The unyielding force that is Irena Drezi is rapidly carving out an identity for herself both on and offline. Signed to Dublin’s Not Another Agency, modelling is only a single string to the many she has on her bow. Irena was kind enough to share her thoughts on everything from being a body positivity advocate, putting so much of your life online and even the advice she has for her younger self with our editor Geri Dempsey.
GD: There’s a growing discussion at present about the terms used to describe plus size women in fashion and whether they’re accurate or getting a bit outdated. Do you feel it’s necessary to have labels and be differentiating in 2018?
Irena: Of course we have to be labelled, it’s how we’re all divided into categories. It is silly yes, but it’s how clients can find exactly what they’re looking for. Everybody is labelled, you’re either Runway, Commercial, Plus-Size, etc. The only thing we all have in common is the term model. Personally “Plus Size” doesn’t appeal to me. I much prefer the term “Curve”, it’s nicer to hear than “Plus Size”. It sounds like something abnormal when in fact the majority of women are a UK size 12-14. I think as the years pass, curve models are breaking boundaries and the industry is starting to be much more open and accepting of curvy women.
GD: Our generation embraced social media and got caught up in it before we truly realised the ramifications, as someone so young with such a huge online presence, do you find it difficult putting so much of yourself online?
Irena: I try my best to be careful with what I post. I never really post family pictures because I’d like to keep that somewhat private. My following grew to a massive extent overnight. I woke up one day and realised a body positivity page reposted one of my images and that brought major attention to my profile. I like to be real with my followers, I want them to know certain things about me that might be frowned upon but I couldn’t care less. I like to open up to them and let them know that we’re all the same. The number of followers shouldn’t define you as a person.
GD: From what I can see you get so many positive comments, do the negative ones ever get you down still or have you managed to rise above it?
Irena: I get so much love and support from my followers. It makes my day reading messages from people saying I’ve inspired them whether it be about body image or mental health. I do get negative comments and messages. I delete them all, sometimes the person constantly fires back and that’s when I block them. I don’t need any of that negativity in my life. Of course I understand that I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. There will always be people who will try to put you down but you can’t let them win.
GD: Though we have a love/hate relationship with the term blogger, being a social media influencer do you find that you often have to curate and plan your life and posts? Is maintaining your online presence almost a job in itself?
Irena: I wouldn’t call myself a blogger, I don’t even have a blog, I just use Instagram. I’m okay with the term social media influencer because that’s what I’m doing. I’m posting outfits that I actually like for you to see and buy. It definitely is like a job yes, with some brands you have set dates for when to post, others can be something like twice a week. There is a lot of effort that goes into my pictures. Doing makeup, hair, planning outfits, trying to get up early to get the perfect light, getting the best location etc. I’ve mentioned many times on my instagram that I would never promote something I don’t like or use. I can’t stand false advertising.
GD: Though we are all so young, lately I feel we have the pressure to have fully accepted ourselves already even though we’re still in the process of growing up. You’ve been through quite a journey with your weight and image, for the moment would you say your content within yourself?
Irena: At the moment I’m quite happy. There’s days I wake up and think I need to lose another 20kg and then there’s days I feel absolutely fine. It’s a constant cycle, I love how I look, I hate how I look. I suffered with my weight when I was younger. I was a chubby child and always got picked on in school. I remember coming home and watching TV and seeing how skinny all the girls were, that’s when it started to mess with my head. By the time I was sixteen I woudln’t leave my house other than to go to school. I didn’t want to eat and I had a blog devoted to Anorexia. Looking back at this now I feel sorry for myself. I went through hell but I finally found the strength to accept myself now for who I am.
GD: From the outside you appear to be full of confidence and self acceptance, of course things aren’t always what they seem, has being present online helped you or hindered you with this do you think?
Irena: I think both. The positive feedback I get is truly amazing and lifts me up. Then I’ll go on my explore page and find some stunning model that literally has no flaws and I’m stuck there thinking why can’t I look like this. But then... I realise we all have flaws and that she also has insecurities. Being a bit envious of somebody else’s appreance is completely normal, like for examply I would kill to have Kendall Jenner’s legs haha, but you have to realise that everybody has something they don’t like about themselves.
GD: With people of varying sizes having varied preferences and requirements for clothes do you feel it’s still relevant to have separate curve and standard departments within modelling agencies or should they just be combined and everyone should stop going on about it?
Irena: It really all depends. I get that if I’m a big client on the search for a standard model that will fit into sample sizes I’ll scroll through their mainboard. I’d be wasting my time seeing mixed models of various sizes when I’m looking for a specific one. I completely get it from that point of view. But then there’s us curve models that are either in the “Curve” or “Image” division. I feel like we are kind of hidden away to be honest. But then again, we are all divided into sectors to make it eaiser for the client to pick out what they want.
GD: The fashion/beauty industry is going through a long over due period of change, only now are brands beginning to recognise that their audience isn’t just size 8 white women, as with many other minorities, do you find it difficult being used as a token curve model? Or is it a welcome change?
Irena: So I was Not Another Agency’s first curve model. I was extremely surprised when they said “we love your body” and “you have a great shape” at the casting, usually I’d hear the words “you have a beautiful face but you’re not quiet what we’re looking for “ So I was delighted to be signed and not told to lose any weight. I’ve noticed other agencies taking on diverse models. From shape to ethnic backround. I think it’s so important to show diversity in ads and campaigns. It’s relatable. The whole world isn’t tall, blonde and white.
GD: Are there any brands new or old that have been consistently supportive of curvy gals that you want to shout about?
Irena: Prettylittlething have amazing clothing for curvy girls, not just with their range of size but the clothes are actually really stylish and sexy. Other brands that I like to shop at are H&M, Zara (for tops, their pants never fit me) Boohoo and Fashion Nova.
GD: If you could give your teenage self some advice you wish you had known then what would it be?
Irena: Be grateful for what you have. Try your best to love your body and take care of it. Don’t start smoking!