Shivani Persad, Model and More Than Model Radio Host
Shivani Persad is way more than meets the eye. This supermodel and political scientist spends her free time hosting a passion podcast called “More Than A Model Radio” to shatter stereotypes and encourage women to be the “Jane of all trades” they were meant to be. Read all about her journey through body image issues, entreprenHERship and the discovery of her own beauty, inside and out.
Shivani, how and when did you get “discovered”?
I was on a dance team in high school and we got invited to dance at Canadian Idol (yes, that was a thing). One of the judges told me I should be a model and to be honest, I had never considered it to be a "real job" because I’m Caribbean and my parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. But when he told me that, I thought “Wow, maybe I can actually do this.” I didn’t revisit the idea until years later when I submitted myself to an agency in Toronto and the rest is history.
People like to label others, even when they are so much than meets the eye. How do you deal with being boxed when you are such a multi-dimensional woman?
I feel like my whole purpose of existence is to do everything I can to stop people from putting others (especially women) into boxes. Labeling people, exerting judgement… only further perpetuates stereotypes and ergo causes more issues in the world. It’s crazy to think that someone’s racism can have socioeconomic outcomes but, that’s the world we live in . So it really does all start from within. All I can do is try to break stereotypes and highlight other women who are breaking boundaries as well.
Can you tell us what inspired you to create the podcast: More Than Model Radio?
I was inspired by so many things but the main thing was 1) I got sick of people leaving me out of important conversations on set because they assumed I wasn’t smart enough and 2) because I noticed that people rarely ever asked models questions of substance in interviews, so I thought I’ll just ask them myself. My friends inspire me so much, I know so many wildly intelligent and multifaceted models - but no one was recognizing for those qualities so I decided I would!
What are your favorite type of discussions amongst your friends and guests on the podcast?
On the podcast we talk a lot about the transition between being a model and whatever it is that girl does now, or their current side-hustle while also modeling. How did that come about? For example, my friend Jess Perez started a finance app because she found it difficult to keep track of her payments from so many different agencies. On her episode we talked about how her modeling career influenced her decision to start a tech company and the process she went through to develop an app from the group up. So, we talk a lot about how these women have gotten to where they are (in modeling and outside of fashion) to help teach other women how to do the same, whether they want to create an app, start a business or become an activist. A lot of our guests give amazing advice, so it’s a great place to learn for many of our listeners.
We also talk a lot about self care because women often neglect themselves first. So we discuss the importance of everything from meditation, to exercise, freewriting and everything in between. I think it helps our listeners figure out different options and choose which type of self care is right for them.
Amongst my friends we often discuss a lot about adversity in the industry. Working in a heavily unregulated industry brings many many issues as I’m sure you can imagine. There’s also so many issues with regards to diversity of colour and size - so our conversations tend to involve those topics as well. Also, a lot of my friends are getting older so sometimes we talk about what we’d like to do after modeling, or when modeling slows down - those conversations are always interesting. Similar to the podcast as well haha.
What are some of the other things that set your soul on fire? We recently saw that you got involved with Model Alliance - can you tell us about that a little?
I’m REALLY into politics, I have a degree in Political Science and since high school I’ve always loved it. So talking about political issues really sets my soul on fire. We have a real opportunity to HELP PEOPLE in this country and other “developed” nations, but for some reason I feel like politics excludes the human aspect. It’s always about this partisan issue or the next… instead of actually educating people on contentious issues and what we should do to solve problems. It’s asinine.
One of the reasons I’m involved with organizations like the Model Alliance and Model Mafia is because they were created out of adversity - and they both exist for very different reasons. One thing they have in common is that they created a community for models, which we never really had before. The Model Alliance is essential a not-for-profit advocacy organized for models, with the goal of creating more labour protections and regulations in the fashion industry. I love what they do because they believe in creating change through initiatives like their Child Model Legislation and the creation of designated changing areas for models at fashion week (yep… that didn’t exist before).
The Model Mafia is a wonderful community that I’m happy to be a part of because they have such a passion for grass roots activism. The women in the Model Mafia have a wide array of causes that they support (climate change, human rights, sexual harassment...the list goes on) and we try to cover them all by going to marches, coming together to donate to different causes, creating social media campaigns and holding community events were we can meet each other and share our experiences with adversity. It’s become a whole new group of friends for me and I love when communities come together and use their platform for change.
We think there is this perception that models are fearless people when it comes to their bodies and overall image, and we love it when people are real with us - can you tell us what are you insecure about?
Wow, that’s a great question. I’m insecure about so many things. My biggest insecurity in terms of physicality is my scoliosis. It affects me in so many ways - it’s really hard to explain unless you have a physical impediment. I’m more insecure about it because of modeling of course, because my job is centered around how my body looks. I’m constantly afraid I look lopsided, or fat on one side or just crooked. I’m always afraid that clients will notice and take me off a job or not book me again. I had to come to terms with it, take care of myself by seeing chiropractors, massage therapists and working out and just overall accept my body for how it is and work with it instead of against it.
Other than physicality I’m really insecure about my intelligence. I have two degrees (Honours Political Science and French), but despite that, I’m always embarrassed to say I’m a model because of the stereotypes that come with it. I always try to make sure I’m constantly learning and informing myself of not only what’s happening in the world but on an array of topics. First because I’m a curious person and I’m interested but secondly, I like to have great conversations, it’s important to be informed and I hate the stereotype that people think models are stupid. At the same time though, I constantly question my own intelligence. Am I smart enough? Is this industry making me mindless? Should I go back to school? It’s something I question almost every day.
What is next for you professionally and personally? (PS: We heard you’re getting married!)
I am getting married! I’m very excited, he’s the best guy in the world and I’m so lucky to have him. He lives in Toronto and I live in NYC so we’re still going to be long distance after we get married - but many people in fashion do this so I’m not worried. So far though, it’s been a lot of wedding planning, looking at houses/condos etc - it’s very exciting to think about that next chapter in your life.
Professionally, I of course always want to keep getting to the next level so hopefully for modeling that means some higher level clients in the near future. I work quite a bit through five of my agencies and I’m so grateful for that, but hey - more work is never a bad thing!
I’d really like to get the podcast signed to a network this year, and start launching some other media-related ideas that I have. My dream is to eventually start my own media company or be the next Franchesca Ramsey. Or both!
To follow along Shivani's adventures, you can find her on instagram @liveshiv, to listen to More Than Than Model Radio, you can find Shivani on Soundcloud, here.
Introduction by Emily. Interviewed by Chary