Get to Know 2023 Swim Search Finalist Mahalia

The 31-year old model is an advocate for body inclusivity and diversity in fashion and media.


Hometown: Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Occupation: Model
Age: 31

Mahalia is a model originally from Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. She has modeled in Australia, London and America for the past 13 years. The 30-year-old is half Maori and Irish, first generation, and proud of her Indigenous roots. She cofounded the social activist group Shine4Diversity that challenged the Australian fashion media, highlighting stigmas that surround people of color through empowering imagery and storytelling. She has spoken on panels about her experience in the fashion industry, her polycystic ovary syndrome and body dysmorphic disorder. Mahalia went back to school in her mid-20s and graduated from Curtin University with a business degree and a specialization in communications and perspectives with Indigenous businesses.

Please list five fun facts about yourself.

  1. I’m on a mission to master cooking eggs in all their various forms.
  2. I know the rap by Kevin G from the Mean Girls movie by heart.
  3. I’ll always have an interesting crocodile fact to share—I even swam with one and survived to tell the tale.
  4. My go-to drink is an Old Fashioned. 

What inspired you to try out for SI Swim Search?

“I love what SI [Swimsuit] has been doing for individual women and their mental health through representation for many years now. I was inspired as I knew I had found a company that shared my same values and stood within a space that truly supports women and champions (wholeheartedly) those who have the courage to initiate change. SI [Swimsuit] has helped to prove time and time again how representation and individual women's stories matter, and to me that’s pretty bloody special.”

What would it mean to you to win SI Swim Search?

“It’s a little hard to contain all the emotions that would come from winning the SI [Swim] Search into one structured paragraph, so I think It’s easier to speak about what I know could happen....

I know it would give light to so many other women who see a part of me in themselves, be them Indigenous women, curvy women, women who are struggling against a system that does not believe their health concerns, first generation children, WOC, those who are battling disordered eating and body image concerns or just simply a girl who doesn’t know if she feels accepted but now can see she’s important enough to take up her space. They are me and I am them.

Maybe as I say this, I’m knowing that winning would provide a platform for many others, because I know what I deal with, is what others are also challenged with, and in that we are not only able to ALL find real community but also possibly have the chance to make an avalanche of mind-altering changes in this world. It’s clear to me that through these words, the expression of what winning could mean, I now know it would be life-changing and with a bit of luck and a company that has made huge strides in helping to challenge and change societal norms that real magic could happen for everyone, and that’s pretty damn revolutionary.”

What has been the best part (so far) about being a part of The Swimfluence Network community?

“The unwavering authentic support. Everybody on the app has been so kind and is 100% on your team. It’s really nice to log in, especially as a first-timer, and instantly feel like a part of the community.”

Who was the first person you told the good news to?

“My best friend followed very closely by my mum :)”

What is your favorite SI Swimsuit memory?

“I think every curve model can easily reference when Ashley Graham made her debut as it was such a huge moment for so many women worldwide but personally for me it was when a friend of mine, Veronica Pomee, worked with SI, It was the first time that I saw a Pacific Islander woman who looked like me own the space she was in. That moment was incredible, as I don’t feel many Pacific Islander or Indigenous people get to have the stage so it’s powerful when those moments do happen.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“Wow, so many things, like cutting shaggy bangs earlier and embracing those curls.... maybe invest in a little bit of bitcoin (don’t we all wish that, ha ha!).

But I think what I would really like to give advice about to my younger self is this: The fire you feel inside of you is best harnessed when you use your voice and talent to help change circumstances for others (and yourself). But overcontrolling scenarios and doubting that fire (that so many people told you to doubt and extinguish) will create a dis-harmony for yourself. Younger me sought balance, but older me seeks harmony and that’s a huge lesson of letting go of the control that we need. Lastly, I would also say to never stop challenging yourself in taking up space through your career, voice and talent. Through this you will help to not only understand yourself and the vast capabilities that are available in this life but hopefully also alter others’ perspectives and lives for the better. It’s a magical thing, baby.”

What changes would you like to see in the world?

“It’s safe to say there are a lot of changes I would like to see in this world. However, at the forefront of my concentration, lay these:

  • Better funding, education and access for information and resources on women’s menstrual health and their menstrual cycle
  • Further support, research and policy reconstruction surrounding polycystic ovary syndrome in each (world) government’s sectors
  • More Indigenous and POC integration and representation (especially those whom are diverse), including but not limited with, the modeling industry and media industry, internally within business teams and placing in fair ratio senior positions, and Indigenous people working as a standard with government bodies in coordination with policy and law surrounding land rights, environmental policy, education and health.”

SI Staff