“Everytime I get a message from a brown girl who tells me that I made them feel worthy, or that seeing someone with their skintone on a billboard or at a store front made them feel included and beautiful.. that always feels like an accomplishment, because that’s why I do what I do.”
The fashion industry is still a place where you need to thread carefully. While it’s slowly evolving and becoming more inclusive, there are still many toxic stereotypes that are reinforced. We’ve been talking about lots of stereotypes regarding size, however there’s also a myriad of them when it comes to skin colour as well. Shivani Persad is one of the women who are trying to walk all over them.
The basics – tell us more about you & what you do
Hi! My name is Shivani and I’m a model and an activist. I model full-time, but I work on a lot of other projects that I’m passionate about surrounding activism for models, women of colour and other political topics.
2. What’s your favourite part about being a model?
My favourite part about being a model is working with new people every day. I’m the kind of person who gets bored REALLY fast, so I find it very interesting to meet different people every day and learn different things.
3. Is the industry really becoming more inclusive or are most companies becoming more diverse and inclusive since it’s good PR?
Honestly, I debate that with myself a lot. I think it depends on the company. I can say that thankfully the ones that I’ve worked with are genuine but I’m sure there are others who are jumping on the bandwagon. As long as it’s positive work I don’t mind, I just hope it’s here to stay.
4. Have you ever experienced an eating disorder? Is it still something rather common among models?
I personally have not, but I do think A LOT about what I eat and it’s extremely frustrating. I think it’s still common unfortunately.
5. If you weren’t a model, what would you be?
I think I’d be finishing up more school and working in communications for the Provincial Government in Canada.
6. What’s your biggest achievement so far?
I can’t think of just one – but I will say that everytime I get a message from a brown girl who tells me that I made them feel worthy, or that seeing someone with their skintone on a billboard or at a store front made them feel included and beautiful.. that always feels like an accomplishment, because that’s why I do what I do.
7. What would you change in the modelling industry?
So many things. #1 though would be this idea of fast fashion, we’re killing the environment and we’re hurting people in third world countries. We need a sustainable and fair way to do things.
8. Have you ever been discriminated?
Yes and I think we all have to some extent. This is an industry based on discrimination and rejection. The worst is when people make comments that they don’t even realize are discriminatory – that’s when I remember it’s so important to educate people.
9. What are the social issues you’re most involved in, as an activist, and why?
Shadeism and intersectional feminism. Shadeism is close to my heart because I’ve experienced it throughout my life. And I think more people need to know about intersectional feminism and why it’s so important.
10. Who were you most excited about meeting in your career (and why)?
Many people. But it was great to meet Cameron Russell. She’s one of my role models and she does such amazing work – she was so sweet too! It was really amazing to meet her.
11. Who are three brown girls we should all check out?
Well if you don’t already know Lily Singh, she’s hilarious and smart. My friend Babbu is an amazing artist and feminist (babbuthepainter) and another amazing artist and feminist Maria (@hatecopy) who tackles a lot of cultural and feminist issues with her art. They’re also all Canadian 😉
What are some things people wrongly assume about you?
People always assume that I’m Indian and that’s how simple my ethnic background is – but it’s so much more complex than that. It’s also just really insulting how surprised people are that models are smart or informed, or that we have many other passions other than modeling or fashion.
13. Would you rather shave your eyebrows or cut your hair real short?
Cut my hair – any day. I get jobs because of my bushy eyebrows! Haha.
14. What’s a compromise you would never make, career wise?
I would never do something I didn’t believe in. Like cultural appropriation, or blackface or an ad about some ridiculous weight loss supplement or something like that.
15. Where do you wish to be in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to be still modeling but also running my own media company that focuses on intersectional feminism and working on projects to influence policy and create data, but also to straight up inform people and have somewhere for them to go, a resource where they can go to educate themselves, like an online newsletter/website 🙂