Early November 2014, this woman made a huge stir online and on many other discussion forums. She is Myla Dalbesio, a model who was the first ever “plus size” model to appear in a Calvin Klein campaign. There was a lot of conflicting reactions to her appointment, because at a size 10, she is considered average in the real world, not plus size. But in the fashion industry it is a whole different ball game.
Many women were upset that an average sized woman was being heralded on such a public pedestal as a hero for representing bigger women for a major fashion brand, when in reality she more likely represents a majority consumer base, than a niche.
For Myla, the biggest pro that came out of this situation was not just her new found viral fame which will no doubt snowball into many other opportunities for this beauty, but it also shed light on a size category which is largely overlooked in fashion: the “in-between” size.
Up front we have to say how much size categories do no one and no woman’s body any favors. The only people that benefit from body segregation are brands and companies who want to better target their marketing. Nevertheless, we can always turn a seemingly negative situation into an opportunity to shed light on an issue that is still mostly undiscovered ground.
In a new interview with Elle magazine, Myla reflects on how the Calvin Klein gig enabled her to add her voice to the discussion about women’s bodies in fashion.
“As a model who happens to be a size 10, Calvin Klein didn’t say ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction,” she said.
“I feel like I have a greater responsibility to women than I did before,” she says after saying she wasn’t expecting the reaction or the impact that her image would make. But receiving emails such as one from a female who wrote to her saying after seeing her in the CK ad she “no longer felt fat” Myla knew she was onto a good thing.
“The feedback I’ve gotten from people has been very inspiring and given me a lot to consider. As a model you get a general and vague idea of the impact the fashion industry—and thus, you—have on consumers, but it seems very removed and foreign from your everyday life,” she said.
“To get emails and comments from women telling me their own personal stories regarding body image puts things into a new perspective. The cause and effect becomes more tangible, and it gives me a greater feeling of responsibility when it comes to my job and the choices I make.”
One of the things she shared with Elle was her disdain for labels and categories and how they can often do more damage than good when it comes to women and body image, even for other models like her.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that, in general, none of us want to be labeled at all. We don’t want there to be distinctions and precursors for everyone based on something as arbitrary as the number on the tag of our jeans. Plus size, straight size, in-betweenies. It all sounds so ridiculous.”
“We just want to be models, without any qualifier, and we want to be booked for who we are, as individual personalities and bodies and people. Just as all women want to be looked at as a whole human being, outside of numbers on a scale or ticks on a measuring tape. Categorizing and labeling in this way is harmful to everyone, in and outside of the fashion world.”
But now that she has had an experience has given her direct insight into what consumers think and feel when they see diverse bodies like her representing the masses, Myla wants to continue speaking about it.
“I think it’s great that I can give women of an underrepresented size range a voice, but I want to be known for more than my size. I want all women to know, regardless of size, shape, color, whatever, that they are powerful beings. You own your beauty; your body is what you make of it. You can, and should, celebrate it, regardless of whatever size society tells you it’s supposed to be.”
Like many other successful plus size and in-between sized models, Myla came to a place of body acceptance once she stopped trying to fit the mold and love her body the way it was.
“When I stopped the weird diets and essentially rejected what everyone was telling me to do with my body and my life, my whole world changed. I began to respect myself in a different way and to demand that same respect from the people around me. I became a whole person again, which made it easier to figure out what I wanted from life and take on the challenges involved in getting there. I am more than a measurement and I want people to know that.”
It’s a familiar story line. Not the overnight viral success as part of a major fashion campaign, but the notion that being happy with the way you are and refusing to change to please others is a great way to find success in whatever you do.