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Latinx Heritage Month Feature: Ilianna Ayala

Ilianna Ayala modeling in lingerie shoot

We are thrilled to share an interview we conducted with Ilianna Ayala, a plus size model, make up artist, and Instagram influencer working her way to make the fashion and beauty industry a more inclusive environment. The Afro-Boricua and Bolivian model reflects on how being an Instagram influencer has elevated her self-confidence in ways she never imagined.

Image courtesy of Ilianna Ayala

How did you get into the industry? Is it a lot of hard work? 

I actually got into the industry because of Instagram. Back then, I was just a natural hair influencer. You never saw a full body picture of me, just my face with big curly hair. In 2016, I saw that this big plus size clothing brand and an agency in New York collaborated together and started a contest. The winner of this contest was promised a two-year contract with the agency. All you had to do is use the required hashtag under your photos. So I went a took some full body pictures and submitted… and I won! Three years later, I am still with the agency. It was definitely hard work and still is. I am now in the public eye and not just for my hair but now my body. I had a body at the time that I wasn’t too comfortable with and wasn’t sure the world would accept me. Three years later, I’ve gained so much confidence through modeling.

What does it mean to be Latinx in this industry?

To be Latinx in this industry today is to be fierce, strong, and powerful. I feel that so many people in the Latinx community are learning about their roots, and it gives a sense of self which helps to maneuver in this industry. 

What’s something about yourself you’re most proud of?

I am SO proud of my growth. I went from being only comfortable with just taking selfies to being so confident in front of the camera in lingerie! To know I have a platform where others say I inspire them is such a rewarding feeling.

Who helped you get where you are today? Inspirations.. role models… parents etc. 

My parents, for sure. They supported me with everything I’ve done, no questions asked. Also, the support from my boyfriend help me get to where I am today. He knew I would be a plus size model before it even happened. Now we work as a team, which I love. Some of my inspirations are Dasha Polana, Paloma, Lizzo, and Kelly Augustine. You will find me on their Instagram looking for daily inspiration.

Image courtesy of Ilianna Ayala

What do you hope to see more in your industry? 

I would love to see more representation….. BETTER representation. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I want brands to use more than one plus size model in their campaigns and runway. I want luxury brands and designers to find the joy in including plus size women in their visions. I also want to see more plus size models casted for beauty campaigns. Like I said, we have come along way and I am blessed to be given the opportunities to shift representation in the industry, but we need more.

Vivian Wang

Vivian is a travel enthusiast and food connoisseur living in New York City. Her curiosity and passion for languages and culture has taken her across eight countries over the past year. When not working, you can find her meandering in art museums or sampling food at the street markets.

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