With the help of self-timer, a single bedsheet, and an eye for all lüks bold, Bijan Ross redefining what influence means. She's what you might call a micro-influencer, but that prefix doesn't affect the big goals she has in mind. With a handful of titles to her name (psychology major, curve model are just a couple) she has no plans to stick to being boxed in by a single one. I'll let her tell you the details in her own words.
NEOPHYTE: How do you describe yourself?
BIJAN ROSS: For some reason I’ve always had trouble answering this question lol, but I guess I would describe myself as a black woman content creator, unsigned model, and psychology grad.
NEOPHYTE: You are a curve model and body acceptance ambassador. Those feel like natural pairings but can you talk a little bit about how they both came to be?
BIJAN ROSS: I guess my journey really started last year. I’ve always struggled with accepting myself for my body shape and having a bigger body. I still struggle with insecurities, caring too much about what others might say or have said about me and overthinking my pictures sometimes. But I wanted normalize body acceptance and people embracing their curves and stretch marks. In the social media industry we need more people that look like a variety of different people to show representation of everyone of different body sizes, colors, gender identities and everything else.
Bijan in our vintage earrings, the Neophyte heart bracelet, and word bracelet
NEOPHYTE: You sometimes take to your captions to write about your own journey to self-love and acceptance. Do you have any advice for those who are just embarking upon that journey?
BIJAN ROSS: My advice to anyone embarking on their own self-love journey, I would simply say to just love yourself. Im still on my self-love journey as well and the best thing that you could do is to shut up all those voices of hate that one may have for themselves and voices of other individuals. People unfortunately are always going to talk about other people whether your “successful” or whatever. Once you start to believe that what others have to say about you don’t matter you’re only going to grow further within yourself and how you accept yourself. Loving yourself is the purest form of self-care not only for your mental being but your physical being as well.
NEOPHYTE: How are you taking care of yourself right now?
BIJAN ROSS: In the quarantine right now I’ve really just been focusing on doing hobbies and improving my skills that make me feel good about myself. Being able to shape my skills and engage in positive hobbies (like tons of video games and painting) have really just been taking care of my mental state and making me feel relaxed in a very stressful social climate.
NEOPHYTE: What does your average day looks like?
BIJAN ROSS: Well since I have so much free time now I guess the average day for me would look like getting up around 9:30 turning on YouTube for background noise and starting to paint some of the body positive paintings that I have right now or starting to set up my backdrop and equipment to take my photos. I usually like getting stuff done in the morning and ending around the afternoon so at night I could just relax in my bed sometimes with some ice cream lol and just unwind for the night.
NEOPHYTE: I discovered you through Parade - a brand that relies heavily on user-generated content to fill their feed with organic photos and diverse bodies. There's no doubt that user-generated content has changed the game for so many brands - it's also (I think) allowed for representation that the fashion and beauty industry have historically strayed from. How do you see representation changing?
BIJAN ROSS: I definitely see representation changing for certain brands, I do appreciate those that are using user generated content to show a variety of representation of individuals as what they should. These companies that are presenting their audience to be for a variety of people should reflect that on their websites and on their pages as well instead of showing one type of individual that we usually see. But I’ve honestly been canceling and not supporting a lot of companies that are now all of a sudden posting black contact creators and influencers just because of the recent events surrounding Black Lives Matter Movement. It shouldn’t take several individuals protesting for our human rights and trying to break systematic racism for you to finally post a black content creator you know.
NEOPHYTE: Can you talk about what you'd like to see change in the industry?
BIJAN ROSS: I would love for representation to continue and for it to start within brands that wouldn’t normally have a variety of representation. These companies need to own up to their decisions of being racist and refusing to represent their audience and own to what they’ve done. I know several black content creators that are getting paid significantly less compared to white content makers for the same type of posts and for the same type of content, and the company still don’t even acknowledge what’s going on. I’ve also seen many of these companies offer "plus size options" but would never post a plus size individual on their page. There needs to be several HR meetings within the countless companies reflecting this type of "business".
NEOPHYTE: If you weren't modelling, what would you be doing?
BIJAN ROSS: Well, I went to school for psychology to become a marriage and relationship counselor and to be a licensed sexologist so I believe if I wasn’t modeling I would be doing that and trying to get my master's degree in that field. Although I still want to do that, I wanna focus on what I’m doing now and see where it takes me.
NEOPHYTE: If COVID has reminded us of one thing it's that we can't control the future... but! I'd still love to know what you see yourself doing in 5 years.
BIJAN ROSS: Honestly I don’t know where I would see myself in five years. The world is ever-changing and things are happening every day that we didn't think would ever happen. Hopefully I could see myself continuing my modeling journey and being represented in some of my favorite companies to continue to show and normalize all body types and all skin types and hopefully inspiring others who are on their journey as well.
NEOPHYTE: Last but not least, back to the present - What are you a neophyte at right now?
BIJAN ROSS: Cooking overall, I want to learn how to cook a variety of different dishes so I’m definitely trying every other day.
This interview has been edited for clarity. All images courtesy of @bijanross