Welcome to Maxim! How's it going?
What’s the best part about being a model in Sri Lanka, compared to anywhere else?
Locations! It’s such a beautiful little island with just the most amazing backdrops. Also, Sri Lanka has an amazing island vibe; it’s a closely knit community of artists here, and working is just really chilling with your friends in a beautiful location.
Given that you are from the island nation, is it safe to assume you’re a kick-ass surfer?
Oh, not at all! I have zero balance, and I am mostly just decoration on the beach.
What are you usually up to when you are not modelling?
I just graduated. I did medical bioscience and political science at uni; so right now, I am working my first job as a public health communication analyst at an INGO. I also run a small PR & branding company.
Tell us a little bit about your work in public health. It sounds amazing.
It is! I love what I do. I feel quite passionate about universal health coverage, and I think it’s important for everyone, everywhere to be able to access quality healthcare regardless of their financial standing. I’ve worked in the arena of public health in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Italy—mostly focusing on women’s health and mental health. One campaign that I’m really blessed to have been a part of was in the Middle East; I was working with an amazing ambassador on a project to raise quality of life of South-East Asian domestic workers in the Middle East. It’s a perspective of globalisation that not a lot of people get to hear—I felt almost helpless listening to mothers sharing their stories about raising other children, leaving behind their own and the psychological impact of that. Most of them are quite content with giving years of their lives to serving others in the hope that back home, everybody they love is living a better life because of their sacrifice. It just kinda hit me that our service to the world, in whatever scale possible, is really all we leave behind.
You’re passionate about educating young women in Sri Lanka on health and safety. What’s the end goal for you in this space?
On my personal platforms I’m quite vocal about having a history of self-harm. I have lost a close family member to depression. So, mental health is something I closely associate with. I started self-harming at a very young age, and it was only much later that I actively sought and developed better coping mechanisms.
It’s important not to romanticise mental health issues. Keeping that in mind, I think it’s important to share struggle and to celebrate authenticity. Just to say, “Hey! Look it’s not easy but it’s worth it.” Always choose life. Wake up every day and try a little harder. Particularly on my social media platforms, I just really focus on spreading the word and teaching by example. It works out beneficial for me as well. When I’m down, I kinda hold myself responsible: “There’s someone out there who looks up to you and if you’re sitting here feeling sorry for yourself, you’re letting them down.” That’s an instant ticket out of my seasonal downers. I love being a both-ends-of-the- spectrum kind of woman. I love that I get to model and be sexy, and still show up on Monday and kick some ass. It’s empowering to me and I hope it shows other girls that as long as they leave no stone unturned, they can do anything. And it’s okay to be comfortable with your body, dress how you want and still demand the respect you deserve—firstly, as a human being and secondly, as a professional. I’m so grateful that social media provided me this platform where I connect with so many other women just instantly. The end goal for me would be waking up in a world where stigma on mental health issues no longer exists and where the content of a woman’s character is not judged by the length of her skirt.
What is something you hope will change for women in your country?
If you have a look at Sri Lankan history, women have been pivotal in shaping the country’s political and socio-economic antiquity. I’ve always been inspired by them. It’s like there’s magical powers of resilience and strength in our DNA. I don’t understand why we’ve become comfortable putting ourselves and other women in categorical boxes, always telling them—here, this is what a smart girl looks like, this is what a reserved and respectable woman should dress like, don’t swear, don’t drink and if you go out at night you’re not a lady and etc. It almost feels like the system is rigged against us. As a woman you have so much to lose by being a free spirit with your thoughts and your words and particularly your body. How easy it is for them to judge ‘what kind of woman she is’ just by looking at her. But, as a woman in 2018 you are obligated to be more ethical than the society you grew up in. And, you really just gotta ask yourself, why do we even listen? Who apart from you decides what’s right for you? I think it’s not particular to my culture, but in general as well—women are told not to make a spectacle of themselves. That’s just not for me. I wanna dance even if the floor is empty.
Are you a travel buff? If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go and why?
Definitely. Straight out of university, I went on this solo Euro trip. It was just amazing! Now, to answer your question, I would go to Verona, Italy. It has a very special place in my heart.
When do you feel your sexiest self?
I have to have an on-point outfit. I generally make sure I do (laughs). Also, I have to be the most prepared and most knowledgeable person in the room. Trust me, if we get an assignment, yours is gonna be good but mine will be laminated in lace.
What’s the most attractive quality in a man?
Well, I am attracted to guys with a good sense of humour. Also, I have a weakness for dog dads.
What’s the secret to a perfect Instagram- worthy selfie?
It's so strange I never liked to be photographed without any makeup on and now I feel like some of my favourite photos are the ones where I don't have any makeup on. It looks like exactly me and I also think it's beautiful. Those two used to be mutually exclusive for me. It's a nice feeling being friends with your body ❤️ Thankyou @christianhutterphoto for basically forcing me to live a life sans false lashes ??
What’s that one thing every man should do or can do to make the women in his life smile? (Maxim’s got a social campaign called #MakeHerSmile that aims to educate and create awareness about this.)
Be thoughtful and surprise her—even if it’s like a little note on her planner. Make her feel special and loved, always.
If you were hosting a fantasy dinner party, who would you invite?
I would invite Amal Clooney because I just wanna hear her speak, to be honest with you. I feel like it would change my life. Next, Beyoncé, because well, Beyoncé! Lastly, I would invite Kylie Jenner; I think she’s a ninja architect of businesses.
What’s your go-to Friday night drink?
I love red wine.
Follow Sonali Silva on Instagram.
Styling by THE THREE BY TPV
Additional styling by JOANNE STOKER
Make-up by NADIYA FERNANDO
Hair by SHAHEEN SOURJAH
Shot on location at THE BARTIZAN IN GALLE, SRI LANKA