Speakers at the Tory Burch Foundation’s Embrace Ambition Summit on Tuesday ranged from politicians and entrepreneurs to athletes and activists, but naturally, fashion was represented as well, toward the end of the program, when the personality-rich model Dilone appeared to address the stereotypes she has faced in her career.
Although people often presume because of her Dominican heritage that she’s a poor girl imported to the runways, she was born in New York and raised on Long Island among a family of 10 siblings. She studied dance and now coaches students through the Urban Dove program. After her panel, Dilone sat down with InStyle for an exclusive Q&A on the subject of ambition:
Where did you get your ambition?
I don’t think it was a specific person, but a what, which was chasing after dreams. I’m a first-generation New Yorker. My family moved here from the Dominican Republic, uprooted themselves to have a better life for their children without any guarantee for a better life. So the idea of reaching for more, and not settling for what you’ve been given, has always been a big inspiration for me. At the end of the day, happiness is my motivator.
What was the first moment when you realized you could actually achieve your dreams?
Dancing. I remember when I got my first backbend – that was a huge achievement for me. And graduating high school.
What was your first big success as a model?
I booked the Marc Jacobs campaign the day after I signed with my agency [DNA Model Management]. And Versace was the first big deal for me. It was something I always imagined doing – I’m the tallest one in my family so the idea of being a model was not foreign to me. I was really dorky, but I did find comfort in it because I saw other people who looked like me, who embraced their weirdness and height, so I wanted to follow through with that. I don’t want to say I never in my wildest dreams imagined this, because I did.
What are your next ambitions?
I’ve always wanted to be a film writer, so I’m going to start making some films. I’m pursuing acting right now, so I’m taking classes. I feel like I’ve achieved so much in modeling and I’m not even at my peak. I’m just enjoying the ride. I want to go to Paris for a bit and explore more as well.
What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t been able to express ambition so easily?
We practice dissing ourselves all the time. We’ve done it since we can remember. It’s practice. So in the same way that we practice dissing ourselves, we need to practice loving ourselves. Every time you hear that negative thought, you have to tell yourself it’s not true. Something I really enjoy doing is looking in the mirror and dancing and telling myself I feel beautiful. I used to be really insecure about my hands, so instead, I say I have really artistic hands, and now I’m using to learn how to play the guitar.