If you were in Times Square this past Saturday, you might have noticed something out of the ordinary. OK, that’s impossible for Times Square, but you get where we’re going with this. Body positive activist and model KhrystyAna staged a guerrilla fashion show in New York City’s beating heart, and despite the chilly weather, about 25 women joined her. And what made this display truly beautiful was that it was made up of a very diverse cast of models and called “The Real Catwalk.”
“I’ve been a body positive activist for almost a year now, and the more this whole BoPo movement grows, the more creative ideas I get about women empowerment,” the 32-year-old New Yorker tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “So this #theREALcatwalk was brewing and in discussion for months now, and I’d organized two small scale all-inclusive lingerie runway shows this year, but this time it was different.”
The timing is no coincidence. A friend and fellow curvy model thought it would be “brilliant” to stage it right after the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, an event that promotes a largely unrealistic and unobtainable body type.
However, KhrystyAna made it very clear that it was “NOT an anti Victoria’s Secret Runway Show, it was pro ANYONE can catwalk showcase.” But if that’s the case, why now? As she explains, “This is exactly when so many of us ladies feel so discouraged about our bodies and faces. We look at these beautiful VS models and get deeply affected, sometimes not even consciously, by the overwhelming standard of one kind of beauty. Neglecting to represent the many other types or ideals of beauty can make us feel unattractive, as if we need to change to become more like those girls,” she says, echoing the complaints of many women including fellow models Tabria Majors and Ashley Graham.
In just a few days, she pulled the show together. “A lot of models from our agency were very excited to walk this ‘flash mob’ style fashion show,” KhrystyAna, who originally hails from Siberia, recalls.
She cast a wide net when looking for models to participate. “Body positivity to me means full on inclusivity — it’s not just about curvy women, but about every woman — petite, bold, transgender, women in wheel chairs, all different skin tones, very fit, thin, freckles, women with various disabilities — ALL deserve to feel beautiful,” she explains. “I didn’t want to make it just about the curvier women, and I would only go full out organizing like this if I knew it was ALL inclusive,” which it ended up being.
The end result was a bunch of stunning women strutting their stuff in one of the biggest tourist hotspots in the entire world wearing slinky lace one-pieces and velvet bodysuits to matching bra and panty sets to corsets to velvet leotards. “There will be transgender women, women of different ages and sexual orientation, full made up face and some with no make up, waxed or unwaxed legs, vegans and carnivores,” KhrystyAna wrote on Instagram when promoting the show a few days before. And there were tons of excited and supportive onlookers.
“We had so many pedestrians stop by to see what was happening,” she remembers, noting that the show positively received. “No bullies whatsoever, and I saw so many genuine smiles on women and men watching us do something incredibly vulnerable yet empowering. It felt safe, as if the world is really ready to embrace the only standard of beauty there is — which is being authentically yourself, in your bones, in your skin, whatever path you are on; getting old, younger, smaller, taller, thicker, thinner.”
The participants were equally moved by this experience. “I’ll do anything to support women…including catwalk in lingerie down Times Square,” Lily Chen, co-founder of lingerie brand Thistle & Spire, captioned a video of the event on Instagram. “Together we walked to reinforce one beauty standard: BEING YOU. Because being you is the definition of beauty. It was cold, but my heart was warm surrounded by the fire of all these powerful women.”
Another model, Michelle Quan, shared photos of the experience, with the caption, “This showcase is definitely a STATEMENT in the industry…To every woman, little girl, teen or older woman (men too) reading this YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!! Love your body that you are blessed with! Love your legs, scars, marks, arms, tummy, rolls, abs, ab-rolls (haha), the jiggle and the firm -WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL…Every single year these little girls stare in amazement at the #VSmodels & these girls are looking up to models and people running the fashion world. They see only ONE body type come down that runway forcing them to believe the only beauty standard is 34-25-34… WRONG. My measurements are 38-35-45 and I believe that models have a responsibility to encourage #bodypositivity #bodylove#selflove ! I look just as good as any VS Angel and so do YOU!”
KhrystyAna cannot stop beaming after the resounding success. “We hope this is not the last #theRealCatwalk we do. I’ve been getting messages from women from various countries requesting to do this in their cities. The truth is, anyone can do it. It’s for all women!”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: