The Sani Sisters Present: Shivani Persad
By Praveena Somasundaram
Model, activist and content creator Shivani Persad has been inspiring women around the world with her work and writing. She spoke with Sani’s co-founders, Niki and Ritika Shamdasani, for a “Sani Sisters Present” session and spoke about her work, as well as freelance and self-care advice.
An Indo-Caribbean woman, Persad began modeling not only because of her love for fashion and beauty, but also because she hadn’t seen women like her in the industry before.
“I was determined to create more visibility for darker-skinned women like me,” Persad wrote on her website.
Persad graduated in 2012 from McMaster University with degrees in political science and French. She’s modeled for brands such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Cole Haan, Aerie, Estee Lauder and Anita Dongre. Persad also focuses her time on social justice efforts within and outside the modeling industry.
Persad has been a member of the Model Alliance’s leadership council. Founded by Sara Ziff, the Model Alliance works to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
“I don’t know how many more New York Times exposés need to come out. I don’t know how many more models need to come out and say ‘Hey, something happened to me’ in order for people to take us seriously,” Persad said in a CNN video earlier this year.
She had attended a protest outside Victoria’s Secret in New York, which called on the company to join the Model Alliance’s RESPECT program. RESPECT is an initiative that invites fashion industry companies to commit to stop sexual harassment and other forms of abuse.
Persad also has interests in diversity, intersectional feminism and social justice. She was featured in a 2017 New York Times article speaking about her experiences as a model including the lack of diversity and Eurocentric beauty standards.
“It’s one thing when they ask you to change your body and you don’t feel good about your body,” Persad said in the article. “But when you feel good about your body and then someone tells you that you shouldn’t, it’s a whole different story.”
She has been published in Refinery29, Teen Vogue and Flare Mag, and is currently working on pieces for Cosmopolitan and The Juggernaut. For those interested in writing, Persad recommended pitching to growing publications, explaining the hook for the story and why you’re the person to write it. She also recommends investing in online courses and one-on-one consultations for pitches.
Persad continues her social justice work through a business she launched in 2018, LiveShiv Media. The business is a media consultancy service that focuses on creative direction, diversity consultation and brand development. The Instagram page also highlights diversity and inclusion efforts in the fashion and beauty industries, as well as other changemakers of today.