This week’s Fighter Spotlight shines a light on Niya, a former international model and current owner of NIYA Model Management. At only 29 years old, Niya is about as accomplished as one could be in the modeling industry. She spent the last ten years of her life enjoying a successful modeling career in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Germany, France, Singapore, and New Zealand and has worked with some of the world’s top brands, including Reebok, Sony, and Ben Sherman. Now that her modeling days are over, Niya runs her own model agency, making her a legitimate, notable figure in the modeling world.
Now, after reading all that, you are probably as surprised as we were when Niya reached out to us, saying she would love to become involved with Fight the New Drug and help the movement in any way she could. Of course we accepted. We sent her some ‘Porn Kills Love’ shirts, she got with a couple of her models, and they did a photo shoot to help promote our cause! (Some of the photos from their shoot can be seen on Instagram.) Then, after getting to know Niya a little more and hearing her story, we knew that we had to get her for a Fighter Spotlight interview. Lucky for us, she agreed.
FTND: When you first got in contact with us, we gotta be honest, we were pretty surprised. We find that we don’t get a ton of support from people in the modeling industry due to the fact that it is very common for models to be used in oversexualized and pornographic material. What is your connection to fighting against porn? Why did you decide to reach out to us?
Niya: Well, to be honest, before I decided to reach out to you guys, I put a lot of thought into my personal life being out there for people to judge. Yes, I own a modeling agency. Yes, I work with body image and advertising. But there is a bigger reason why I reached out. It was because of my own personal experiences. I was in a relationship years ago where my partner was severely addicted to pornography. Up to that point, I had no idea that porn could actually be an addiction. At first, I just thought, ‘no big deal, let’s work through this.’ The problem is, when someone has an addiction, there is no “we” involved. An addiction cannot be overcome unless the addicted person is ready and wiling to get help. So at first when I wasn’t mad or upset at all, I guess I didn’t know the extent of where things were about to go. Then, over the course of a year and a half, he quit his job, lost all motivation, dropped out of school, and got caught in a web of lies he had been stitching for years. I tried many things to help him; I offered support, I backed off and gave him space, but none of it mattered. I felt so bad for him all the time. Then, as it inevitably does, the addiction successfully destroyed our relationship after he got physically violent with me on a couple occasions. Never could I have guessed that this man was capable of punching his wife. So I left, and leaving my husband was the hardest thing I have ever done. To put someone through all that is not cool. And I can tell you firsthand, porn was the catalyst for it all.FTND: Wow, Niya, that’s tough. We’re sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing that with us. Just like countless other people we hear from daily, you have had a lot closer experience with the corrosive nature of porn addiction than you ever would have liked. I think you’ll be surprised at how many people will connect with your story after this.Okay, let’s go back to what we said earlier about models constantly being hired and paid to appear in overly sexual and/or pornographic images. I think you’ll agree that the human body is one of the most powerful images there is. So where do you think the line is drawn between something being tasteful and powerful and something that is obscene and explicit? Were you ever put into that position in your career as a model?
Niya: I agree, the human body is a powerful thing. And in advertising and in art, often times it is altered and idealized. Larger bust, smaller waist, longer legs, etc. But before judging any person or industry, it is important to keep in mind that some men and women are genetically built like that! For example, when I was 13 years old, I was already 5’9” and I weighed 101 lbs. I never had an eating disorder or anything unhealthy, that is just my body type. Whereas my older sisters, my mother and father, they got different genes and some of them are over 6 feet tall and around 300 pounds! People are always surprised when I tell them that.
But to answer the question, I think the attitude in which an image is done and for what purpose it serves, is the real determining factor. It is an easy line to cross but if the intent of the image of the human body is to project beauty rather than arousal, that is where the line is drawn.
For me personally, looking back, there were a couple times that I wish I would have stood up and said something to someone or called my agent due to the photographers strange ideas he had on set or the outfits I was provided to wear. However, I never in 10 years was asked to do porn. Porn is not the modeling industry. But ads that sell lust and desire are what get men and women into the shops to buy the products. It’s an interesting line. But one thing is for sure, modeling may sell the appearance of a human, but it does not sell the human, which porn definitely does.FTND: Okay, so being in the modeling industry, we’re going to assume that you’ve been around a lot of really beautiful and really good looking people *laughs*. So after seeing all that first hand, in your opinion, what is true sexiness?
Niya: "Laughs* That’s funny. I do work with a lot of good looking people who most would consider physically sexy. But true sexiness really does come within. You can light up a room with a glowing, positive attitude. There is nothing uglier than a pretty girl with an ungrateful, bad attitude.FTND: From your own personal experiences and from your career in modeling, what would you say to porn users, and those who choose not to believe the harmful effects of porn, about real beauty and real love as opposed to what’s portrayed in porn?Niya: Porn is like a drug in so many ways. If you know that, you might think twice before viewing it. Some people are more innately drawn to sex or porn, whereas others’ weakness may be alcohol or other drugs. It doesn’t matter what it is, addictions ruin lives. So this conversation needs to be had. People need to know the detrimental effects porn can have on oneself and their loved ones. It’s important to be present in our own lives and deal with reality. Once one can face reality, one will see real beauty in many things and be able to find real love, not just some superficial, dark, imaginary emotion. In one talk given by Brene Brown, she told a story about a man addicted to porn who said, “For five bucks and five minutes, you think you’re getting what need, and you don’t have to risk rejection.” What a sad way to live your “love” life. In order to find real love, we have to be willing to face rejection and put ourselves out there. That’s hard. But owning your own reality and facing your thoughts is where we can find the truest and purest way to live.FTND: Okay, last but not least: why are you a Fighter?Niya: I’m a Fighter because I am not a quitter. Placing in a competition at all is better than giving up. I’m a Fighter because I work hard; I am trying to do my part to make the world a happier, more beautiful place. I am a Fighter because I won’t let someone’s actions define me. It’s a bump in the road and you just have to keep fighting and pave your own path. I Fight for positivity. I Fight for clean, healthy advertising. And I Fight to use my platform as a good example for all my young models. No one needs porn. Let’s not contribute to that industry and focus on making our lives healthier and happier every day.