Whether in campaigns for Mara Hoffman and Opening Ceremony, or on her Instagram in a high-cut black swimsuit or glittering gold sari, designer and model Alvina Bokhari is striking. She has thick black hair, almond-shaped eyes and emits an aura of self-confidence. But that wasn’t always the case: “If you saw my high-school pictures, you could see I was like screaming,” she told Kajal, an arts magazine for the South Asian Diaspora. “I wasn’t in an environment where I felt confident in myself. I was the only brown girl at school.” Now 23, Alvina is proud to be a “brown-skinned girl,” and uses modeling as a way to advocate for diversity and uplift other people of color. “I believe having representation through media can contribute new ways of thinking,” she explains in the following Q&A. Continue reading to learn more about Alvina. 

Alvina wearing jean jacket and jeansAlvina holding goldfish in fish bowl

On Her Background:

I was born in Virginia and raised in New York. [My family is from] Lahore, Pakistan. The impact my culture has had on me is so major and apparent — from beauty regimens to the way I eat with my hands. I’m so thankful that my parents preserved our culture in our household.

On Her Experience as a Pakistani Woman in the Modeling Industry:

I've had ups and downs in the industry. Although some brands are trying to be more inclusive, there’s still a small space for WOC, and it creates a competitive energy just to be tokenized. But the experiences I've had with WOC in the industry has been uplifting and I felt supported throughout all aspects. I'm so grateful for all the opportunities presented to me and I feel inspired to encourage other women to pursue their passions.

On Diversity:

Diversity matters because other people exist — and diversity shows us how we’re different but also alike. Without diversity, people are not exposed to something that’s not familiar to them and they aren’t expanding and growing. 

On Self-Care:

I take time to stretch and do yoga. Recently, I started writing and collaging things from my experiences. It's so therapeutic. Or, I take myself out on a date. I appreciate “me time.”  

Alvina sitting in corridor wearing jeans and shirt and slippers

On Her Personal Style & Where She Shops:

I believe in recycling clothing. I shop vintage and thrift. Fave spots in NYC are Salvation Army and Tokio 7. I work in design and learned that designers all seek inspo from the past and they rework vintage and thrifted pieces. It can be challenging to shop when things aren't catered for you, but with patience you can find the best “one of kind” pieces. And, there's a special feeling shopping ethically. 

What Brings Her Joy:

My cat, hand massages, the beach by my parent’s home, home-cooked meals, a good song, nature, karaoke, my friends, riding my bike, dancing poorly in front of the mirror.

About Her Cat:

I was gifted Prince for my 21st birthday and he's the best present I ever received. He truly replicates his name! He's super spoiled from all the love he receives and also has a sexy powerful strut, which reminded me of the late singer. Also, I’m pretty sure he's the most handsome cat in the world. 

The Album She Could Listen to Forever:

Channel Orange was one of the first I connected to as a young adult. Recently, I’ve been binge listening to Assume Formby James Blake and Matangi by M.I.A. And I’m currently listening to “Drown” by Melika Dave and “Vale” by Maribou State on repeat.

Her Favorite Quote:

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” (Audre Lorde, 1981.) As humans, it’s hard not to victimize ourselves, and although our struggles can be valid, there are other people who are going through it as well. The world likes to pin us up against each other, but I want all of us to flourish.

Alvina reclining on table with placemats