Meet Red Shiraz. Her striking looks and inimitable style captured the attention of Instagram followers early on, but it’s the 21-year-old’s unapologetic approach to real life issues that has kept them around. Frank, intelligent, and deeply personal, some may mistake her Instagram captions for diary entries that were never meant to see the light of day. But what some may consider a case of over-sharing, many consider a real depiction of how young people view contemporary issues. Her take on feminism, Middle-Eastern identity, sexuality, and oppression has inspired a conversation among the vocal group of millennials that follow her. Through sharing her own experiences in a trusting environment, she hopes to foster a space that will encourage and empower young women that face similar 21st century pressures.
Who is Red Shiraz? What does it mean?
R.S are my initials and I’m a big red wine lover. It just made sense. There’s something very sexy, romantic, seductive, and powerful about a nice glass of shiraz.
Were you prepared for the attention you were going to receive when starting your Instagram?
Not at all. I started my account in my teens just to post pictures, express my love for fashion and stalk hot boys. I think when I started to post my opinions other people started to relate and it grew into a beautiful Instagram family.
Your captions are a mix of light-heartedness and in-depth comment. Were you initially hesitant on posting your opinion so publicly?
Never. I’ve always been a very expressive person and scrutiny is nothing new to me. I’ve never been shy to discuss my opinions but I was surprised by how many other people related to me and my personal experiences.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is the liberation and empowerment of women. Breaking down all gender restrictions because women are equal to men. I don’t think that there’s a scale to feminism, it’s simply the belief of equality of the sexes. Roxanne Gay discusses the problematic nature of mainstream feminism in her book Bad Feminism (really good read!), which often neglects queer women, trans women, and women of colour. Feminism to me is love, respect, and the celebration of all women in a society where we have been defeated, criticised, and restricted for far too long.
What fuels your desire to post a half-naked photo?
I love feeling sexy. I feel sexy in a turtleneck too but I am not ashamed of my body and hope to empower other women to not be ashamed of theirs. People take that stuff way too seriously. I am obsessed with the human body in all forms, shapes and sizes – there is nothing more beautiful to me.
Have you always been comfortable in your own skin?
No. When I was in primary school I hated being an ethnic girl. I grew up in a predominantly Anglo-Saxon area. I always felt super foreign and hated that my family was so different. I used to wish that I were a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. I just wanted to fit in, which is really sad.
How do you retain such confidence in yourself?
My family has always been the most pivotal part in the development of my confidence and self-actualisation. I was always showered with so much love and assurance by my family that naturally I began to celebrate myself. My older brother Antony has always made me feel a million dollars and his support played a major role in the progression of my self-love and appreciation.
Your parents immigrated here from Lebanon. Did you grow up understanding their sacrifices?
Just like most immigrants, my parents worked tirelessly when they came to Australia so that my siblings and I could have better opportunities. The catastrophic atrocities that occurred during the Lebanese Civil War in the ’70s left major heartache and scars for both of my parents. The true extent of their struggles and sacrifices is something I will never be able to truly comprehend, however something I praise them for regularly.
People have such strong opinions about you. Do you think you rile some people up simply because you’re a young, outspoken women who isn’t afraid of expressing her sexuality?
Definitely. I think some people don’t like seeing other people happy or empowered—an idea that has always puzzled me. Women are quickly labeled as a mouthy, bossy, opinionated bitch when they share their strong opinions, which is a stark contrast to when men are praised for being passionate when sharing theirs. If I’m confident with the way that I look then I’m arrogant; if I’m not, then I’m too insecure which isn’t attractive. There’s no winning with some people but I honestly don’t care. As my girl Samantha Jones states, “If I worried what every bitch in New York was saying about me, I’d never leave the house”.
Which women inspire you with their voices and why?
Amal Clooney is my queen. She is the epitome of what it means to be a powerful woman. Super courageous, intelligent, compassionate, and strong! I really look up to her, the work she does, and what she stands for. I also love Rihanna because she’s unapologetically herself. I love when people own who they are—more people should be like that.
What advice would you give to girls struggling with self image and the idea of staying true to themselves?
Change your environment! When you surround yourself with people who make you feel like Beyoncé, you in turn will feel this way. Hang around people who celebrate you, empower you, inspire you, make you feel sexy, smart, and confident – this is so crucial! I think too many women waste their time with disgusting boys who bring them down and girl friends who make them feel self conscious—it’s really hard to feel good when you are externally disempowered.
What positives has social media brought onto your life? What do you think about its power?
Authentic human connections and creative inspiration. Social media is a really powerful agent that works to educate and bring people together. I’ve met some of my closest friends through social media. I love how it can connect people from all corners of the earth and create an international forum where we can all learn from one another.
Follow Red Shiraz
‘Upfront’ is a series of interviews with interesting people. Read more here.
- Words: Eliza Sholly