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In an industry that clings to a set of senseless rules about how women’s bodies must look in order to be considered beautiful, Maira never imagined she would be able to fit in (both literally and figuratively).
But you only have to take one look at her to see that she is undeniably beautiful. And if you talk to her, you realize that her beauty goes much deeper than just how she looks on the outside.
Today, she finds herself becoming more and more involved in the world of performing arts, bringing her (our) revolution with her, and carrying a message rooted in self-acceptance, self-love, and the dispelling of societal norms that seek to keep us prisoners of our own insecurity.
I met up with Maira to talk about her budding modeling career, which is already well on its way to flourishing.
How did you come to be a freelance model?
So, I always really liked art and photography, but honestly it was more like a dream, a desire that I had kept completely locked away. Because I didn’t feel confident in myself. There’s only just now starting to be more body diversity in media and social media. But it’s not something that was common in the past. I didn’t fit the stereotype of a woman who would work in modeling. In fact, it’s still difficult for me even today to say that I’m a model, because it just still feels strange because, looking at me, I don’t know, I’m not a conventional model.
But there was something that never added up. I would always ask myself, “Why not do what I like to do?” And searching around one day I came across an account on Instagram called Bellamente, and I started reading everything I found there. It’s a really awesome account because it makes you rethink… everything. And I had already started down that line of questioning of — why was there something wrong with me? And that’s when I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, but rather, that there was something wrong with societal norms, that idea that we have to be hegemonically perfect, and I don’t know — what is beauty?? I mean, what does it mean to be beautiful if really we’re all different? It’s ridiculous.
And then one day I saw an announcement looking for women who were comfortable with their bodies for a fashion show outside of Congress as part of the 8M march. So I signed up, and when I got the confirmation I was like, “What have I done?!” I mean, me, who’s not comfortable with anything, let alone my body — Maira Lizet! Like…[laughs].
I started crying over how nervous it made me. But something inside me was saying that this was something I had to do. It was something I had to experience. So, when the day arrived I went and I was so scared, because I wasn’t used to showing so much skin, and we had to walk in bikinis, in front of a ton of people, and… it was nuts. But that day, the most beautiful thing in the world happened to me, and that was that I freed myself of the weight I’d been carrying for so long — the weight of not feeling pretty. I mean, I never felt beautiful, you know?
After the show, it was insane, I don’t know if it was days later, or a week, but I stood in front of a mirror and I looked at myself, and I recognized myself, and I said, “I’m fucking hot!” Something had awoken within me, a love for myself, something shattered, and what I had really been searching for — that love, that confidence that I needed in order to be able to express myself, to put my mind to doing things — started to bloom.
It changed everything about me, for the better, and I started this process, this long and continuing process, of de-structuring myself and rethinking everything. Nowadays I constantly question things that I never questioned before. I ask myself “why?” and I realize that there’s no reason why, for like, most things, there’s no reason why and it doesn’t make sense. And after this change started, people would say to me “Maira, what happened to you?”, “You’re different, what’s going on?” And I’m like, well, I love myself. And it was noticeable. People noticed. And also, a lot of people left, people who didn’t tolerate this new Maira who was a little more confident, a little more secure. The toxic relationships that I had ended, because I started to have a much healthier relationship with myself, and my surroundings started to change.
Do you think that things are changing? In the modeling industry?
Yes. A lot.
And you’re part of that change.
Yeah. And that’s what makes me feel proud. Because the act of deciding to be a model is my way of revolution, you know? My way of saying “I’m going to take this on because I really believe it’s necessary in order for us to all stop being so hung up on this concept of beauty that’s not real. These social mandates that are imposed upon us, that tell us we have to be a certain way, to change what we are, it’s not okay!
And the fact that people like me, all my colleagues, all the people that are taking on some sort of revolution, who are doing things they never would have dared to do, helps inspire and motivate other people to do the same, and to see that… that it’s okay to be who we are. And that’s what we need to work towards.
And how are you dealing with the process of breaking into the industry?
It’s tough, because, it’s hard to make yourself known within the field, or to get to a point where you’re recognized as “that model,” but it’s like anything — with experience you get the hang of it, and with each gig you meet more people, and everything goes hand in hand. But yeah, little by little, I’m starting to get more gigs, and I’m so happy about that because I can’t believe it, every time a brand messages me it’s like [gasp] [laugh], it’s like, I get so excited, and it’s like, it’s a sign that I’m doing the right things, and I’m on the right path.
