6 Lessons On Confidence From Mega-Model And Creative Myla Dalbesio
Myla Dalbesio is the multi-hyphenate model, photographer, and artist using her body as a tool to spark conversations about feminism. Here's everything she's learned about nurturing confidence.
The New York Times recently dubbed Myla Dalbesio a young woman "poised for creative greatness" and they're not wrong. The former Calvin Klein and Sports Illustrated model's latest project? A new art documentary series Modern Portraits on Turner network’s digital sister outlet Super Deluxe. It features interviews with fellow female creatives and activists.
We sat down with the proud feminist whose sometime-status as a "plus size" model has been publicly debated again and again—to ask for her insight on nurturing confidence, whether its through strategies to keep insecurities at bay, or just being comfortable naked. Here's her advice.
“I think that we are all playing against insecurities and I definitely have my fair share of them, but I feel the most confident when I’m really passionate about what I’m doing—then there’s no time or mental space for doubt.
"For example, when I think about the production of Modern Portraits, I feel confident in the product that we created because I know it’s something I care a lot about, and the other people that worked on it cared about it in the same way. So in a way, how can I fail?”
“It’s very easy to be caught up in the idea that’s there’s only enough space for so many people to achieve success in certain fields. What I really love about Jheyda McGarrell of Art Hoe Collective, [the photographer Dalbesio interviewed in the first episode of Modern Portraits] is she essentially believes there is space for everyone and everyone can make art, and be her friend.
"I think that Jheyda’s attitude is an amazing way to gain confidence because if you are looking at people from a competitive angle, rather than an inclusive angle, you are inviting doubt into your mind. But if you are instead asking, 'how do I join forces with these people?' you have more opportunities for success.”
Own your body's agency
“When I first started doing nude modeling, which I know is not for everybody, I did feel more confident ... It made it so I could see my body more as a tool in my creativity and less this thing I was fighting against.
"You can kind of pick the parts that you want to emphasize, or you can pick how you want to be presented or portrayed. I always find it strange when I meet someone and they say something about how doing nude photos, or anything like that, is anti-feminist. I don’t understand that because I always felt like body autonomy is one of the most important tenants of feminism.
"How is it anyone’s place to tell any other women what to do with her body? That never made sense to me.”
Try a mantra
“Picking up different mantras for different points in my life has been really important—it sounds super cheesy—but, for example, earlier this year I was going through a depression and I have this little marquee light-up sign … One day I changed it to something like: 'Everything is going to be OK.' And it sounds stupid but it made me feel so much better.
"Another example: I got a set of matching bracelets for my best friend and I, maybe five years ago, and they each say: 'You can get it.' So if I’m ever in a place where I feel like I need an extra push, I put that on and looking at it makes me feel good and gives me some confidence.
"If you let yourself get sucked into that hole of 'I’m stupid,' or 'I’ll never be good enough' then you’ll never make anything. Sometimes, you also just have to fake it until you make it, and 'lie' to yourself until you are feeling amazing.”
Pick positive team mates
“There are many things about modeling that are great, and I wake up every day and I feel so grateful that I get to do this job but it also wears on you, and the way that you think about yourself. No one would ever talk about a non-model like they do about a model’s body—it kind of removes your humanity.
"On set there are ways that hair stylists, or makeup artists, or photographers will touch you or deal with you, or talk about you, that are really dehumanizing and it’s really hard to deal with that after awhile. It took awhile to find the right team for me to work with.
"So much of the way we view ourselves in work is from what other people are telling you, and I learned that having the strength to cut ties with people who are not feeding you healthy information is really important.”
Focus on what you can control
“In anyone’s life there’s a lot that we can't control. In those times when we are feeling really helpless, it can be so beneficial to focus on the things that we do have under control and that we can exploit in a positive way, and it doesn’t even have to be something that furthers our career.
"Sometimes when I’ve been traveling a lot and I’ve start feeling out of touch—and even insecure—cooking something or being able to cook a meal for my friends, brings a whole level of security back to me. It’s something that I’m good at and it’s nurturing me, and nurturing the people that I care about. That's something that I do have control over because no matter what happens, I know how long it takes to cook an egg.”
The next episode of Myla Dalbesio’s Modern Potraits airs Sept. 12 on SuperDeluxe.
Words: Sophia Kercher
Photos: @MylaDalbesio/Bethany Mollenkof/Super Deluxe