Soraya Jansen is a triple threat. And we don’t mean the “beauty, brains and talent” cliché (although she arguably possesses all three). Soraya (or @Slaya__ on IG) is an artist, model and DJ, with something to say on all counts. In her words, “why would one limit their creativity to solely one medium?” Go figure.
Born in Kuala Lumpur to German-Malaysian parents, Soraya first tried her hand at modelling whilst studying at Glasgow School of Art, before moving to London to model full time. Fast forward to now and she’s opened a Vivienne Westwood show, appeared in Frame’s latest denim campaign, been on the cover of Harpers Bazaar Malaysia and walked for the likes of Giles Deacon, Ashish and Astrid Andersen. But Soraya isn’t your average model. Fully aware of the superficial nature of the fashion industry and its tendency to judge a book by its cover, Soraya holds herself accountable for the negative impact the industry has in provoking the insecurities of young women worldwide. That’s why she found herself stepping into the performance space, in order to subvert feminine ideologies constructed by the male gaze, and to challenge the fashion industry’s white-dominated beauty standards and the preconceived judgements often made by viewers.
Soraya’s performance art is informed by her dual nationality and the ‘otherness’ she felt whilst growing up. “Coming from two completely different cultural backgrounds – yet not physically looking like either – I have always felt like an outsider,” she explains. “The duality of east vs west has always been the main theme in my practice.” It was during her time at University of the Arts, London that Soraya filmed a performance titled “Dunia Orang Putih (The world of the white)”, that addressed the lack of diversity at her college and how that affects the BAME student body. For it, Soraya appeared shackled at the ankles wearing traditional Malaysian attire whilst painting two blank canvases before removing her clothes before the camera. Soraya posted the video on her website, after refusing to participate in her grad show.
When she’s not busy modelling or performing, you can catch Soraya spinning some tracks at Stoke Newington’s BAR A BAR, “where the dj’s booked are inclusive of gender/sex, which makes the idea of female self-expression (i.e. shaking your ass) not for the male gaze, but for the prime purpose of why we all go out, which is to experience the music.”
For her next project, Soraya plans to tackle the food industry via a cooking show that’s designed to dismantle the belief that a plant based diet is elitist, whilst looking at the environmental problems faced by the meat industry. According to Soraya, “one of the hardest struggles as any creative is the constant pressure to produce.” She’s doing a pretty damn good job at it to date. Welcome, Soraya.
Words by Brooke McCord