsessive slimming diets, diuretic teas, exercises, supplements, and even fat-burning “devices”. With all of those tactics, nothing helped in achieving the standards required by many agencies. As much as I tried, the turtle could not lose her shell. 

“At least become a size 4” those were the exact words I was told by my first agent in San Francisco. that was impossible for me! They started calling me “Inbetweenie” and would rarely submit my portfolio to fashion clients since I didn’t fit their clothes… sadly I didn’t. This was a major detriment to some of my gigs, I was let go of two photoshoots simply because my hips didn’t “smoothly” enter into outfits provided; although they were provided my exact measurements before the production. It took me some time to realize that it was indeed possible to work as a fashion model in my turtle shell. Moving to New York City was my turning point and I will only move forward from there. 

Earrings: Sophie Buhai | Top: Stylists Own / Vintage Playboy | Bikini Bottom: L*Space | Tights: We Love Color

You’re so confident in your body. Were you always this way, or was it something you had to learn and develop over time? How have you overcome this?


You know, some days I feel strong and confident while other days I tend to be more fragile and vulnerable to criticism. I am happy to say that as time passes I am gaining more and more confidence and my “low” days seem to be further and further apart. I am learning to love my body more and more each day, as a result am more confident now when I am photographed. Being a model has helped me with my body image; as a model, I am creating art this helps view myself in a different light and I would say nine out of ten times I sit there wondering how I became that confident woman on the camera. It’s funny I could be most confident doing a nude photoshoot and be most awkward when I am casually facing a person.

Confidence is an active verb.

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

To be honest, I tend to truly enjoy all my gigs. I am just grateful for every opportunity I am given to work. The only things that frustrate me when I am on set are when others are either miss treated or suffer an injustice while I work. I simply cannot sit there and allow that to happen I always have to speak up and say something. 

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

Where to start? The industry needs to be more inclusive, from the designers to the agencies and crew members as well. Not only what happens in the eye of the public, but what happens behind the scenes. 

As an example, when a brand features black trans women as the face of their campaign, but only during pride as a public statement. Why not get to know the model, listen to their story and use that as an inspiration not only for the campaign but for others in that same community. Another example that I have personally gone through is with a major clothing retailer that is known for amazing plus-size options for women but does not feature plus-size models on their ads or websites. Like I stated there needs to be more diversity and inclusivity.  

It’s so amazing to see how much confidence you instill in other women of all shapes and sizes – How do you feel about being a role model? What have you learned through all the events and statements?

I truly see the beauty in everyone and it shocks me deeply when a beautiful human in front of me doesn’t see how breathtaking they are. Something inside of me cannot be calm until they believe it. believe me, I don’t see myself as a role model, I can empathize with people and I do my best to bring out that confidence that I know they have.  

All of the body inclusive events that I have curated taught me one thing – we are all very individually unique, yet we are all alike on a very soulful level. We CAN go-exist without adding unnecessary struggles to each other. We CAN accept each other, no matter what path we walk – we CAN walk towards A safer world together. I know it’s true.

Earrings: Sophie Buhai | Bodysuit: ALIX NYC | Tights: Falke | Headband & Scrunchie: Stylist own / Vintage

Why do you feel society is so obsessed with appearance?

How can we not? You would have to live isolated from civilization. Social Media, Television, Magazines, and Other Media, have added to this. There is no way you can NOT obsess over appearances? 

Sadly it has become our nature; we are constantly reminded of our appearances, you have to have a special personality to truly not care. I care about my appearance; I’m no different, especially knowing that my success relies on these appearances. I cannot reject that part of me, but instead of obsessing, I accept it and embrace it.

Representation of different body types is important, but what is “enough?” Is there any curve model representation in a magazine or an ad or do you feel there needs to be a certain number of plus size women?

I just want curve models to be seen as models as opposed to tokens. The moment it happens, it will be less about sizes and more about actual talent. Modeling is a craft. Hire me or my plus size friends for how we move on camera or for how we can make profits for your brand not because I’m thicker than your usual choice and aits a good look for the company to show diversity. 

Appreciate OUR work, not our asses

Presumably, the terrible behavior of trolls can get under the skin of any human. How do you safeguard your mental health online?

If I don’t know a troll in person, I have an auto-shield, their words don’t matter to me profanely, BUT they matter to me as a human being so very often I’ll open a conversation with them from a place of compassion. Other times; when there is simply no point, I block them. 

I’ve been following you on social media for a while and it’s just been so exciting to see all your developments and achievements. Especially #theREALCatwalk event, how did that come about?

The world needs to see a more diverse representation than what it’s used to seeing. I just want people to see how normal different colors, shapes, and sizes are and we don’t have to chase unrealistic, standards that came from a very narrow-minded point of view. 

I gathered my friends, who happened to represent very different life journeys, and decided to stand hand in hand in the middle of Times Square. Seven of us in all in bikinis, as we announced the beauty of being gay, black, Trans, maturing, plus, and petite. 

That was the birth of what is now called The Real Catwalk… now hundreds of us gather to fashionably strut in the most accepting empowering environment!

Top: Stylists own / Vintage | Shorts: Adam Selman Sport

Top: Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang | Jumpsuit: Adam Selman Sport | Belt: Stylists Own / Vintage | Scrunchie: Stylist own / Vintage

Where can you find an intersection of activism and modeling?

It’s tough, one doesn’t co-exist with another in the most equal way. I always walk on the edge looking for balance. If I’m being an activist, some brands see it as a turnoff. Most brands want fantasy, not a reality check, while other brands like it and embrace it.

In modeling; which I adore doing, it’s hard to be as honest as activism would require you to be. For example, I am not completely against photoshop, or contouring makeup poses that make me look one way or another. Modeling is my favorite playground, I don’t like to put limitations on it. I’m free when I play. 

How important is being authentic online?

Authenticity is a personal choice; it’s like confidence, not exactly a thing people naturally acquire. Sometimes I like inauthentic content because it’s brainless, easy to digest, sometimes I’m annoyed by it and it’s robotic-like feel. 

Speaking of being authentic, do you feel like the body positivity movement has been commercialized?

BIG TIME.  And let it be MORE commercialized! still, a lot, a LOT more straight-size models work than curve models. So yes. Commercialize Us – hire us !!! (Just pay us equally to your straight-size models ) 

What is your nutrition like to keep your figure? Any-to favorites? What do your workouts consist of?

During the pandemic, I exercise with YouTube stars and my favorite gym teacher during zoom sessions. I adore pilates, Zumba, sculpting classes, and yoga.

My diet includes several superfoods. I love weird superfoods from all over the world!  

Lastly, what’s something you haven’t done yet that you want to?

I want to shoot with some legends like Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, David Simms to name a few…

Bodysuit: American Apparel | Tights: We Love Color

Swimsuit: Swimsuits For All | Tights: We Love Color

This spread appears in the pages of TB168 Let’s Get Physical with KHRYSTYANA ​- Exclusive Interview taken from This Bitch Spring /Summer 2020: Fashion Issue out now and available to buy here

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