Natalia Vodianova Wants To Eradicate The Menstrual Stigma, At Home And Abroad
When Natalia Vodianova joins Zoom in mid-May, it has been pouring in Paris for almost three weeks, but she is clinging to the ethereal radiance that has made her a world-renowned supermodel—and given her the platform to do something with it. Even in the dimming gray light and distorted by unreliable WiFi, her resolve exudes from the screen: She is desperate to talk about periods.
Born in the Soviet Union, the 39-year-old has always been concerned with and concerned about shame’s pernicious impact. Her younger sister, Oksana, was born with autism, and she adds that “shame and stigma are something that makes my blood boil—actually any form of prejudice.” “Coming from what was formerly the Soviet Union, I was taught to believe that certain methods were correct.”
As a lady, she was not completely conscious of the amount of guilt she was carrying until she became an adult. When her modeling career took off in her early twenties, she found herself traveling the world, sleeping in fancy hotels, and concealing whatever period products she used in hotel restrooms. If she drank something overnight, she would instantly wash it up, fearful of the housekeepers detecting a stain. “I’m thinking, this is insane—and I’m an affluent lady who travels. Consider a girl living in poverty who does not have access to, say, pads,” she explains.
However, Vodianova’s frustrations with menstruation did not become activism until she made her first technology investment in the period tracking app Flo. As she used the app and communicated often with the program’s owners, she discovered that guilt around women’s reproductive health was universal, regardless of nation or socioeconomic status. “Several anonymous discussions are occurring in Flo,” she explains. “Girls who were just expressing their thanks to the platform for empowering them. They felt educated. They possessed information that they were not permitted to share with anyone.”
Then she shared an Instagram selfie of herself holding a pad. It was essentially a PR stunt—she was promoting the film Pad Guy, about an Indian man who created pads for women and taught them about stigma. Vodianova was requested to upload a selfie holding a sanitary napkin – a clean one, straight from the package — to raise awareness about the image. “And I received more comments than I’ve ever received. However, the majority of them were derogatory remarks,” she recalls.
Vodianova was brought into prominence by the outsized revulsion and fury elicited by the simple sight of a pad. She saw that this was a massive case of disinformation, emanating from ostensibly intelligent individuals. There was work to be done at this location.
In the years that followed, she founded a video series called “Let’s Talk About It. Period.” and became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health organization.
“The reality is that this is the cornerstone of women’s rights,” Vodianova asserts. “It is the cornerstone of their well-being. Without addressing this aspect of their lives, everything else falls apart. And I’m particularly referring to women in crisis, women who live in poverty, and women who are in need.”
She is also collaborating with UNFPA to provide “dignity kits” to women and girls living in war zones—59 nations got 1.4 million kits last year. Disposable menstruation pads, a reusable menstrual pad set, washing powder, bath soap, a pair of dark underwear, a flashlight (no batteries required), a comb, and a toothbrush and toothpaste are all included in these backpacks. Individuals interested in contributing to the cause can fund a dignity kit for as little as $15.
“Period products should not be considered a luxury item, correct?” Natalia Vodianova is referring to the dissatisfaction caused by the luxury tax, which has afflicted period goods for years, increasing their unaffordability and stigma. “They are necessary. Because women do not choose to bleed… We conceal it in some way, and we’re kind of like, ‘Oh, everything’s OK. That is my issue.’ It is a global issue. Because it affects half of the population.”