Ravelin Magazine talks to Barbie Ferreira About Leading the New Wave of Models

Though a lot of people see you as a role model, you often say you’re still sorting it out like other teens — you’re just willing to be supportive to people who need you. Can you tell me about being a role model for other girls? It must be awesome to know that you’re helping them develop a more positive body image. I know your photos have given me inspiration to wear certain clothes I’d been shy about wearing before.
 The funny part about all of this is that I was probably THE most insecure human being growing up. I hid my body in huge men’s T-shirts starting at age 10 and started dieting in first grade, when people would call me fat. I struggled with my body so much and so deeply that I finally gave up on fighting it. My boobs would never grow, my love handles will probably still be there — even when I lost 30 pounds they were still there! — and my hips will never not be wide. I suffered so much and I didn’t want to do it anymore. It breaks my heart thinking about women feeling not good enough when the media ensures no one does. Even supermodels get Photoshopped and told every day to change their bodies.

It’s not your fault your body doesn’t fit a crazy mold society puts on it. It’s the irresponsible media and sexualization of women. I get scared with the title “role model,” because I’m genuinely flawed and very real about it to everyone. But if there’s one message I hope to convey, it’s that you are dope, and throw out those tabloid magazines, unfollow body-shaming Instagrams, stop watching shows that put every single ounce of worth of a woman on whether her abs are out or not. These things subconsciously affect you. There are so many types of beauties out there that no one sees because it isn’t seen as profitable to companies. Stay woke on how you treat yourself and how you interpret messages through the media.

It’s empowering to see you put yourself out there confidently, but it’s also really vulnerable and brave. Was there a time you weren’t as comfortable with your body? What do you do on days when you’re feeling low? Your haters bum me out.
 As a kid I was, but I would even venture to say that I’m pretty insecure about my body a lot of times now. Self-confidence isn’t something that is a constant state. Life happens, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, we read something that might affect us a little more than usual. It’s important to not beat yourself up for feeling down. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m not good enough, it’s always about my body and I have to think of what I would say to my mother if she was upset that she looked bigger, or if I had a sister what I would say. I like to turn the script around because we tend to be hypercritical of our bodies and bully ourselves. I would never want to hear a woman pick apart her features because they don’t necessarily look like Hollywood’s bodies. I have to treat myself with kindness because I deserve it.

You’re often referenced alongside your friend Hari Nef, who’s helping to change not only perceptions of body image but ideas about gender norms. How important are topics like these to you, especially when it comes to challenging certain facets of the fashion industry?
 I think as a whole, the mainstream media has failed a lot of people by lacking representation in race, gender identity, ability, and sexuality. For a long time, the ideal actor or model was a thin, tall, cis white man or woman who fit a very Eurocentric look. There are so many people not being represented and it hurts kids growing up who are not able to identify with anyone, or worse, [become] identified improperly due to stereotypes. With body diversity has to come diversity in every aspect. With the age of the internet, I think a lot of models are given a good platform to reach out and show that yes, there are people who identify with this and it’s important. It’s helping people push the envelope and become aware of a variety of beauty out there, because we’re bored with only seeing one type over and over again.

Photos: Elisabet Davids

Text And Interview: Monica Uszerowicz

Originally published at ravelinmagazine.com on January 14, 2016.