Dani DMC On How She Became A 'Confidence Activist' - Exclusive Interview

The BodCon is an annual virtual conference centered around body positivity, body confidence, and self-love. This year's conference is taking place on March 5, with speakers including a variety of influencers, models, and writers. One of the guests is Dani Carbonari (or Dani DMC). Dani is a plus-size model and content creator who has made confidence her mission. She refers to herself as a "confidence activist" and hopes to help her nearly 500,000 Instagram followers be confident in themselves.

She's now a successful model with followers across many platforms and has worked with brands such as Rihanna's wildly popular Savage X Fenty. However, the model shared that before beginning her career, she never realized there could be a place for her in modeling. During an exclusive interview with The List, Dani DMC opened up about the start of her career as a plus-size model, why confidence is so important to her, and how she believes it can change people's lives.

The start of Dani's modeling career

What made you want to be a model?

I don't know if I actually ever wanted to be a model. That's my first answer. I didn't think there was a space for me. Being a plus-size woman, [the option] wasn't a reality. Being a kid, I didn't grow up like, "Oh my God, I want to be a model," because it seemed like something that wasn't tangible or possible for someone like me. I didn't have anyone to look up to in that space ... 

I more so fell into the modeling industry ... I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 because it was the only major city I hadn't lived [in]. I grew up in Chicago; I've lived in New York City. After college, I was like, "I want to take out another big city," so I moved here in hopes of working in the entertainment industry in some realm, but I wasn't sure how. I had a meeting with one of my now mentors, and she used to work for Ford Modeling Agency, and she's a plus-size woman herself. She told me, "You need to get into the plus-size modeling industry. You are so photogenic. You have a great look like the industry's taking off right now."

I did everything she told me to. She sent me this list of things I should do, and I did everything she said. I got signed within two weeks. I entered the Torrid Model Search and made it to the top 20, which was so cool because I was a fish out of water ... Then I realized, "Oh my God, I can do this. I can be a plus-size woman and take up space in this industry." It was kind of miraculous how it happened.

Was there any specific moment that made you realize [modeling] was something feasible [that] you could be successful at?

I had one moment where I was like, "Oh my God, this is real," and that was when I got signed to my second agency, which was a big agency ... I was already signed in Chicago. I got signed in LA and New York, and I hadn't been signed in New York yet ... They offered me a contract. I got to my car, I'm sitting on Sunset Boulevard, and I started crying ... I had one of those full circle moments where it [felt like] everything that I had experienced was worth it because it brought me here in this moment. It felt so powerful.

That's also when I started social media ... I was able to prophesize and speak and amplify my voice to preach confidence and to talk to a community of women. That was really me talking to myself, my younger self, that girl that didn't know she could do this or didn't know she could be this powerful force.

Facing obstacles as a plus-size creator

What have been some of the biggest obstacles in your career?

There have been more obstacles in my career than smooth sailing because this industry was so new ... When I started in 2017, there were maybe one or two huge plus-size YouTubers or people on Instagram that I can think of, and I felt I had so much to offer at the time. There was a lot of space that wasn't being taken up, so it was all a lot of trial and error because there wasn't this blueprint that I could follow. I was creating the blueprint, especially because I had a lot of individuality and uniqueness that I wanted to stand out. I wanted to do fashion try-on hauls, but I also wanted to be a confidence activist and teach women how to love themselves and not only dress good but feel good.

My biggest obstacle personally was the social media algorithms, understanding who I was, and the space I could take up. I've gotten demonetized and flagged and warned and content removed umpteen times because I am a fat woman, so I always get deemed "sexually gratifying content" when my content couldn't be farther from sexually gratifying content ... I speak to women of all ages, but my content is appropriate for middle schoolers and up, especially my fashion hauls. 

Here I am, a size 18 girl in a bikini. I felt so uncomfortable doing that my whole life, and now I'm trying to show younger girls [they shouldn't] cover up just because society's telling them to, and then boom, my video gets taken down because it's sexually gratifying content because I'm showing too much skin. But if someone seven sizes, eight sizes smaller than me does it, it's totally fine. That was a huge thing.

Also, I have a couples YouTube channel and a couples TikTok with my boyfriend, and our whole page got flagged on TikTok for sexually gratifying content, and it got deleted. Our page got deleted ... Luckily, I was able to get everything back, but that has been a huge obstacle that I've had to endure.

[Another obstacle is] being new — being the new kid on the block. Being a plus-size person in this space, whether it's modeling or creating content, there were so many things people hadn't seen. I worked with photographers that had never worked with a plus-size body, and you could tell that they were uncomfortable or they didn't understand why I was so confident, just like the internet didn't understand it.

She wants her followers to see her life as attainable

What message do you hope people who are following you take away?

