The smile that got many of us through some dark pandemic times, Milo Hartill is everyone’s favourite “fat diva”. A true multihyphenate, the recent musical theatre graduate is not only a model for the likes of Google but also an actor, performer, and BLM, fat and queer advocate. We sat down with the lovely Milo to chat all things body acceptance, industry diversity (or the lack thereof), and the importance of having great role models.
Hi lovely Milo, thanks for chatting today! Although some may already know you from the Google Ad, or from their social feeds, did you want to start by summing up everything that you do at the moment?
Yeah! I’m an actor, model and all-round crazy gal. I act on theatre stages, I was in MTC’s Cyrano last year and in the return season this year. I’m a fresh musical theatre graduate, and a black lives matter and queer advocate and activist. I would say advocate, but some say activist.
They kind of go hand in hand, don’t they?
They do. I’m also a radical body acceptance advocate too!
I love that. That’s actually what I was hoping to chat to you about. Tell me a little bit about the intersection between your performances, whether that’s theatre or in venues, and your relationship with your body.
I’ve been someone that’s been really lucky that through my work I’ve found a lot of love and acceptance for my body, specifically modelling. In Perth especially, it’s very difficult to have a career as a model or a performer when you are bigger bodied and moving to Melbourne and becoming a model was huge for me for loving and finding a respect for my body.
In a lot of body positivity conversations, there’s a huge focus on loving yourself. As much as I think in an ideal world it would be so good for everybody to love themselves, I don’t think you have to love yourself to respect your body or have to love yourself to deserve respect for your body.
Also, I really love advocating for bigger bodied people being on stages, modelling and being a part of every community. I do a lot of backup dancing and by nature we always end up in hot pants and shirts. I really love being in the same costume as everyone else even though I’ve got a bigger body. You can see in the audiences that come and watch, that seeing people that look like them gives them more confidence and helps them believe that they could be a part of performing arts – which they can, and they should be.
Yes, of course! How did you initially find your space in modelling? Did you meet people who introduced you, or did you just fall into it?
I fell into it. I had someone tell me to reach out to my first agent because they said they would love me. I thought they were taking the piss. I wasn’t sure if girls like me could model. Then I told my mum about it, and she said, “you’re going in for a meeting Monday.” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not, or if it was just some skeevy back-alley way job, but it ended up being legit and I started modelling with that agent for 2 years.
As a performer, I’ve always done musical theatre and stuff, but I wasn’t sure if that career would be viable. But I think the work of people before me in creating space for the next gen was definitely a huge part of me finding space in these spaces. Also, the fact that I worked hard and I deserve to be in these spaces. Even for Cyrano, I didn’t have to make space for myself, I was lucky that the people in the room were looking at my body size as an attribute, rather than a detriment – which it shouldn’t need to be. I can do all of the same things as everyone else, so why shouldn’t I get the job?
Exactly. I’m sure that being on stage would be a super intense experience. What are your post show rituals to bring yourself back down to earth and into a positive space?
I feel like I may have a different experience to others, but I rarely am in a negative space after I perform. I fucking love that shit. I love that feeling, making an audience smile, and laugh and cry. That’s the most positive space I’m in is during and after performances.
The times that I need to bring myself back down are when I’m not busy, when I have more time to think about things that you don’t love and looking at yourself without work. Then I remember who the fuck I am, hang out with my friends and surround myself with people I love.
The big thing that also helped me to also stay in a positive space with my body was to diversify my online feeds. Before the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, I didn’t realise how white and thin my Instagram feed was and the people I looked up to were. Now I feel like I can make a space and a name for myself within all of the industries I’m in, but before this time, all the people I idolised didn’t sound like me, or look like me, and weren’t my size, or black or queer. Being a part of these spaces felt unachievable because of course they did. It felt like a million miles away, because it was.
During BLM, I had a realisation that I wasn’t following any people who represent a diverse spectrum of body shapes and sizes. When I changed that it really helped to change my perspective as a model, and a performer, and a person.
It’s sometimes that simple to have someone who looks like you to just make you feel a little safer inside your body. I know a lot of your audience look to you as a role model for this kind of body acceptance and empowerment. How do you feel about being that for other people, and was this a goal?
It was kind of something that just happened. All my goals were career based, I never saw myself becoming someone who people look up to or somebody who represents a version of self-love that they would like to reach. For a lot of people, and myself included, there weren’t people that were like us on TV, in ads, modelling, performing, even in the arts spaces. I’ve been among some of the first AFAB, fat, POC people on stage spaces over the last year. But if you don’t see that representation, you’ve either got to make it or be it. If I can help some young, black, chunky, queer kid think they could do these things and be seen as beautiful and feel beautiful, then I welcome it. That’s amazing.
