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Myla Dalbesio: A Model Who Makes a Stand With Feminist Art

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By JOHN ORTVED
Myla Dalbesio

Age 30


Hometown Racine, Wis.

Now Lives In a one-bedroom garden apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with her boyfriend and dog.

Claim to Fame Ms. Dalbesio is a “fuller-figured” model and contemporary artist who has gained fans with her feminist take on self-expression, whether posing in a Calvin Klein underwear campaign, shooting a self-portrait for Playboy, performing nearly naked in the Chelsea Art Walk, or curating a critically acclaimed all-female show at the 2016 Spring/Break art fair. “I was pushing myself in the gallery scene, and then I just had such negative experiences with men — along the lines of sexual harassment,” she said. “So I stepped away and just decided to focus on my work.”

Big Break At age 16, she was discovered by Mary and Jeff Clarke (the team who discovered Karlie Kloss and Ashton Kutcher) at a Teen Miss Wisconsin pageant. “My oldest sister entered me in the pageant unbeknownst to me, and though I was a purple-haired wannabe punk at the time, I dyed my hair back to brown and went along with it.”

Latest Project She recently appeared in Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue. The topless photo was accompanied by an essay by Ms. Dalbesio, reconciling her feminism with being a model. “I always say that body autonomy is one of the pillars of feminism,” she said. “Who’s going to tell me what I’m going to do with my body?”

Next Thing Ms. Delbasio is developing a talk show on Super Deluxe, a youth-oriented entertainment company owned by Turner Broadcasting System, where she will investigate the creative processes of (mostly) female artists, activists and trailblazers. Possible subjects include Chelsea VonChaz, a founder of Happy Period, which distributes menstrual hygiene kits to homeless women.

No Calvin Clone When Ms. Delbasio, who is a size 10, appeared in the Calvin Klein ads in 2014, it prompted some controversy over what the fashion industry considers plus-size. “When I started, there was no space within the agencies for any girl my size, unless you would go to the plus-size board,” she said. “It’s often very skinny girls and then plus-size girls and there’s no in-between. That has changed a lot. I hope I played a part in that.”

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