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The Real Catwalk diversity event Khrystyana Kasakova
Photography and art direction Daniele Fummo, production Caterina Maiolini, photography assistant Jessica Tesoniero

Beautiful portraits from The Real Catwalk – the runway show for everyone


TextAlex Peters

Now in its second year, Khrystyana Kazakova’s event celebrates the body in all its varied forms

“At first, The Real Catwalk was a statement, that representation in media was incredibly important,” says former America’s Next Top Model contestant and plus-size model Khrystyana Kazakova on why she founded guerrilla fashion show The Real Catwalk. “As The Real Catwalk grew, its meaning grew,” Kazakova explains. “It became an international strut of self-love, love and appreciation for others. It became a community, a safe space for all to simply exist in a kinder environment.”

Started in 2018 and now in its second year, The Real Catwalk is a runway show with a difference. It showcases bodies of all shapes and sizes, welcoming and celebrating everyone – regardless of gender, colour, ability, sexuality, size. 

Taking place in Trafalgar Square, The Real Catwalk brings some much-needed representation of varied bodies to the fashion industry, championing messages of positivity and acceptance. “I sometimes speak in boring metaphors,” Kazakova tells us, “but the bottom line is: you are fine, and when you disagree there is an entire community that will remind you of it. You are worthy, you are important, you are beautiful.”

Photographer Daniele Fummo was there on the ground to capture beautiful portraits of the models and we spoke to some of them about how it feels to included in an event like The Real Catwalk. 

Why did you start The Real Catwalk event?

Krystyana Kasakova: At first, The Real Catwalk (back when it was called ‘Beauty revised’) was a statement, that representation in media was incredibly important because it or the lack of it affected our world and its well-being tremendously. As The Real Catwalk grew, its meaning grew to something even more layered. It became an international strut of self love, love and appreciation for others, celebrating all genders, in actually all shapes and sizes, colours, abilities, health differences, sexualities etc. It became a community, a safe space for all to simply exist in a kinder environment. 

How do you go about casting for the event? 

Krystyana Kasakova: I simply announce the next The Real Catwalk on my Instagram and whoever responds and expresses their wish to take part (even at the very last minute) is automatically cast. I don’t believe in ‘not good enough’. Last time in New York, we had about 250 people walk The Real Catwalk. People were questioning if that was ‘too many’ models since usually there are about 25-40 models on a normal fashion show. To me, if we had all 7.53 billion people strut for self-love and love for others, that would be pretty damn cool! Never too many people to be more accepting. 

What message do you hope people take away from the event?

Krystyana Kasakova: So many messages! Everything from ‘everybody radiates a unique ray of beauty. So yes you are beautiful, even if you don’t always acknowledge it’ to ‘there is no one way to be a human! And your authenticity completes the beautiful bouquets that we all are.’ I’m sorry that I sometimes speak in boring metaphors, but the bottom line is: You are fine, and when you disagree there is an entire community that will remind you of it. You are worthy, you are important, you are beautiful.

How do you plan on growing the event moving forward? 

Krystyana Kasakova: I don’t know yet. The Real Catwalk is self-sponsored and I can’t always afford to fly around the world to organise it. But I do want it to be global so that everyone can have a chance to celebrate themselves in such a fun way. And if I can’t travel myself, I believe that anyone can organise it as long as the message is really getting across. 

What’s been the feedback you have received from people who have taken part or attended the event?

Krystyana Kasakova: The feedback is usually pretty rewarding to hear. Some people walk the show to boost their confidence, some to overcome fears, some to spread their unique message of self-acceptance. For example, we had an incredible woman, Laureen, walk this show who wants to break negative stigma around herpes and STIs generally. This was so empowering and the feedback from people was very grateful.

Do you think the fashion industry is changing?

Krystyana Kasakova: The fashion industry is changing but not as fast as it can. Some popular brands are more sensitive to what people want and are becoming more inclusive. But sometimes when I flip through magazines, I hardly ever spot a curvy model and almost never do I see a person with visible ability differences. But I do appreciate every little change brands show to look more inclusive, even when they use diversity as tokenism. I will still appreciate it. It’s better than nothing. 

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