There is a side of social media [that is] very much like, "Look at me. I have what you couldn't have, so follow me." If we're talking about the Kardashians, you can see them get on a private jet and fly to the Maldives and enjoy this extravagant vacation [when] 90% of America can't afford to do that or don't have the luxury to do that. That's this theme that has been established on [social media]: "Watch my life. You're going to fall in love with me. It's infatuating."

My whole thing is I want anyone that follows me to look at me and be like, "Wow, I love that girl. Her life looks amazing. I can achieve that. I can get to that place." It's not something that's unattainable, and it's not something that's out of reach. As a matter of fact, I'm going to give you the steps to get to this place, and it's going to change your life.

I hate when I get comments that are like, "You're so beautiful. I wish I had your confidence" or "I wish I could be as beautiful as you." To me, that's a hate comment because that's not what I want for my people. That's not what I want for my community. I want my community to look at me and be like, "Wow, she exudes confidence, and she makes me feel like I can be confident too."

Being a confidence one-percenter

As you mentioned, you call yourself a confidence activist. How did you first start to build up that confidence in yourself?

That's a hard question, and I appreciate you asking that question — because for a long time, my answer to that would've been, "I had a hard childhood, and I struggled with confidence, and then, around my 20s, I came into my own ..." All of that is true, except I feel like as a plus-size person in this world, when you are confident, people often write this narrative that you were at one point really insecure.

I went along with that storyline for a while, like, "Okay. I think that was my truth," until I was talking to my sister, and she was reading the book "Shrill" ... In the book, [the author] talks about how she didn't have this sob story of being insecure growing up. That's how I was. If you ask any kid, whether it was in preschool, kindergarten, middle school, or high school, everyone knew me as someone that was loud and confident. I always took up my space. I was never this shy, quiet girl.

I've always had confidence ... My tagline I always say is, "When it comes to confidence, I'm a one-percenter," and people are always like, "Wait, what? You're a one-percenter financially?" I'm like, "No, no, no. I'm a one-percenter because I believe that I am a part of the 1% of people that are unapologetically and unwaveringly confident." Whether I'm talking to you right now, I'm by myself, I'm on camera, or I'm on set, my confidence doesn't waver because I've set boundaries with myself and because of the things I've been through in life and how I was born. Because I feel like I am a one-percenter and I have that special relationship with myself, it's my unequivocal duty to pass it on.

That's why I call myself a confidence activist ... If you're truly confident, it's extremely selfish not to share that with other people. What I feel feels rare, and it feels special, and it feels like something I want to protect and hold close to me and then be able to show people how to duplicate it.

During those years of 20 to 25, I had a lot of friends that would come to me, like, "I want to be confident like you." I didn't know what to tell them because I was like, "This is all I've ever known." When I started social media, I was able to create the idea of this thing I had held so close to me, so I could teach other people how to embody it.

Finding confidence from within

What are the biggest pieces of advice you give to people who are on the opposite end of that, where they are struggling with their confidence?

The first part of confidence is the relationship you have with yourself. We need to be taught in school about leadership, individuality, confidence, your relationship with yourself, and how they all come together. I would love to do courses in a school one day. That's on my radar. I want to do retreats. I want to speak in schools because it needs to start at a young age.

I always start at the root, which is the relationship with yourself. Unfortunately, what's happened, and the reason that a lot of us are insecure or have low confidence, is we've allowed all of these outside elements to get inside of our mind, whether it's our family, whether it's society, whether it's people at school, your coworkers — you fill in the blank, but whatever it is, you are not having your own thoughts.

Oftentimes, if you look in the mirror and you're like, "I'm so fat," or "I hate myself," it's not really how you feel about yourself. It's this ideology that you've gathered from magazines, TV, your parents, and things that have been passed down to you, whatever the case may be. I always implore people to start by stripping themselves from everything. To me, what that looks like is honing in on the relationship with yourself. I'm not saying to cut every person off in your life, but what I am saying is to spend time alone.

Dedicate every single day you're going to spend an hour or two hours completely by yourself, and you could do whatever you want, whatever feels good to you, whatever fills your basket up. You could read a book, journal, work out, go for a walk, talk to yourself, knit, or whatever makes you feel good and makes you feel like you're spending time with yourself. It's important to be still and have an open dialogue with yourself and have a space away from everyone — from your partner, from your friends, from TV, from anything that's sending you a message — so that you can get to the root of rewiring your mind to just have your conscious thoughts. What are your actual thoughts?

Why you should be in your beauty standard

Dani [continued]: One thing I always say is, "How crazy is it that you would not be your own beauty standard?" When you're walking down the street ... Let's say I'm walking down the street and I see a size two model with red hair and bushy eyebrows and brown eyes, and I'm like, "That is the beauty standard ... That is what the epitome of beauty looks like." That makes no sense because I'm literally setting the beauty standard up against me. I don't have brown eyes. I don't have red hair. I'm not a size two, so that makes no sense.