What was the first brand you worked with?
Well, it was really crazy how it happened. I had a job at the airport, and I took this modeling class, which I finished in November of last year, and in December I decided to quit my job and take on modeling full-time, with the help of my boyfriend [laughs]. And I was really unsure about it, and I asked the universe to give me a sign, if the decision that I was making, to make modeling my career, was the right one. And it was that day, when I was on my way to file the paperwork to officially leave my job, that I got a message from a brand called Plus Indumentaria. And she was the first, she was like “Hey, are you looking for a gig? Want to take some photos with me?” And I almost fainted because it was literally right at that moment, and I love Plus, a lot.
And one of the most recent brands I’ve worked with is Klihor, which is a brand that was one of the first I knew about that showed diversity in their models.
Of the brands you’ve worked with, are any of them just starting to open up to body diversity? Or are they all brands that already have that as part of their identity?
Of the brands I’ve I worked with, yes, the vast majority are dedicated to diversity in sizing, and they’re also putting in work in the fight for the ley de talles [a law which would make clothing sizes more comprehensive and accessible] and la curva [a sizing system based on bust and waist measurements rather than small-medium-large].
But I have gotten messages from brands who tell me “Hey, I really liked your profile, I’m looking to make sizes for bigger women and I would like for you to be the model.” Yes, that has happened, and it’s awesome. I love when that happens, when I get to be the first… “diverse” model [laughs].
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
You kind of are like an astronaut, though. I mean, you’re launching yourself into this space where you’re a sort of pioneer, crossing a sort of last frontier.
Yeah. I always felt like, like I’m in another space. And well, I stopped wanting to be an astronaut and then for a long time I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician, because… I wanted to save children [laugh], I love kids. And after that it was psychology, and also at one point I wanted to be a chef [laughs]. I wanted to be everything, but at the same time, art was always something that I had inside me.
And being a model, you get to be a little bit of everything, because you get into a different character with each look.
I love that. I actually think that acting is what’s most my thing, because I love doing different things, I’m very versatile, and getting to be different people, like, I love that.
I think that’s what I like most about myself — my versatility, it’s like I like to be different things because I get bored of doing the same thing all the time, so when people propose something different I get a kick out of it, I love it.
In fact, my dream is to be in an Almodóvar film some day. I’d probably faint before I even get to the set. I want to be a chica de Almodóvar. I always liked that director because he always portrays so much diversity and so much versatility in his films and his characters, it’s a big inspiration in my life.
You would be great as a chica de Almodóvar. Okay, going back to Bellamente. After that first fashion show, you ended up joining the organization, right?
After the show, I was so psyched over what these girls were doing. Well, not these girls, it was Candela Yatche who, when I met her it was incredible, and I thought, “I have to do stuff with her, I have to be a part of this,” because, if it had a positive impact on me, how many more people can we reach and make that happen for? And that inspired me a lot, so I messaged them again, saying that I wanted to help out, in whatever way I could.
And then they announced that they were looking for volunteers, so I signed up — and yeah! Now I’m a volunteer with Bellamente, and it was crazy, because I never imagined that it would happen like that, all that time I had been looking for some sort of cause, and this just took me by storm. And I love it. I love that they’ve given me a place with them. Where I can express myself and help from my place and my experience. And I still can’t believe it.
One of the first things I did with Bellamente as a volunteer was this event at the Centro Cultural Recoleta. There were musicians and speakers and stuff, and at the end, a fashion show, like what we had done at 8M, except I was on the other side this time. I was in charge of the models, organizing them, and there in that moment as I was pepping them up for the show, and telling them my story and my experience, and saying, “Girls, free yourselves!” and telling them to walk down that runway and free themselves of all the insecurities and all the bullshit that they put into our heads about how we have to be like this, or be like that, that they go out and slay. I was crying from all the emotion and I was like, euphoric over everything that was happening there in that moment.
Is there any particular brand that you would really like to work with in the future?
There’s a ton of independent brands that I love. But also, I would love to model for all those shopping mall brands that don’t have diversity, and where I could never find clothes that fit me. I would love to some day model for those brands and say, “Alright, folks, we did it.”