Diana Veras at Jag Models.

Diana Veras can almost always be found with a "feminist" nameplate necklace around her neck, sneakers on her feet, and either a slip dress or overalls. But what really allows you to spot this stunning 21-year-old model from a mile away is her enormous, free-flowing curly hair.

Veras caught Petra Collins's attention many years ago when she was working an American Apparel fashion event. “You’re so pretty!" Collins told her. "I need to take pictures of you!” They exchanged numbers, and Collins photographed her for Rookie magazine the following week. Prior to that, however, Veras was also spotted by a casting agent for Chloë Sevigny's Opening Ceremony show and did some modeling for American Apparel as well.

A year and a half ago, Veras was finally signed to Jag Models, and since then has gained over 200,000 followers on Instagram and landed numerous campaigns — including two Aerie billboards in Times Square where she's dancing around in her underwear. Being a native New Yorker from Washington Heights, though, she refused to brave the madness of 42nd Street twice to see the second campaign in person. Of course, she was still floored by the opportunity, and has her sights set on another one in SoHo. On a recent afternoon, Veras talked about about how she learned to stop straightening her hair and love herself. Plus, exactly which products she uses to get those now-signature curls.

How would you describe your personal style?
I wear a lot of baggy stuff. My career is so centered around my body, and everyone is always looking at my body. And it’s not that I’m ashamed of my body, but sometimes I like wearing baggy clothes so no one can comment on it. They’re normally like: Look at her boobs, look at her butt, look at her rolls. But no one can say anything about it when they can’t see it. It helps me go through the day. I’m tired. It gets exhausting when your career revolves around body positivity. And not that I’m complaining, because I will always advocate for body positivity. But sometimes you just want to be a person, and that’s what I base my style on.

Who are some of your inspirations?
Rihanna, because she doesn’t give a s--t. Recently, my friends have been like, “Oh, Rihanna must be so sad that Drake is dating J.Lo.” But I’m like, Rihanna does not give a f—k! She’s smoking a joint somewhere.

Preferred footwear:
Adidas or Nike sneakers. I can’t walk in heels. But if I can wear sneakers, I’ll walk in a-n-y show. You name it.

Let’s talk about your hair. What’s your relationship to it?
I hated it for a really long time because I wanted to be the pretty girl. And to me, curly hair wasn’t pretty. I straightened it every single day. Petra [Collins] was like, 'Stop straightening your hair!' And I was like, 'I can’t! I don’t know how!' Maybe a year-and-a-half or two years ago, though, I cut all the dead ends off and my curls finally started growing back, but it took a while because my hair was so dead. Now, I’m like if you want me to have straight hair, don’t call me. I wore my hair straight for a week over the holidays again, just to see, and I didn’t feel like myself. It’s part of my identity now.

Which salon do you go to?
I honestly don’t have a salon; I just let it do what it wants. Last week, I went to a Dominican salon and she cut the dead ends off, but that’s it. Recently, I started using Miss Jessie’s crème and it works wonders. It also smells so good. I take a shower, I put in Miss Jeese’s, and then I scrunch it for a bit. Sometimes, I let it air dry, but if I’m in a rush I’ll diffuse it. It gives it volume and a life of its own.

Diana Veras at Jag Models.

Photo by Biel Parklee.

Beauty from the inside out:
In high school, I started developing big boobs and thighs. Boys would be like, 'You’re so thick.' And I’d be like, 'Okay…' My two best friends to this day were five feet tall double-zeros. Tiny. We’d post pictures together on Tumblr and people would comment, 'You’re such a giant.' It got to the point where I was like, 'I’m fat.' I hated my body and my body and myself. They had straight hair, so I straightened my hair. I contoured my face. It was just puberty, boys, and the internet. But I was like, 'Ugh!' And then I started modeling and gained some confidence. There’s this concept that if you model, you’re beautiful. So I was like, I must be pretty! In the past few years though, I’ve found myself and my own beauty. I’m not beautiful because I’m a model. I’m beautiful. And then I’m a model.

Were you always comfortable posing in your underwear?
Oh, hell no. I was brought up to think that girls who posed in their underwear were trashy. I would post one where you could see my cleavage and then I would delete it. I was like, 'Boys will think I’m a slut.'

How did you overcome that?
It was through a lot of self-love and realization and looking at what other women were doing. Honestly, Amber Rose… [Prayer hands]. I saw that and was like, Why can’t I be free with my sexuality? I also took a break from boys. That helped.

What are some of your favorite brands right now?
Gucci is killing it. Marc Jacobs is killing it. And also Adam Selman. With Gucci, the colors are so vibrant. I don’t get the loafers, but I love everything else.

Best advice from the pros:
Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s. Once you start doing that, you dim what you’re about and you start thinking about what other people are doing. No one girl has the same career. No one girl can replace the other. There will never be another Kate Moss. There will never be another Naomi Campbell. But there can be a Diana!

Dream job:
My dream job right now is Calvin Klein. I want that billboard in SoHo. I want it so bad! I’m putting that out in the world.

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