Growing up, Mahalia Handley could not see any models in Australia that looked like her – so she decided to become one herself. “As a 13-year-old girl you’re extremely impressionable and you just want to feel like you’re a part of something,” she says. “There is no way I felt included.” Of mixed Maori and Irish heritage, Mahalia is not only killing it in her career here and overseas, but has become active in speaking out about diversity and actioning change.
“Diversity in Australia is very far behind, but we are getting there,”
she explains. “We need to really make sure that the message of inclusion is there, because if it is not there, people lash out, they understand that they are not accepted in a way.”
With more than 30,000 Instagram followers, Mahalia uses her fanbase for good, leveraging off her online presence to spread body-positive messages and spark conversations. She even created a self-funded campaign to promote diversity in Australian media, where ten young women talked about their experiences.
QUESTIONS WITH MAHALIA
How do you feel you fit in so-to-speak now, compared to when you were younger?
I feel like I fit in because I don’t fit in! That’s the thing – there are so many people who are the underdog or the outcast . Find your circle – be open, honest, direct, and stay weird. Be yourself & you will fit in – because if you don’t you are going to find yourself in so many places that you’re not supposed to be in, with people who don’t understand you and won’t take on board everything you’re saying and you can’t creatively move with the universe.
What do you think are some of the biggest issues impacting young Australian women today?
In my circle I definitely think diversity and racism would be a big thing that we see the effects of everyday. Education is another one, I think Australia needs to take different approaches on teaching the youth about other things than math – we need to talk to them about life skills. I didn’t know anything about tax until after I graduated, for example. The environment is obviously a massive issue too. Education, environment and diversity are all important key issues to me.
Can you tell me a bit about how you came to practice self-care and what you do to honour and love yourself?
Self-care to me is about exercising for the endorphins, spending time reading because that’s when I learn the most, and then saying positive affirmations to myself. Affirmations are important because you are reiterating the message to yourself that it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling. I have a whole heap of cards that I have next to my bed which I read out every single day and I change them on rotation once I feel like I have made a calm with myself from it.