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Environment & ethics   |   Fashion & beauty

Generation influence

Instagram star Zanna van Dijk began blogging about fitness, food and health while at university. Ten years later and she is one of the most well-established ethical influencers with over 285,000 followers on Instagram and her own ethical swimwear line. Here she chats to Wicked Leeks about climate change, why she has notifications switched off and watching Youtube birth stories.

What are the best and worst things about being a fitness and food influencer?

The best thing is definitely the fact that I can see eating wholesome food and moving my body as part of my job – it doesn't get much better than that. No but seriously, the best bit is doing something I love every day and waking up feeling like I am making a difference in my own little way.  The worst is probably the constant online criticism, but I am used to it by now to be honest.

What’s been the most exciting thing you’ve done since becoming a blogger?

The most exciting thing I have done is probably launching my own sustainable swimwear brand, Stay Wild Swim. Having it stocked at Selfridges and then going to London Fashion Week with it within a year were pretty awesome moments too.

What’s your relationship with social media like – how do you switch off?

I have a great relationship with social media, mostly helped by the fact I have zero notifications on. None, nope, nada. I look at my phone on my own terms and I have an acceptance that the world isn’t going to end if I don’t reply to my Whatsapp's within a day.

Zanna

Who are your role models?

My friend Madeleine Olivia is a big inspiration. She's sustainable, ethical and generally woke. Plus she just moved to the countryside down in Cornwall and it’s making me crave a break from the London hustle.

How do you think we can instil more body positivity among young girls and women?

I think the key thing is including diverse role models in media – both mainstream and social media. If people aren't represented in everyday life then how can they be expected to view themselves as acceptable? As a slim, tall, white and blonde woman I don't think I can add much to the conversation except to say that scars are cool, since I have a pretty badass one of those.

What’s your guilty pleasure, in food or elsewhere in life?

Probably watching birth story videos on Youtube. I have no idea why I do it, I don't even like babies and pregnancy terrifies me. Yet I watch them all the time. I also recently found a podcast all about birth and I’m addicted to that too. Someone needs to stop me!

As an ethical influencer, do you ever feel the pressure that all areas of your life have to be sustainable? How do you deal with that?

Of course, I feel pressure to be perfect all the time. However, I recently started sharing more of my imperfections and it has gone down really well. It has been a huge relief to show my slip-ups and downfalls, and I think it actually can be more motivating to show others that you don't need to be perfectly sustainable to make an impact.

Zanna street

If you weren’t an influencer, what would you be?

A speech and language therapist, I studied to be one for four years and specialised in stroke rehabilitation.

How do you see the link between influencing individuals at a lifestyle level, and lobbying for environmental change on a political scale?

Ultimately, larger political change won’t happen unless the public demand it as politicians do tend to act based on the general consensus. So I hope that by shifting individuals perceptions and actions I can help push towards more political change – as ultimately that is what we need more than anything else.

What one cause would you like people to engage more with?

Climate change. It is the one cause that impacts the whole world and it is the one cause that’s spiralling out of control faster than anything else. It urgently needs addressing.

If you were Prime Minister for the day, (Brexit aside!), what would be your first move?

A meat tax, a shift to renewable energy, electric cars only in cities. Bosh.

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