Wednesday 24th July

| BY Dino Bonacic

Models Doing More: Dilone Is Working With Urban Dove, A NYC-based At-Risk Youth Development Programme

This is 2019. Being a model isn’t just about looking your finest in images and having the best hip sway on the catwalk. Boys and girls who front campaigns are using their public platforms to make a change in the industry and the world as a whole. That’s why we decided to spotlight some of the trailblazers in the modelling world. Next up – it’s Dilone, the new-generation supermodel who usess her love of sports to better the lives of at-risk New York youth.

Equally known for her contagious smile and her sharp, brooding looks on the catwalk, Dilone is one of those models whose face you will recognise from afar. The short curly do has been part of her signature from the beginning of her career, as is that incredible personality that radiates even in the most serious environments. She’s probably one of the only models that has walked for both Victoria’s Secret and Comme des Garçons – just another clue on how eclectic, but powerful her look is. I mean, she doesn’t even need a last name. The positive attitude Dilone oozes makes her the ideal person to choose for presenting one’s creative ideas. That’s also why she makes the perfect ambassador of a non-profit organisation making this world a better place. “Urban Dove take at-risk youth, those at-risk of dropping out of high school, and help them get back on track through sports-based development,” Dilone tells me over the phone. She is calling from New York, her home and the home of Urban Dove. Originally launched by Jai Nanda as an after-school programme in 1998, the founder soon realised there isn’t much point in an after-school programme when the students aren’t in school to begin with. As a basketball coach, he pitched it to the US Department of Education as a charter school and by 2012 re-launched it in that form. What he realised is that most students try out for sports teams in middle school but when they get to high school they are less likely to try out because of this JV/ Varsity dynamics the schools have,” explains Dilone. “So, he figured that by opening this school program where you’re required to join a sports team would teach kids how to be a part of a team and get you moving. We all know that your physical health is tied to your mental health and the kids loves it. I noticed that they all love it.”

Dilone started working with Urban Dove last year, when she decided to share 15 years of dancing experience by teaching classes there. “I started a dance programme, but I realised I can’t commit a lot of time there because I travel so often and that wasn’t really fair to the kids. So, I started to take a different position and became the ambassador for Urban Dove because I really believe in what they’re doing.” In the process, she has contributed her extensive connections to the fashion industry by expanding the network of programme supporters. This past June, Urban Dove held one of their annual galas with a goal of raising $15m for the expansion of the programme, with fellow models such as Leomie Anderson, Constance Jablonski and Saskia de Brauw in attendance. “The Urban Dove community is the type of community I want to help, that I feel very connected to. And that only motivates me more to ask people for money,” says the model-ambassador.

Dilone is one of the headliners of the cultural shift of models also becoming model citizens. For her, this comes from an inner need to help others. She remembers that even in her childhood, there was a sense of compassion she felt. “I always imagined myself, no matter what career I’m doing, volunteering and giving back.” When blowing out birthday candles or wished on shooting stars, she always used to wish one single wish – but under a condition. “I wanted to be an entertainer – an actress, a model, singer… And I would always promise to give back and do my part along with my wish, so it felt like I have to and I really want to.”

In addition to raising $15 million, the goal here is “being able to give these kids more of an opportunity to prepare them for a better future. I want to be able to give them hope and I want to be able to give them inspiration and job opportunities,” says Dilone. She then suggest one of the students is getting an internship with Tory Burch. The American brand has been an ongoing supporter of Urban Dove, both through funds as well as providing clothes, mirrors and other helpful equipment for the students. The charter school programme works out of two NYC locations – one in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and the other from Bronx. The expansion plans are heading towards opening another location in Queens in 2020. With kids travelling from all over New York in order to attend the school, this expansion would not only allow more students to join, but also benefit those who already part of it. Urban Dove’s crowd-funding programme is an ongoing one and anyone can donate as much they can, directly through their website.

However incredible these initiatives are, the oversaturated media environment makes it extremely difficult for non-profit organisations to get the attention of the young generations. The ambassadors that speak to this group aren’t royal heiresses or Eton-educated CEOs. It’s people like Dilone that can make the change – their personalities, discipline and energy, and therefore reach, make them the icons of our generations. Those we can aspire to be like. But despite the growing numbers of these kinds of people, there is still space for more. Dilone asks the question: “If more models were to use the connections they have, who even knows what could happen?” 

You can discover more and donate to the Urban Dove charter school programme online. // @_dilone