Beyond: Zanna Van Dijk On The Life Lessons She's Learned So Far
BALANCE FESTIVAL TEAM | TEGAN HEDLEY WITH ZANNA VAN DIJK
Jun 30, 2020
Business owner, personal trainer, fitness blogger, travel writer, podcast host, conscious living advocate, poster girl for the plant-based movement: Zanna Van Dijk has come a long way since starting out when Instagram was still in its early days and she was still at university. We spoke to her about the lessons she’s learned along the way, what lockdown has taught her – and what it was like to meet Anna Wintour!
Really, I’ve grown up online. My social media has always been an extension of my personal interests, and when I first started, I was really into fitness so that’s what I focused most on. I was into other things too, but I was big into fitness. As you grow up your passions change, evolve and grow. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a big part of my life, but there’s lots more to it.
The biggest achievement of my career so far has been co-founding Stay Wild swim. I’m so proud that we manage to create premium pieces that don’t compromise on quality or ethics. All of our pieces are made using regenerated ocean plastic, created with ethics and sustainability in mind at every stage of their production and designed to flatter all figures.
Meeting Anna Wintour was surreal, but she was genuinely very lovely and told us how much she loved our designs. My business partner Natalie Glaze and I started this business almost on a bit of a whim, not really knowing anything but trying to blag it. Now it’s been two years and we’ve done two fashion weeks and it’s gone from strength to strength.
Co-founding Stay Wild has taught me that there’s never a perfect time to do something. You’re never going to be 100% ready and you can’t let not knowing enough hold you back from trying. Neither Natalie nor I had any prior experience in fashion. We had to learn absolutely everything from scratch, and it went from having the first conversations about it to launching our first collection in the space of nine months. I’m a big believer that great things never come from comfort zones.
Almost dying changed my life in a big way. It’s definitely the experience that’s changed me the most. Having life changing surgery on a remote island - almost dying - these were all new experiences. My body recovered incredibly quickly because I was fit and healthy; knowing that there’s every chance it could happen again has shifted my motivation for staying fit and healthy from aesthetics and onto making sure it’s resilient. That’s my main motivation now.
If you asked my closest friends how I’ve changed in the past five years, they’d say I’ve re-prioritised. When I first moved to London I worked constantly. A social life just didn’t exist. Even though my life is still 150mph when we’re not in lockdown, I now force myself to make time for people. My friends always joke that you have to book an appointment four weeks in advance, but once you’re in the diary you’re not coming out. I never, ever cancel.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from lockdown is that the world won’t fall apart once you start to slow down. My job has completely transformed since this started, and all kinds of trips, projects and adventures have been called off. But I’m not even mad about it – I’ve just had to roll with the punches and find things to be happy with every day.
I’ve got positive intentions about maintaining elements of this slower pace of life when lockdown lifts. In fact, the thought of going back makes me slightly nervous, but I know me enough to be sure that I will throw myself 100% into whatever comes next.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is kind of a long one. It’s that the stories that you tell yourself are just that: stories. But you can change them and you do have the power not to be constrained by these narratives. At university, I missed a module because I was so averse to public speaking. I just did not think I could do it. But when I came into this industry I told myself that I could do it – now, I’ve spoken in front of crowds of 500+ people.
I’d tell my 20-year old self to accept that not everyone is going to love you. I’ve got a lot more resilient to criticism – plus, I’ve blocked most of the haters – but it’s been a journey. As my mum always says, what someone says about you is more about them than you. You can be the juiciest peach in the bunch, and there’s still someone who doesn’t like peaches.
Two books that changed my life are Eating Animals by Jonathon Safron Foer – reading this was pivotal in terms of moving to a plant-based way of eating -– and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The latter book was responsible for shifting me out of being blissfully unaware of the impact of humans on planet and changing my perspective on how I live my life.