Mahalia Handley on modelling, confidence & wearing what you stand for.

Having graced Vogue Italia & being a strong advocate for body positivity and inclusivity across gender & races, Mahalia Handley is a powerhouse in the fashion industry.

We worked with Mahalia in shooting our Summer 18/19 collection, and sat down to talk to her about her career journey so far, her goals for the future & her thoughts on wearing clothes that make an impact. 

Give us a brief overview of your modelling career!

I started modelling when I was 18, however where I grew up there isn't much availability to grow a career as a model so I moved to Sydney when I was 19. I met my now agency who at first rejected me (as I had no experience and minimal photos in my portfolio), so I sourced a lot of my own work for a year - really grinding hard out there. Eventually I met the owner of Chadwicks models at a runway event who encouraged me to reach back out to my agency who I'm now signed with and have been for the past 6 years. I moved to London alone when I was 22 to further develop myself and meet my UK agency - who has really helped me in building myself as a model and social influencer.

Now, I live in between Australia and London and jump from country to country each season. I started modelling because I could never see anybody in the media who looked like me - an ethnic girl with curves. I knew that if I couldn't see it, then I had to become it and my career has only built upwards from that, encouraging women to love their bodies and for women of colour to feel represented and appreciated in main stream media. Social media has been a platform for me to be able to speak my truth and thoughts and to directly speak to women.

Any tips & tricks to self confidence?

I guess one of my quick tips is on a day that you need a bit of extra kick, is to always wear matching sexy lingerie underneath your outfit - not for anyone else, just for you to feel special.

I would say though that self confidence is a journey - it's repetition of belief in self, self nurturing, exercising for release of natural endorphins and affirmations each day. Sometimes on days I'm not feeling very self confident, I do personal things like swimming in the ocean or eating a Laksa to nourish a part of me that needs comfort. Self confidence is about balance. 

 

What is your heritage, and what does it mean to you? Does your heritage ever translate to your outfits and style? 

I'm part Maori and part Irish but I was born and raised in Australia. I heavily relate to each part of my ethnic background but foremost I'm Australian, I grew up in the Northern Territory and lived a very different and blissful life which has formed a lot of who I am today. I would definitely say my outfits still centre around the culture in Darwin, bright colours and comfort - growing up in that sort of heat you tend to dress in fabrics that give you comfort. I do love the colour green and I guess people could relate that back to being Irish, but I feel like I wear my ethnicities as an invisible superman suit. I'm very proud to be half Indigenous and half European and many times it is ancestory power that guides me with strength and stamina to carry on through the harsh realities of the fashion industry.  

Do you believe the garments you wear can make a large impact?

Aboriginal Art is powerful and beautiful, the artists spend days if not weeks completing pieces. I'm honestly so surprised that it isn't integrated into more Australian fashion. Why more companies haven't harnessed the beauty of Australian heritage & the unique designs, I don't know. Many countries are recognised for a direct link between their fabrics and artists or USP (unique selling points; silk, wool etc) and as we have seen so many times with pop art, and more recently with legendary artists like Monet - their work has been integrated into fashion and sold for high profits.

I believe the garments I wear make an impact to womens lives; whether it's them seeing me wear something they feel would look good on them, or if they love the colour of look. We have an ability by the way we dress to explain who we are - so if we could make a statement and wear what we support and are about, why wouldn't you take a chance to showcase it?!

I started modelling because I could never see anybody in the media who looked like me - an ethnic girl with curves.

If you had the power to change one big thing in the world, what would you change?

I don't know if I could just answer with one big thing, it would probably be a combo! I'd like to change people's perceptions about Global Warming and save this planet from the destruction we are slowly doing to it. I'd also like to erase racism, and to no longer be seen for the colour of our skins, but for the content of our characters. I'd also love to settle female equality through changing everyones mindsets through education and experience.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

In 5 years? I have so much I want to achieve in 5 years haha! It's hard to put down into words honestly - I guess I would like to be living in Bali and flying in and out for work after living abroad and travelling a lot for modelling (and working with inspiring brands)! I would like to work with women directly about body image and the world with race, educating and raising awareness globally for the lack of inclusion. I'd love to do a Ted talk and work directly with womens shelters. If I had time I'd like to volunteer with Sea Shepherd and be running my own fashion line. I should hopefully have finished my degree (although it really is dragging out...), and have taken my parents abroad to Egypt and Tokyo. I hope in 5 years I have seen the Aurora lights. Most of all though, I just hope that I have been able to grow and give my all in my career and life, whilst helping others out there. I really hope to know that in 5 years I helped pave a path of change. 

 

You can follow Mahalia on Instagram at @mahaliafromaustralia.


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