If we're talking about beauty, that's one part of confidence that I like to touch on. You have to include yourself in your idea of beauty. You need to get to the root of who taught you this idea of what is beautiful and "Why don't you fit in it?"

But the other thing is there are so many other components to confidence besides what you look like on the outside, and 90% of it is internal. That starts with the relationship with yourself. I always tell people to prioritize their relationship with themselves. You need to set boundaries. Boundaries and confidence go hand in hand, because if you're not confident, you're not going to set boundaries, and if you're not setting boundaries, your confidence is going to go down the drain. That's extremely important.

[Do] a sweep of people around you. If you have friends that are making you feel bad about yourself, if you have a relative that is constantly putting you down, you need to set boundaries with them and say, "Hey, I'm not going to let you speak to me like that. I don't deserve that." The same energy you have for your best friend in the whole world, you need to have that energy for yourself, and you need to start creating that relationship with yourself where you are your best friend, like, "How dare someone talk to me like that? I'm not going to let someone speak to me like that. I'm not going to let someone put me down like that. How dare I put myself down like that? I'm not going to let myself speak to me like that. That's wild."

How building confidence can change everything

How do you feel that building that confidence can impact someone's life and their trajectory?

I'm so glad you asked that, because confidence is the number one pillar in your life ... I have a work confidence workshop. It's called the Confidence Rebirth. A lot of people ask me, "Why don't you teach a course on how to grow your followers? Why don't you teach a course on how to monetize and how to be a content creator?" But I'm doing you so much more of a service by teaching you about confidence through my platform. When you have confidence, it affects every aspect of your life: your personal life, your love life, your friendships, your career, literally going to the gym, how you walk down the street, how people see you, your ability to up and move to a new city.

Literally, the list could go on and on. If you have confidence, you are going to have a better quality of life. There's no doubt about that. Every girl that I work with one-on-one, every follower that's a part of my "confidence crew," constantly tells me how much I have helped change their life by teaching them confidence, because you see it. As soon as you start standing in your confidence and in your power more, everything starts to change.

You're also participating in BodCon this year. What made you want to get involved in that event?

I'm so excited for BodCon. Any convention that highlights bodies, individuality, the ability to be free in yourself, and any opportunity to amplify my voice makes me so happy because ... I'm the type of person that I don't care how many followers I have. I don't care about the number of followers. I'm lucky because I'm a part of the community that started social media in 2017 before TikTok was even thought of.

A lot of my friends that came up in 2020 in TikTok, they're all like numbers, numbers, numbers. I couldn't care less about the numbers. I care about the engagement, and my number one thing is impact. I always want to have an impact. With an opportunity like BodCon, it's phenomenal because it gives me an opportunity to use my voice and to carry my message and touch people in another way, outside of social media. I feel so honored and excited.

Dating and finding the right relationship as a plus-size woman

Dani [continued]: I'm also excited because my boyfriend is going to be with me [at BodCon], and we have so much to offer. We love talking about and highlighting the fact that we're in a relationship. I'm a plus-size woman, so dating while plus-size is a huge topic we talk about. Being in an interracial relationship is something we talk about. Also, my boyfriend was the star athlete in college, and everyone thought he was so cool, but ... men struggle with insecurities [as well]. I've been able to teach him a lot [about confidence] behind closed doors.

I'm excited to have the opportunity to highlight my message and also talk with my boyfriend about our experience, and then add on another component of discussing dating while plus size, because a big thing about our relationship is we offer a lot of hope to people.

I just had a meet and greet a couple of days ago, and one of my followers came up to me, and my boyfriend showed up at the end, and all the girls thought it was so cute that he showed up to support me. One of the girls pulled me to the side, and she was like, "Girl, how'd you find your man? Because I'm struggling as a plus-sized woman. So many men want to hook up with me but not date me."

That was such a reality for me. I struggled with that so much. My boyfriend was one of the first guys where he was like, "Forget society, forget what people have to say." He dealt with a lot. People said a lot to him [about dating me]. I was the first white girl he dated. I was the first plus-size girl he dated, so he got a lot, but he stood in his power, he stood in his confidence, and he stood true to himself. I'm excited to be able to share that with BodCon and everyone that's there joining.

Tickets are now on sale for the highly anticipated, third annual virtual body confidence conference, The BodCon 2023, taking place March 5, 2023, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:35 p.m. ET. Its sister podcast, "The BodPod," is a weekly podcast that dives deep into the people, brands, and topics that are making a difference in the way we view our bodies.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.