Bethany Talbot on how embracing vulnerability can speak volumes.
While Bethany Talbot grew up in tutus and ballerina shoes, her feet would eventually lead her elsewhere. She found herself playing football, which she attributes to her family being in “the beautiful game” and watching her older brother Jonathan play.
Now a member of the University of the Philippines football team, her love for dressing up and makeovers (a remnant of her ballet days) also grew. She started tuning into runways and following the names of models who dominated the industry.
On modeling, she shares, “I was actually recommended by my brother. There was an athlete agent who would handle different athletes for modeling/commercial stuff. He asked my brother if he knew any female athletes that could try modeling. My brother was like ‘well, I do have a sister who plays football as well.’” From there, her commercial career began.
Her first modeling experience, around November of 2020, had its fair share of challenges. She did not know anyone in the industry, and was not part of any association. Since it was still in the middle of the pandemic, there was limited capacity during shoots and the 18-year-old had to go to these first shoots by herself.
“Nakaka-pressure talaga [it really is a lot of pressure],” the BS Mathematics major says of the other challenges she felt and faced at the start of her career. “You think that you have to look a certain way, be a certain way, and I never felt like I fully fit that standard.”
Bethany shared how she didn’t have “the most perfect skin, or the most model-looking body. I had big legs. I had tan lines. All these sunspots.” Still, the once nervous model-athlete found reassurance in knowing that “there will be people who will appreciate your beauty,” as, nowadays, “you can really find modeling jobs that want you.”
Her typical day has her going from one end of the metro to another. Upon getting up at 4:30 A.M., Bethany would sprint to training which ends at 8 A.M. She gets home and prepares within 5 minutes in time for her 8:30 A.M. class. When all her morning classes in the university are done, she prepares for work to meet her call time at 1 P.M. in Makati. While her day officially ends at 7 P.M., she knows she’ll be up against rush hour in driving back home.
Almost anyone would find that schedule exhausting. Not Bethany. “I feel so alive,” she admits, “I think what I like is that I’m really able to discover so many parts of myself because they all demand different things.”
Bethany says that the things she is doing can be so draining at times. But if she’s doing it with the people that she loves and who support her, she can make it through the rest of her days. One such motivator is her sister. “I know she’s looking up to me, because I know when I was younger, I’d always look for older role models,” she says.
As the older sister, she also never hesitates to show the most vulnerable parts of herself to her younger sister. “They have to understand that it’s also not so perfect all the time, and it’s important to show that you can be tired,” she says. “I think that’s what would make someone a really good role model: is if they’re able to show all sides of them.”
Bethany’s orientation online has often been a point of inquiry. While most would ask with pre-conceived answers, the 21-year-old would simply respond with a certain yet carefree shrug. “This is a complicated, but not so complicated question, but personally, I don’t really care,” she says.
Smiling at the thought of her girlfriend Hyna, she says “I know it sounds weird, but I’m in a really happy relationship, and I think, to me, I’m not really looking for any labels. I’m not really lost with who I am. And I love someone. And you know, for me, that’s it.”
A while back, Bethany first came out to Jonathan. “He was shocked because he thought I was with my best friend.” It lightened the mood. When she asked for his thoughts, “I don’t care” became her brother’s simple response. “You might think, okay, I don’t care in a bad way?” she wondered, “but it was actually in the best way possible, because he truly didn’t care what my orientation was.” She said he made her feel so at ease by how calm he was. “He just said he didn’t care and he sees me the same way,” she says. “There’s nothing different with me. Everything was the same except I was in a relationship with a girl.”
Jonathan would eventually encourage Bethany to tell their parents, too. In the living room, with their father fixed on the television, he would randomly blurt: “When are you coming out? When are you coming out?” to which Bethany would shush him, Bethany remembers with a laugh.
After struggling with the decision, she finally mustered up the courage to explain to her father.
“What is it? Do you want food?” Her dad asked, confused. She shook her head. “I’m bisexual.” “And she has a girlfriend,” Jonathan added. She burst out laughing as she recounted what ensued. Angered as she may have been at the time, Bethany also felt relieved.
The day after, there was an unexpected knock at her door. “My dad went into the room and he was crying,” she recalls. “And I was like oh my gosh, is he crying because he feels sad about it?” Tear-filled, “He told me, I am so proud of where you are now and how much you’ve grown up.”
Surprisingly enough, no animosity nor judgment followed. Bethany felt overwhelmed. “As much as I thought that my dad wouldn’t understand it, he still tried his best to be understanding for me.” When the shock waned, her mother, who was previously overseas, would come home to bring the family together, and eventually visit her partner’s province. Though it took time, Hyna was eventually embraced as part of her family.
As she continues to be her authentic self, she has found kinship with others. Many have approached Bethany through her many social media platforms to say how much her story has resonated with them. “You really touch more people the more vulnerable you are,” she realizes.
In all that has happened, the 21-year-old has discovered the value in being vulnerable. She talks about how there is a constant emotional toll trying to pretend to be someone else and a certain something all the time. “That’s what’s so refreshing about being vulnerable,” she says. “It’s a sense of calmness, because you’re not trying so hard to be something. That’s the least draining thing you can do.”
This article was originally published on Vogue Philippines, June 2023 Issue