My Role Model: Radiant Tali
September 2, 2010
What makes us beautiful is our ability to trust our own voices, be true to ourselves and radiate beauty through our actions. This is the mantra told by my client, Tali Giat, who shares her story of learning to believe in herself in our latest My Role Model feature. Many of you might remember Tali from FOX’s More To Love TV show; her authenticity, compassion and charisma captured and inspired so many of us, including me. As a woman whose voice touched me, it was personally thrilling to connect with her only a month ago. It is now a true privilege to serve as her modeling agent.
At 5’4 and size 12, Tali statistically represents the average North American woman; but it is her confidence, kindness and honestly that allows her to represent our true definition of beauty. Her story of learning, challenging and re-defining beauty gives me the strength to always dare to be me and to celebrate my own unique beauty. Even more, it gives me confidence that the fashion industry will continue to change and represent diverse images of beauty because Tali is here to share herself and her message.
So after you read her message, answer this question: How will you Be The Change and help shift the singular beauty ideal? We can do it – but only together!
Growing up I always admired beautiful things. Not in a material kind of way, but in the way they captured my eye; interior spaces, a piece of art, dinner table setting, clothes on windows’ mannequins or how they moved on the body, people’s faces, nature, colors, sounds. None really had to be organically perfect, however the way each was put together in presentation was what appealed to me. I have always sought harmony and balance in the esthetics of everything.
Like many young girls, I was fascinated and mesmerized by beauty ads and TV commercials featuring models and celebrities. I believed idealized these images and was fascinated by the people in them – even though I didn’t even know who they were. But one thing I knew for sure, I would have given my all to look like one of them, even for a day.
Disappointed and defeated by my inability to magically transform my appearance to resemble these perfect people in the magazines, my insecure seven year old self convinced herself that there must be a special day each year when these people are all born; a day when God is in His best mood, and He decides to create His best-looking masterpieces.
Growing up in Israel, the oldest of six children, I didn’t feel a connection to an inspiring role model in my life. I was surrounded with love but I didn’t have someone to push me to find my own identity or encourage me to follow my passions, goals and dreams. Rather, I was often told I should stop fantasizing about places and things that only “great people” could achieve. I was told that I was average and will always be this way (little did I know, but one day being “average” would be my greatest asset.)
Whether it was for my weight, overall appearance, personality or what I had to say – I continuously felt underestimated and brought down. No matter what I did or who I was, it was never enough. I could go on by telling the many stories of how I was always the chubby girl at school, how I battled my weight throughout the years, how I was teased and looked at strangely, how I never fit in. But this would be a story you’ve all heard so many times before, in one version or another.
I graduated high school and then enlisted and served my country with pride for two and a half years in the military. As the oldest of the siblings, as a daughter, a friend, and a soldier – I felt I was fighting everyone else’s fight but my own. For twenty-three years, I did everything to please everyone else, thinking maybe it would make me feel worthier, prettier, better, more deserving.
Years of self doubt, constant questioning and confusion had brought me to a very low point in life. I felt worthless, unappreciated, invisible, a complete outsider. I couldn’t believe there was nothing that I was meant to be or do in this life; it was only one thing that kept a glimpse of confidence in me. I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted more for me without feeling guilty.
But in order to get over my hurdles, I soon realized I had only two choices. I could choose to be the Victim or the Creator of my own journey, dwelling on my life’s circumstances or writing my own destination. Deep down my heart kept whispering one clear message: “Don’t ask. Don’t question. Don’t wonder. Just GO!” And so I did.
I did something no one who knew me thought I would ever do. I packed up my insecurities, my questionable pride and my intimidating fears (and some clothes too!) and boarded a plane to the land of opportunity. Twenty-six hours later, I had landed in the USA, with two suitcases, a fifty dollar bill, a little overwhelmed and a lot confused. I thought “Have I just listened to my own voice for the first time, and without thinking twice, actually allowed it to lead me across the world?”
Now years later, I am still thanking this voice inside. For speaking so loud in my head, and making my stomach crumble, for pushing me to BE the change I so wanted and needed in my life. I now recognize the voice as God speaking through my inner spirit. This journey has taken me to the most empowering ups, as well as to the most challenging downs. But most of all, it has led me in ways where the biggest blessings were brought to me through the incredible people I met along the way. These people have taught me strength, faith, courage, belief, the power of one’s own will and the courage to let go and let God.
It was in winter of 2007 that I had faced difficulties paying for my college education, and my aunt and uncle sat me down and suggested I should perhaps try modeling. I looked at them in disbelief and incredible doubt. I had hated taking pictures, even family photos. Nevertheless, just two months later my best friend had heard an advertisement on the radio about a local talent and modeling casting in Denver. I took a leap of faith and with zero expectations I attended the casting call. Soon enough I passed the first audition and was invited to meet with top agents in a weekend long event in Kansas City. It was now spring of 2008 and I was discovered by a modeling agent from NYC, and a Hollywood casting director out of Los Angeles; both attended the event. My modeling career was born.
In the first year not much of significance had yet developed in my career. I learned a lot about how strict, harsh and often narrow minded the industry can be. Winter of 2009 was when I decided to take another big risk. At that point in my life I was already so determined and passionate, and I didn’t care as much about what people thought of me.
I packed and moved from Denver to NYC by myself, four years after starting my journey to the US. It seemed at the time as if I was back again in the place where I started; a new place, two suitcases, less then $100, some old insecurities, and lots of worries. I was hitting the pavement with go-sees, working overtime; doing everything I could possibly do to use the opportunities I was presented with, and creating new ones from the obstacles and challenges. In the spring of the same year, I replied to another casting call, this time for a new reality dating show that for the first time aimed to depict people of normal-size on national TV. I got the gig and was quite proud to be a part of something that had such an incredible potential to make a change.
Since becoming a finalist (well the ‘winner’, but really what does that mean?) of the Fox Network show, my dreams and goals, my passion and purpose in life have become clearer then ever. Modeling is my way of speaking up; I have grown to learn that beauty has no single definition, form, time or mathematical equation. It is simply an interpretation to the reflection of one’s own existence, through many different eyes. There is no one-way to be.
Today, I strive to show young ladies their beauty in a different light by explaining that the chase after perfection is a no-win race. Such a destination doesn’t exist. It is an illusion. I encourage them to look in the mirror and be the champion of their own uniqueness. My main goal through modeling is to challenge the beauty ideal by breaking the standards of that the industry can perpetuate to maintain as status quo. Using your voice is all that is needed to make a change. And I choose to use mine.
Through entertainment, media, fashion and marketing, I aspire to challenge the beauty ideal by simply promoting the message that the word “ideal” shouldn’t even be in association with the term “beauty.” Creativity, fashion, style and beauty are not limited by a cookie-cutter form. The impossible is what nobody can do, until somebody does. Coming to know and work with Ben Barry and his agency has been a blessing. Our values are well matched and I have endless respect and admiration for what Ben has accomplished in moving boundaries and open minds in beauty, fashion, and life.