It’s incredible. If you’re comfortable, tell me how your relationship to body has changed over time?
I’ve always been pretty, at least, accepting of my body. When I was younger, I never saw myself as beautiful, but I always accepted it and it was never like I wanted to change. The real shift for me has been in viewing myself as beautiful which has been a wonderful change, and I think that’s come through all this hard work I’ve done in diversifying my narrative and diversifying my feeds. But also, from really doing some hard introspective work on the reasons why I don’t feel beautiful. So much of that came through BLM and realising I never saw myself represented on screens as a kid, realising that whenever fat people are in shows, they’re the butt of the joke and don’t usually get to be represented as beautiful or pretty, or get to have a story other than being black, or fat, or queer.
In coming to a lot of those introspective and intellectual discoveries, I’ve then found beauty in myself. In diversifying my narrative, like following beautiful black fat women that I think are beautiful and I realise that I can see qualities of that in myself.
Exactly, I love that. I’ve seen you post about the lack of diversity in the performing arts sector, how do you think this impacts the younger generation of performing arts kids who are like you and feel excluded?
There’s such a problem in all Australian performing arts really. I think that problem comes from there being no people of colour, a lot of higher ups say there’s no one to cast and that every person of colour in theatre is in Hamilton and that’s just not true. So that means there’s no one on stages for young POC kids to look up to and therefore, they don’t go down that route and then in another 30 years’ time there’s still no one to pick from to be in these spaces. The only way we’re going to change that and have more diverse stages is to cast the talent that we have in the first place so that younger people feel involved and like they’re a part of the story. Nothing is going to stop people from being involved if they feel like they’re excluded before they’ve even bought a ticket.
Did you feel that way when you were younger, like before or even during study, that you were excluded?
I have always wanted to be a performer and has always been a pretty welcoming space to me. I guess, I definitely felt it but in a different sense like there was always something I was going to be able to do in terms of performing because I’m funny, I love comedy and love creating my own work. But being the lead of a show, for me until very recently, has felt out of reach. Like something I could never do. I always knew there would be roles for me but I always thought they would be roles as the sidekick, or the ensemble, or the token POC role. It never felt like something I could easily do, whereas for other people I did school with they were sure they would get a lead one day. I wondered how people just feel like that, hah.
And probably take it for granted as well.
Oh, for sure.
Yeah, it’s amazing that you feel like that barrier isn’t there for you anymore in some ways.
It definitely is still there, but I think I have more tools to fight back against that negative voice. Now I’ve got a platform to be able to call people out on things. Because there’s been so many promises from the industry, like promising diversity, and there’s been an increase but not what’s promised. I think that everybody needs to continue to fight back on the lack of diversity in our industry, like it’s a job for everyone to do.
It’s something that we can only just keep fighting the fight and getting people in positions like you are who can be a voice and actually advocate - you’re doing absolutely incredible work.
Oh, thank you!
Absolutely no worries, although I would happily chat with you forever, to finish I wondered if you had any advice for anyone working towards, feeling safe, happy and beautiful in their skin?
A good first step is to try and really think about everything your body does for you. Especially able-bodied people take our bodies and our movement so for granted and I think that that’s a great place to start.
Really diversifying who you take your advice from, who you look up to, like it’s easy to feel shit about yourself if the only voices you’re taking in about your body and the people you compare yourself to are size 6 supermodels. Of course, you’re going to feel shit about yourself because that’s totally unachievable. Don’t be trying to look like other people. Finding people who you’re inspired by who are not too far away from yourself is great. There are so many amazing, beautiful, talented performers that are in these spaces with me and are a little older than me, but remind me of myself, who I look up to so that things don’t feel so far away.
Dressing how you want and doing what you want is so important, that was a big change for me. Early 2000s, bigger people whether you’re a kid or not, your fashion options used to be pretty fucking abysmal. So, I was wandering around for most of the time as a kid in muumuus and adult clothes feeling bloody terrible. As an adult, I’m like no, just because I’m bigger doesn’t mean I have to dress how the fashion industry thinks people like me should dress. It’s changed so much about how I view myself, dressing how you want can really boost your ego.
Yes definitely, and this is exactly what RAQ is about! Our super supportive bathers are super inclusive and designed so that you want to wear them all the time. Everyone looks so fab in their RAQ bikinis.
Oh, I bet!
Thanks so much for chatting Milo and fitting me in your hectic schedule!
No worries at all, thanks!