Myla Dalbesio is bound to turn heads with her pics in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. The model has been chosen as one of this year’s seven SI swimsuit rookie’s, and shared the announcement on her Instagram on January 31 with a post that read, “And now a break from my regularly scheduled political griping to share with you the exciting news that I’ve been included as a rookie for this years issue of @si_swimsuit! This has been a goal of mine for a decade, and I am so proud to have gotten here.”
Read to learn more about Myla Dalbesio.
1. She Was Calvin Klein’s First Plus-Sized Model
Dalbesio rose to fame as the face of Calvin Klein– she was the brand’s first-ever plus sized model. In an interview with Elle in 2014, Dalbesio discussed what it felt like to book Calvin Klein’s “Perfectly Fit” gig, and what modeling means to her. Elle notes that Dalbesio is a size 10, and reports her as saying, “It’s kind of confusing because I’m a bigger girl… I’m not the biggest girl on the market but I’m definitely bigger than all the girls [Calvin Klein] has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating.”
Clavin Klein did not make any distinction between Dalbesio and the other models featured in their issue. Dalbesio tells Elle, “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else… It’s not a separate section for plus size girls.”
The model describes herself as being in the “middle”– not quite small enough to be with the “skinny girls” but “not large enough to be with the large girls.” She said that Calvin Klein is a triumph and she didn’t have to label herself as a certain kind of model to book the job. “This [campaign] was such a great feeling”, she says.
2. She Is a Women’s Rights Activist
Dalbesio has said on more than one occasion that she hopes to use her platform to make women feel good about their bodies. The women’s rights activist encourages women of all shapes and sizes to take pride in their bodies, and what they were born with. She tells Fox, “Being outspoken about women’s issues is kind of a new thing, specifically when it comes to models that are working within the public sphere,… It feels very exposing, I have to say.”
Dalbesio explains that she struggled with her own body image for a while, but she’s come to accept it, and is “in a place where I feel stronger than ever…when I’m using myself in its truest and purest form as a tool, it feels so empowering.”
3. Her Mother Passed Away From Breast Cancer
Dalbesio’s mother battled breast cancer for five years when she was younger before passing away. Fox News reports her as saying, “Even though I watched her pass away, I saw how strong she was during her fight… I remember her as very loving, as very supportive, and as a very strong woman who was there for us in every way I could imagine.”
4. She Is a Photographer and Visual Artist
On top of working as a model, Dalbesio is an accomplished photographer and visual artist. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and she has written two books about art. The first is titled Born Rich, and was released in 2013. The second, Studies of Ecstasy, was published in 2015.
Dalbesio’s website describes her as an “American multi-disciplinary visual and performance artist.” The SI rookie studied Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her “work is greatly influenced by the examination of traditional and sexual femininity, mystical nature, and the place where the two meet.”
In 2016, she curated an all-female art show in New York City titled You Can Call Me Baby. The work was extremely well-received by critics, and earned praise in New York Magazine’s Vulture.
5. She’s 30-Years-Old and Former Miss Teen Wisconsin
Dalbesio got into modeling at age 16, after winning Miss Teen Wisconsin. Her sister entered her in the beauty pageant, and it was the start to what has been a very successful career. Dalbesio explains to Fashoinista that after being named Miss Teen Wisconsin, she was scouted out by Karlie Kloss and Ashton Kutcher. “They tried for a long time to put me into the straight size world. They would do these model calls with reps from agencies flown in from New York and the girls would sit down with these agents and everyone I sat down with said ‘Well you’re great but could you lose like 15 pounds?’ The guy from IMG was like “I love you, I’d sign you right now but can you drop a size?'”
Dalbesio says that she tried for ages to do just that. “I tried throwing up after I ate and that’s awful. That is painful–I would never wish for anyone to do that ever. And then I’d go through weeks where all I ate was black olives or pickles because they have no calories and nothing was happening. I wasn’t losing weight, I was spending hours in the gym.” After taking a couple years off from modeling, she learned about the world of plus-size modeling, and decided to give it a go once again.