By rights, after three and a half weeks on the road for fashion month, 24-year old Dilone’s energy levels should be non-existent. But when she strides into her model agency’s Paris office between shows, clad head to toe in black leather and flawless, from her newly peroxided crop down to her Celine cowboy boots, she’s not just the epitome of that much-idolized model-off-duty cool, she’s positively humming with positivity and enthusiasm.
Dilone (pronounced dill-own) is, in fact, her surname – she was born Janiece, but the number of people who call her by her first name at this point are few and far between. “My family mostly, my girlfriend, and I have some good friends who are models who knew me when I first started [my career] that call me Janiece,” the model says. “I love it… It feels like home, you know, it gets my attention in a different way.” The daughter of Dominican Republican immigrants, the model grew up in Long Island, New York, number eight in a line-up of ten siblings – they have a WhatsApp group that’s constantly dinging. “I talk to my mom every single day,” she says. “I love her so much. My parents are both so hard-working and I’m so grateful for them because I have such a great work ethic because of them.”
Always the tallest person in her class at school, Dilone gave modeling a try when she was 18 at the suggestion of her cousin, but her career was a slow burn for the first few years. She was dropped by her first agency after she stopped straightening her naturally curly hair, and it took her 18 months to work up the confidence to approach another one. But just one day after her current agency signed her, she was shooting a campaign for Marc Jacobs before being flown to London by stylist Katie Grand, and she’s barely stopped working since. She’s part of a new wave of models cast not just for their next-level beauty, but also their individuality and personality. And with Dilone that means a Tigger-like positivity: she throws herself wholeheartedly into everything she does, milking every experience and opportunity for all it’s worth. The picture of her taken for this shoot, having the time of her life just as she’s jumped onto the back of a motorbike for the first time ever in the middle of a market in Morocco? That pretty neatly sums her up.
“Bella [Hadid] said to me, ‘When we started THREE years ago we both came in with such high energy and then we had our DEPRESSED state.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, was it actually OBVIOUS?’”
That’s not to say, though, that she’s always found it easy navigating her way through the industry. “You know Bella [Hadid] said to me, ‘It’s so crazy, Dilone, because when we started three years ago we both came in with such high energy and then we had our depressed state,’” she says. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God, was it actually obvious?’ Because there was a second where I was like, okay, I’m really trying to please way too many people in this industry. You start off and you think you can work with every client, you can do everything, but you’re not going to appeal to everyone. And that kind of shattered my confidence for a little bit.”
She made a conscious decision to take better care of herself, taking up yoga, meditating every day and making sure that modeling wasn’t her whole world. “Starting to meditate is the best advice I could give anybody; I carry this blissfulness inside me now,” she says. “I’m not saying that I’m always so happy and so sunshiny, but it’s more real. And it’s more authentic. I won’t push myself to be ecstatic if I’m not feeling that way.” She even likes to travel prepared. “I bring my yoga mat and my carry-on suitcase is filled with the largest crystals you can think of,” she laughs. “Candles, incense, palo santo, yoga mat, yoga blocks… You don’t know what the vibe’s gonna be like where you’re staying. I have to make it like my own home.”
Like most women in their early twenties, Dilone is still working out who she is and who she wants to be, which means she has a mixed relationship with Instagram right now and she’s just deleted vast swathes of her back catalogue, leaving fewer than 30 pictures on her profile. “I’m having a hard time showing the way I want to be perceived,” she says thoughtfully. “A lot of the old photos I didn’t relate to any more, I didn’t connect with, especially with my curly hair because it’s not me anymore. I’m changing literally every day so I don’t know how to sell myself at the moment. Especially knowing that with social media and with the Internet, you post something and it lasts forever. There’s a lot of responsibility in that. I found myself getting very political and LGBTQI on there and yes, I’m queer, I’m gay, I have a girlfriend – I’m bisexual, actually – but I don’t want that to be the topic of my discussion. I don’t want that to be why everyone interviews me or how people define me.”
“I’m queer, I’m gay, I have a girlfriend – I’m BISEXUAL, actually – but I don’t want that to be the TOPIC of my discussion. I don’t want that to be how people DEFINE me”
Her current introspection and self-improvement drive are also part of the reason she’s slightly baffled by the following that she has as a street-style star; her androgynous, understated-meets-experimental approach to getting dressed ensures that she’s constantly getting photographed between shows.
“It’s so weird,” she says, practically folding in on herself with awkwardness. “I don’t know, it’s cool, I guess, it’s really cool, but I don’t really care about it. I’m grateful for the support and the following that I have, but my style is changing all the time and I just wear what I want to wear. When you catch me walking round in Bushwick [in Brooklyn], I’m wearing flip-flops and sweats. I used to be really focused on my outer appearance and I’m fortunate that [because of my job] my wardrobe is filled with great clothes, so it’s really easy to look like this, but it’s not where my attention is right now. I’m less focused on clothes and more about things that are going to feed my soul.”
That means playing the guitar, drawing, writing and, because she danced all through her school years, she now teaches dance to a group of teenagers in Brooklyn, at the non-profit Urban Dove Charter School. She’s taking acting lessons, too, and she’d like to open a foster home one day as well as writing books or film scripts. It’s easy to believe, given her drive, that she’ll do it all, but she’s trying to harness all that enthusiasm in the process.
“I hear your frontal lobe is fully developed at 25,” she grins. “Apparently, it’s in charge of the decision-making and you won’t be so impulsive, which is totally my character. So I’m really excited for that.” All that energy and well-honed intuition? She’s a force to be reckoned with.
The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.