The women’s empowerment movement has gone back through the last century with many accomplishments, though it is taking the world by storm today more than ever before. It appears in many different facets of life.
The first major leap for women that truly showcased women’s empowerment was the suffragette movement. Women supported one another, protested, and worked long and hard to ultimately be granted the right to vote in 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed. The movement went on from 1890-1919, so the near thirty-year fight was no easy victory. But the passing of the 19th amendment proved that women were capable of so much!
The next notable victory for women’s empowerment was the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which banned wage disparity based on sex. Though many still hold prejudice here, making it technically unlawful to pay a woman less was a huge step in the right direction. And shortly after, in 1968, employers were also banned from discriminating based on gender.
The more notable modern accomplishments of women’s empowerment include Sandra Day O’Connor becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1981, the Violence Against Women Act being passed in 1994, and just a few year ago in 2013, the ban against women serving in the military was, in fact, removed. Let’s not forget how hard Hollywood is pushing women’s empowerment and equal rights now, as well. So, at this current time, women are being celebrated more than ever.
And while there are many facets of women’s empowerment, model, actress and publisher Katarina Van Derham is thought to be a true pioneer of women’s empowerment in the ‘Glam World’ which many wouldn’t think needs empowerment. Katarina has been empowering women since before it was a popular trend. In 2012, she founded VIVA GLAM Magazine as a way to provide opportunities for and to uplift glamour models with great potential who had been left behind in the industry.
So, let’s talk about Katarina Van Derham and her role in women’s empowerment.
Katarina, why ‘Glamour’ and why glamour models?
When I arrived in Los Angeles over 20 years ago, my plan wasn’t to model. In fact, I had no plan. I am short and don’t have long legs, so I didn’t think I would qualify as a model. At that time, I was also already 26 years old and felt a bit old to start anyway. But after being in LA for a few years and being approached by agents and photographers over and over, I started to pay attention to the industry. I realized that there are more categories in modeling than just fashion and the runway. At first, I didn’t understand why Playmates call themselves models. Aren’t they playmates? Isn’t that different from being a model? Realizing that there is a huge industry called ‘Glamour Modeling’ out there, where you basically model YOURSELF and not designer clothes or a beauty brand, made me believe that perhaps there is a place for the type of a girl I was. So, I became a model.
So, would you say that ‘Glamour’ means ‘Nude’?
No, it doesn’t. I only used Playmates as one of the examples. ‘Glamour’ encompasses all sorts of girls. Girls who compete in beauty pageants who want to positively change the world are another good example. Glamour models can be any height and any look. They are models who model lingerie, bikini or “lend” their face and/or body to a beer or car company. They are the sexy ring girls at the UFC fight you might have just watched. Whether they decide to take their clothes off for some projects or not is their choice. Just like celebrities do. But a glamour model is not a model who is expected to pose nude. She is a beautiful, sexy girl who is glamourous even in a long evening gown.
Why did you feel the need for empowerment in this particular industry?
While I was modeling, I met very many glamour models who felt objectified. They didn’t mind being perceived as sexy because they were, but sometimes, things have gone a bit too far. The LA society has been programmed for so long to have certain opinions about beautiful women. When you are a beautiful woman, they automatically expect you to date and marry a rich guy. Nobody could ever understand why I was and am still with a regular guy with a regular job. While doing makeup throughout my thirties, I was even told that I was “too pretty” to be a makeup artist. What does that even mean? Even some of my female celebrity clients didn’t want me around their husbands because they didn’t feel comfortable having a “hot chick” doing their makeup. This LA stigma has been haunting me for years as people always try to see me as someone who I am not and will never be. And it’s just because I don’t judge, and I make friends or work with women who I believe are great and deserve a chance. Where I grew up, we had beautiful and sexy police officers, clerks, and even our current president is a 45-year-old, beautiful woman, Zuzana Caputova.To me beauty and sexy is normal.
So, all these models would complain about how they cannot get “normal” modeling jobs and model classy and elegant brands. They didn’t fit into VOGUE, and the only magazines they could be in were men’s magazines. Trust me when I tell you that many of these models would prefer to be in a fashion magazine vs. a men’s magazine IF they just had an opportunity. So, I decided to create a platform where models with a great potential could be featured and get to be who they really want to be.
Were there other factors that led to your start VIVA GLAM?
I remember being at a mediation in one of the East Coast states here in the U.S. A club stole one of my photos from the internet and used it to promote its establishment and services. I wanted to have the photo taken down and get compensated because I never gave them any rights to use my image. At that point I was already a successful model. The mediator looked at me and with a soft voice suggested for me to settle for pretty much nothing because apparently if we go to a trial, people will not empathize with people like me, models. I was simply furious. And it is true. The real world can be very judgmental and prejudice. I always liked my model community because the vast majority of girls were very nice and kind, and we helped each other out. I still receive thank-you messages from some of our VIVA GLAM model-followers saying, “Thank you for not leaving us glamour models behind.”
Despite all the good you do in uplifting women, there will still be people who judge you unfairly. What do you have to say about that?
Well, there is not much I can do to change people’s perception. I just know that “we don’t see things as they are, but we see them as we are” (Anais Nin). So, I just hope more and more people decide to become better people. Of course, there will always be women who will prefer or will not be afraid to use everything they have to get ahead in life. And I will not judge them for it, as everyone needs to live their life the way that makes them happy. We all have different backgrounds, upbringings, and a different story that leads us to our actions.
I will always be a girl’s girl, and I will always fight for other women because women’s empowerment shouldn’t apply to only one specific group of women but to all women without judgment and preconceived notions. It’s time for all women to take their power back, as I believe the world could be in a better place if more women could take full control of our society today.