Meet Sonya Danita Charles, one of six Asia-based models who shared with Tatler how they’re breaking boundaries and refusing to be limited by gender, race, sexuality, size, age, religion or ability
The fight for representation is a collective one for Sonya Danita Charles, a freelance model, marketer and founder of Vitiligo Association Malaysia. Vitiligo is a condition in which pigmentation is lost from areas of the skin, and can be found in approximately one per cent of the global population. Models with the skin condition have been increasingly recognised by the fashion industry in recent years, and the 29-year-old, in her words, “works hard towards showing the world that models are so much more than just a pretty face, but rather people who are capable of bringing positive and impactful change in the industry”.
She urges the fashion industry to not cast diverse models only for the occasional show, but to embrace the meaning of inclusivity—for the right reasons. “I also have hopes that the efforts of every individual out there who is doing their best to make a change in this country will not go to waste; in some form or another, they are paving the way towards change—regardless of how big or small it may be.” Danita believes she has a responsibility to push forward the move towards better representation—not just for herself and her peers, but for generations to come.
I decided that if the world around me wasn’t going to see me for who I am, then I needed to start showing them exactly who I am, and what I am made of—a stronger substance, with a voice of my own
What made you decide to become a model?
I decided that it was time for me to start doing the things that I was always too afraid to do, and to embrace every part of me, despite the outcome. I decided that if the world around me wasn't going to see me for who I am, then I need to start showing them exactly who I am, and what I am made – a stronger substance, with a voice of my own. I needed to be the one who changed, in order to change the world, or at the very least, to help in shaping it with other like-minded individuals.
You can be a 100 per cent perfect and people will still find something to judge you for either way, so you might as well just do whatever it is that brings you happiness. Never let anyone bring you down or convince you that you’re not good enough. Your worth does not lie in the hands of others, but rather is yours to hold.
How would you define a “model” today?
I think that in this day and age, models are so much more than just their appearance. Many of them are people who are working very hard to change the game and reshape the status quo.
I have met many models who have inspired me with their undertakings and how they approach the modelling industry. They work hard at showing the world that models are so much more than just a pretty face, but rather people who are capable of bringing positive and impactful change in the industry.
To what extent can the fashion industry truly be called inclusive?
Inclusivity shouldn’t be something that is only practised and showcased in the media, but rather a practice that is implemented in all environments. From homes to workplaces and so on, inclusivity should be deeply encouraged.