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Meet the Australian model refusing jobs when she suspects tokenism

Photographer AND Stylist – Kaitlyn Bosnjak
Model – Danna Elhassadi

“My journey into modelling was hard and it still is.”

No one has just one job these days, and creatives certainly don’t. We’re a generation of multi-hyphenates and freelancers, just trying to make our way in the gig economy. Photographer Kaitlyn Bosnjak captures emerging models who are doing just that, breaking into the fashion industry and learning more about the world. While she had them, we thought we’d ask a couple of questions about the people behind the faces. And finally, what they would tell our audience if given the chance to say just one thing.

How old are you?

24.

Where do you live?

Born, raised and still living in the South of Sydney!

Other than modelling, what do you do with your time?

I work as a medical secretary and just finished up my pre-medical degree. Sometimes it feels like I’m living two separate lives since I work/study in entirely different industries. If you catch me outside of work or study, I’m probably knitting, binge-watching some documentaries, or cooking some North African food!

Tell us about your heritage.

Both of my parents are from Libya in North Africa. Me and my siblings were all born here in Sydney and have hardly ever been back (due to Gaddafi’s dictatorship and The Arab Spring). Libya has an extensive history of colonisation, which means we are a very mixed bunch! Our ancestry consists of the Indigenous Berber/Amazigh people, Middle Eastern, European and Sub-Saharan African. I take a lot of pride in our unique heritage.

What do you do to switch off?

Get cosy and KNIT. To me, it feels like a form of meditation. It’s this strange balance between zoning out of the world while also creating something beautiful. Every single stitch has to be accounted for with your own two hands; there are no shortcuts and you have to be able to centre yourself to see a project through to completion. There’s nothing that brings me peace more than knitting! There’s a lot to care about in the world.

What are you most passionate about?

Diversity in the modelling industry. My journey into modelling was HARD and it still is. I can say with full confidence that every single BIPOC model has experienced these same adversities. Being tokenised for the sake of a brand meeting and its “diversity quota”, being disregarded under the justification that majority-white consumers want majority-white models, being at a casting with numerous other BIPOC models and silently knowing that there is room for only one of us to be booked. All of us have always had a voice, but with the rising awareness and recent events of 2020, I finally feel like the industry might hear us and actually listen!

What are you doing to fix it?

Sharing and receiving others experiences in the industry, engaging in conversations with those who need to hear it, making a conscious decision to not allow myself to be tokenised or work for brands/people who are perpetrators of blatant racial discrimination, making a note of performative activism and calling it out. Overall, exiting the space where I was so worried about the discomfort I might give brands/clients/creatives by speaking up on the issue. Time is up!

What do you think Australia needs right now?

Australia needs a decent leader/party to tackle our problems (economic, social, educational, health etc) from the inside out. I can genuinely say I don’t think Australia has had a decent leader in my lifetime and we sorely need one!

You can say anything to our FJ community. Go.

Thank you for supporting a platform within the Aussie fashion industry that has been diverse and inclusive since the beginning!

Read other interviews in the Just One Thing series here


Styling credits

LOOK ONE
MAGGIE MARILYN THE BEST ONE YET DRESS BANANA, MEADOWLARK EARRINGS
LOOK TWO
MAGGIE MARILYN
TRUE TO YOUR WORD KNIT, IVORY, MEADOWLARK EARRINGS, WYNN HAMLYN OPERATOR TROUSER
LOOK THREE
MEADOWLARK
EARRINGS, WYNN HAMLYN CURVE BLAZER
LOOK FOUR
WYNN HAMLYN GATHERED DRESS
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