Earlier this summer SI Swimsuit model Myla Dalbesio approached our editorial team with the idea of producing a candid series of photographs and interviews with her model peers (as well as herself), all to be done virtually. Here, Myla interviews Hunter McGrady on self reflection during this time of pause and uncertainty. Hunter shares her perspective and on the fashion industry as well as how she experienced personal growth while breaking boundaries.
What have you learned about yourself during quarantine?
I think the biggest takeaway from quarantine was that I felt as if the entire world reset, myself included. I think this was something I personally needed. I found myself being so easily caught up with the small things that have now proven to be mundane. I was able to really take this time to rewire the way I think about things and what I put value and energy in.
When you feel upset, what are things you do to comfort yourself? How do you find your calm?
Lately I have been doing Insight Timer which is a meditation app. It's something that I have been leaning heavily on as of late. Typically I feel like I have to be “go, go, go” and the reality is that I end up forgetting about my sanity and mental health when I do that. So even 20 minutes of my day to myself uninterrupted is so beautiful and nourishing.
Tell us about a moment of struggle in your life, and how overcoming it has affected who you are today.
I don’t know if it is necessarily a moment as it is an ongoing struggle. My mental health, in terms of anxiety and depression, is something that I have always dealt with. But only in the last couple of years have I spoken on it. I found that speaking about my personal struggles (that are actually so normal) is really helpful. I don't feel so alone anymore when I talk about these things, which in turn allows the conversation to be had. I have now worked with the JED foundation (a non-profit focused on protecting emotional health and preventing suicide in teens and young adults) for a couple years and it has truly developed a side of me that I didn’t know I had. I’m able to be vocal about issues that I once thought were a hindrance.
What are the best lessons you learned from your parents/family?
My parents are both Christians and have always raised me with the belief that God has a plan for me. This is something I have kept with me and honed in on more so in my pivotal teenage years. My mom also has always told me, "Kill with kindness.” This is something I have to use daily as, being in the modeling industry, I’m dealt a hefty hand of keyboard warriors who leave the nasty comments. I have learned to kill with kindness and not give them any more ammunition.
Is there a rule you live by?
What is meant to be, will be. I find this to be an extraordinarily calming rule. It seems cliche, but it's the way that I have run my entire life! As someone with severe anxiety, this is the biggest way to get through it. When I was younger I would always think 10 steps ahead and try to have control and if it didn’t go my way, I would find myself extremely disappointed. Once I really grasped this rule, I was able to be free of those shackles.
What is your horoscope sign, and do you feel like you embody that? Why?
I am a Taurus. I never really paid too much attention to horoscopes, however they say people born under the sign of Taurus are practical and ambitious and I would say I definitely take on those characteristics!
What are you the most afraid of?
Hurting people. I hate the feeling of when you have wronged someone or hurt them deeply. I would rather take the hit myself or take the blame myself. However, I do think this is a downfall of mine as well as I am an extreme empath.
What is one thing you really love about yourself?
I really genuinely love the way I can make people feel. The best compliment I could ever receive is that I made someone feel good about themselves.
What’s your biggest vice?
I love to lay in bed and watch Friends! I’ve watched it almost every single day for the last 15 years. I once read that people with anxiety re-watch shows like Friends or The Office because they know what is going to happen next, so they don't have to wonder and it is lighthearted. They know the outcome is going to be digestible.
If you could change something about yourself, what would you choose?
I sometimes wish I wasn’t so sensitive. I cry at the drop of a hat if something touches me in even the slightest. I'm pretty sure my husband has seen me cry at least twice a week since we have been married, if not more.
Choose a rose and thorn (the best thing and the worst thing) from your modeling career.
My rose would definitely be shooting Sports Illustrated Swimsuit in 2017 because this was the catalyst to my current career. I didn’t quite know going into it how my life would change so drastically, but it did. Ever since then I feel as if I’ve been on a really beautiful roller coaster and there are twists and turns that I don't see coming. My thorn would have to be getting turned away from agencies and cut out from a very big campaign. I will never forget shooting for a well-known plus size retailer and getting so excited to be featured on their billboards and signage, only to bring myself to one of their stores to see I was the only model cut out. That was a special kind of feeling that I will never forget; I went home and cried and messaged my agent asking why, to which I never got my answer. I still wonder why!
What, if anything, do you think needs to change in the fashion industry?
I think the biggest thing I would like to see change in the fashion industry is inclusivity. I’m talking about true inclusivity!! Across the board, bigger sizes, larger models, different races, short, tall, able or disabled, all genders or non binary, type of inclusivity. I found that over the last couple of years the fashion industry has taken this word and flipped it to be a means of getting people to buy their product without actually doing the work. I will never forget seeing a plus size friend of mine on a billboard for a brand that did not carry her size. I think we have to continue to swing the pendulum; there cannot just be “one” to do it. It can’t be one model, one brand, one magazine, one show, one billboard, one movie. It must be a universal across the board, lifelong change. I don't think we are there yet! I believe we are still in baby stages, pleading to grow.
What is your intention?
My intention behind everything I do is to bring joy and for people to be heard. When I was 16, I heard Oprah Winfrey say that she has interviewed everybody from the poorest of the poor to sheiks to movie stars and they all had one common denominator: They wanted to be heard. This stuck to my gut and is something that plays in my head daily.
What do you think is the driving force in your life?
With everything I do I always have my future children or grandchildren in mind. I love the quote by Eliezer Yudkowsky: “You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” I don't find the way I grew up was bad; however, I believe society could have been better. Everything I do, big or small, I think about the future of children and how they will experience things much differently than we did and are experiencing them now. I want to be the change that I want them to see.