Natalia Vodianova has spent the better part of two decades as a supermodel, but now — in her mid-30s and a mother of five — the model is devoting most of her time to giving back. She founded the charity the Naked Heart Foundation, which helps children throughout Vodianova’s native Russia; she serves as an ambassador for the Special Olympics; she co-founded Elbi, an app designed to make donating to charities simpler, and now she’s on the board of directors for the period tracking app Flo.
Her work with Flo has awakened in Vodianova the importance of destigmatizing female sexual health and periods, two topics that she says were entirely taboo where and when she grew up (in Russia, in the 1990s).
Vodianova hypothesizes that she might have made different choices were that not the case.
“I wish I knew that I was precious,” Vodianova told a live audience at BUILD series on Thursday. “I grew up without a father, and I had a father figure in my grandfather — and I loved my grandfather very much — but anything like sex is such a taboo topic in Russia that we never had those conversations.”
Vodianova went on to say, “In a way, I sort of discovered everything by a most persistent guy eventually getting to me, and not letting go ever. I think if someone had told me, ‘You’re precious; you’re very very special — you should know that.’ [It was like] Someone building barriers around you as a young girl. My sex experience was not that young; I was almost 17, but I still feel it was too young.”
Vodianova is certainly doing all she can now to simultaneously battle those taboos and build barriers by helping girls and women realize that their sexual health and sexuality should not be stigmatized. In a campaign for the Flo app called, “Let’s Talk About It. Period,” Vodianova is encouraging women around the world to talk about their periods and remove the social stigma about them.
It’s over. No more hiding (РУС следующий пост), no more secrets, no more taboo about what affects our lives as women every single month. Our period is a part of our feminine nature and it’s the enchanting mechanism that allows us to conceive new lives. Why on earth should we be ashamed of that? With great pride I announce today that I have joined the board of directors of @Flotracker , not just the most accurate period tracker app, but a complete platform dedicated to all womens’ well-being. I hope this tool will help all women of any country and culture to better know their body and feel more and more at ease with it, to love and cherish it and to be in charge and armed with information to prevent life long health problems and complications. In Kenya the menstruating cause 1 million girls to miss 6 weeks of their school every year. In Nepal this happens with 41% of all girls. In Bangladesh 73% of female factory workers miss work during their periods. Only 12% of girls and women in India have access to sanitary products and as a result a 70% death rate is linked to women reproductive health diseases caused by poor hygiene during menstruation. Around the world tampon is seen as a luxury item and is a subject of a higher taxation. Periods is often a stigmatised, taboo subject. In most cases this is caused by the lack of education and information. So the primary goal we set with FLO is raising awareness. I’m going to share all my experience as a mother and as a woman and will be happy to answer any questions you might have but today to start with something light and fun I want you to break my social networks sharing your answer to this question: despite the pain and the hassle, what keeps you positive about your menstrual cycle? What makes you proud of your feminine nature? Let’s talk about it. Period. #LetsTalkAboutPeriod #flotracker
A post shared by Natalia Vodianova (@natasupernova) on Aug 16, 2017 at 7:46am PDT
“We so often feel that it’s something shameful and something not to be discussed. Sometimes, even with our best friends, we feel uncomfortable to bring this topic up,” Vodianova said of women’s health and periods specifically. The stigma regarding women’s health and periods is an issue all over the world, she said. “Even in some sophisticated offices around the world, you wouldn’t find pads or tampons, and this is just one discrimination against women we find very normal,” she said.
Essentially what she’s doing is telling women everywhere that they are precious, and that taking care of their bodies and reproductive health should not be a point of shame but rather a right and a point of pride.
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