I met Jillian the day of this photoshoot. Our photographer, Andie Mistler, knew Jillian and thought she would be a great model since we were looking to have two models for this particular shoot. Jillian is such a sweetheart, and is also a very strong woman. She is confident in the most attractive way and was able to keep us all smiling for our 7 hour day of playing dress up, freezing our arses off, and taking photos! When we got food I learned she was vegan (which makes sense because of her killer bod!), but she ate a ton and I was seriously impressed. Please enjoy our Q&A series with our Winter 2015 model, Jillian Steward.
Q&A With Jillian
What is your full name?
Jillian Jane Steward- My mom liked the alliterative thing. ;)
Tell us about your career, what do you do?
I was a Chinese major overseas so now I work for a Chinese language learning podcast. I do a number of things including public relations and academic development. I love it.
You once modeled but decided to get out of that industry. Can you explain why?I modeled in college to help pay my way through while living abroad in Hong Kong and Taiwan. I decided to opt out of the industry because I found it to be incredibly objectifying and shallow. It's just hard to exist in an environment where your only valued qualities are your youth and the ability to fit into size 0 jeans.
Where is your home town, or where did you grow up?
I grew up in Washington Heights in New York City. I'm a city girl, through and through! Represent the upper west, baby!
What is one thing you love and one thing you hate about NYC?
Gosh... one thing I love? That list is endless! I love most everything about New York, especially the super fast, borderline neurotic pace. I also love the endless amount of eclectic people there are to be met. One thing I hate? I guess I have a love/hate relationship with Willamsburg. It so aptly represents the bittersweet reality of gentrification.
Where is your favorite place to eat in the City and why?
My favorite place to eat in the city is a cute, little joint in Hell's Kitchen called, Green Symphony. The food is fantastic and they have plenty of vegan friendly options! They also make bomb-ass smoothies. ;)
Describe the day you decided to be vegan. What does being vegan mean to you?
I actually remember that day very well. I decided to throw myself into veganism full force the day before my birthday in 2014. I actually discovered this babe on the internet who goes by the name of, Freelee the Banana girl. After binge watching all of her videos, the idea of this lifestyle really resonated with me and I decided to try it out. Well, needless to say, I fell in love with it and I haven't looked back since! Veganism means so much to me and is now a core part of my identity because before I discovered it, I constantly struggled with calorie restriction and had an incredibly toxic relationship with my body. The mental and metabolic damage that was done during my modeling days was never fully put to rest until I became a vegan. It saved my life in that sense. I hope to motivate and inspire other girls who have also experienced this same kind of suffering.
Who is your hero and why?
I have many, but probably Margaret Atwood. She's a badass feminist wordsmith and I love her for her great big beautiful brain! I've also really been enjoying the words of another young feminist poet recently named Warsan Shire.
If you could visit any place, where would that be and why?
I think in regards to traveling, it matters less where I'm going and more who I'm going with.
What do you want the world to know about Jillian?
What a doozy! When I was younger, I guess I wanted to be regarded as this cool and calculated ice witch. Haha, I realize that may sound silly, but I really wanted to be this cut throat bad ass bitch like you see in all the movies. As time has passed though, and as I've gotten a little older and wiser, I realize that this persona isn't my reality. Not even close. There's this Sylvia Plath quote that I read recently that has really stuck with me, "Wear your heart on your skin in this life." In actuality, no matter how hard I've previously tried to suppress it, I can't bring myself to resist putting myself in emotionally vulnerable situations. I've come to see that putting ourselves at risk is the only way we'll ever get what we want, anyway. I can't help but always think of the, "what ifs?" I guess if I could make a difference in this world, it would be to help those close to me realize that emotional expression is completely normal and okay. I'd like to be a beacon. I'd like to be a safe space.