The 35-year-old plus-size model from Ukraine has become a body-positivity activist and firm believer in learning to love yourself. She has attracted a large social media following while sharing her personal journey of body acceptance and self-love.
Who is Khrystyana Kazakova?
Khrystyana was born in rural Siberia and grew up in Ukraine. She was a part of cycle 24 of the reality show America’s Next Top Model and made it to the final three of the competition.
Now, she is also Playboy’s November 2020 playmate.
As a body-positivity activist Khrystyana founded The Real Catwalk, a fashion show showcasing bodies of all shapes and sizes regardless of gender, skin colour or sexuality. This movement paved the way for many plus-size models, among them Jari Jones.
The motivation behind Khrystyana‘s body-positivity activism
Growing up in body-conscious Ukraine, anything under a size 4 was considered overweight and Khrystyana was therefore seen as a “bigger” girl. This made her want to lose weight to fit in.
However, her perspective changed when her mother was admitted to hospital in critical condition due to extreme dieting. Khrystyana then decided she would not let the beauty standard in her country dictate her life.
Khrystyana’s journey of self-love
Once she moved to the US, Khrystyana found she was either too “big” for mainstream jobs or too “small” for plus-size jobs.
Tired of chasing approval, she one day posted a raw image of herself – unfiltered and without make-up, with her belly rolls clearly visible. She received many reactions, but the thousands who related positively to her struggles gave her the affirmation she needed to flip the switch and be herself.
“The more I learn about myself and life, the more I see how important this topic [self love] is and how misleading the concept of self-love sometimes can be,” she said.
“Self-love is synonymous with being present with your feelings, being conscious of your experience.”
Life-changing catwalk at Times Square
For her America’s Next Top Model tryout, Khrystyana was asked to pose in a bikini in an unusual place and she picked the middle of Times Square. This earned her a spot on the show and it was the inspiration behind creating The Real Catwalk.
The latest Playmate
The body-positivity activist was chosen to be Playboy’s November 2020 Playmate and she is also using this platform to talk about self-love.
“All I had to do is allow myself to feel the love for my body, my emotions. It’s OK to want to be clothed, it’s OK to want to get naked when you want to,” she said.
“There are so many ways to talk about self-love; showing it through photos in Playboy was very meaningful. I was ready for it. If I was asked to shoot this a few years ago, I would have probably tried my best to be or act like some model or actress I admire, because I didn’t admire the person I saw in the mirror.
“Today is different and I’m ready to be more truthful with myself and you,” Khrystyana said.
Playboy has become more inclusive of body positivity in recent years and so have the runways.
Plus-size model Molly Constable was the first to appear on a Playboy cover. And when Ali Chanel was named Playboy’s curviest Playmate in October, she said: “I think the world is ready to accept all bodies.”