Life is crazy. Sometimes you set out into the world with the idyllic dream to become one thing, and the universe stops you in your tracks and says, “No, girl. There are bigger and better plans for you. Trust.” Hayley Foster is no stranger to this. From a very young age, she focused deeply on a life of professional dance, but as she grew up, things weren’t clicking. Something was steering her away, eventually placing Hayley on the modeling path, roughly a year ago. All of a sudden, what wasn’t working in her dance life made perfect sense in every way for modeling.
The Buffalo-native turned roadblocks into a highway to greatness. Hayley’s been to five countries and a handful of US states in the past month, her schedule is booked ‘til the end of the year, and she couldn’t be more in love with where she is at this particular moment.
On her latest trip to LA, we spent an afternoon getting to know the experiences Hayley’s been through, and we accompanied her to an interview at Hollywood’s Dash Radio, where she was crowned Model of the Month. Through our candid conversations, we discovered how Hayley found her power and is using it to fuel her modeling career to the highest height.
At the young age of four, Hayley was put into dance classes by her mother, also a dancer. It was Hayley’s entire life and she loved it. She trained in ballet, hip hop, tap, and jazz (to name a few). After school, she’d head to class at two different studios, and even taught once she was old enough. When the time came, Hayley went off to college at University of the Arts in Philadelphia to dance. Right before sophomore year, she joined a dance company, Philadanco!. This was where she pictured her life going. Everything was as she’d planned, but something felt off.
“Ever since I hit puberty, shit started to hit the fan with dance. I worked really hard, but I always felt like I was working against my natural self to fit the mold of what they wanted. I wanted to be a ballerina and I trained really hard for that, but I kept growing. Even my instructors would tell me, “Ballet dancers aren’t really above 5’6. That's tall.” I’m 5’10, so I always had that on me. Even when I was in the company when I got older, they were telling me to dance smaller, take up less space, because I was so tall and it was distracting on stage. They want everyone to look the same. I'm curvier and that just wasn't ok for dance. They don’t like big boobs. They like a specific, slender, athletic body type, which I was always fighting against.”
When the things we love start to feel more stressful than fulfilling, we have to take notice. Hayley was extremely mindful of her body and what this could mean for her dance career. It was time to re-evaluate the future and take power back into her own hands.
“I was forcing things that were unnatural. It made my love of dance waiver and my passion for it dwindle. I wasn’t as empowered doing it, I didn’t feel beautiful. I didn’t feel like myself, almost to the end, because I was trying so hard to be a lesser version of myself to fit what other people wanted… to be this mold.
I realized even though it was hard, even though I loved it so much, this would just be a long line of struggle and a long line of “No”s over and over again, and I might never get that “Yes” to get where I need to go, because there will always be other dancers that fit better. Modeling kind of fell into my lap. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, but also I didn’t think I’d ever be thin enough to be a model, or was beautiful enough. It was kind of more like a pipe dream. Then when I got signed, it gave me confidence! As my career progressed and I kept getting booked, I realized that this could be a real thing. It just felt right.
Like, everything that felt wrong about trying to be a dancer felt right about trying to be a model.”
Photography by Devon Endsley
Photography by Jamie Girdler
While Hayley loved dance, she began to be faced with adversities. Forcing dance to become her profession made her feel uneasy. She realized she was trying to make her body work for dancing, not the other way around. Then came modeling, and she realized that when something is meant to be, there is no struggle.
“I felt like, my whole life I was trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, and when I started modeling, I was all of a sudden a round peg. Everything kinda clicked and fit together. I feel lucky too, because my dance background helps me with modeling. It helps me know where my body is in front of the camera without being able to see it, you have to know that when you're dancing on stage. Just being able to move and being confident.”
With her career in full swing, the pressure of dancing has been lifted and Hayley’s been able to build a fresh connection to it again. Dance is something she can enjoy in her personal time, when everyday stress comes around or she just needs to unwind.
“I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so as I go back to classes now and dance for fun, I get frustrated because I can’t do what I used to. I definitely still love it, it’s my place I go to when I’m overwhelmed or frustrated or I’m feeling things I can’t explain. I will just go in the studio or my apartment, dance and let myself release and feel things.
I like this so much better because it takes the pressure away. Even dancing to get into college or dancing to get specific roles was hard, but dancing as a source of income was really not a good time.”
When it comes to modeling, Hayley can visualize the longevity, whereas she couldn’t with dance, and she’s always excited for what the next project will be.
“I feel like I get to be a lot more creative. I get to be myself and people are interested in me being myself and not fitting into a mold of fifty dancers that everyone wants to look the same. My individuality is highlighted in modeling and I think that’s cool.
Obviously, it’s a career that’s based a lot on your physicality, which can be frustrating, and it can hurt sometimes. But, you kind of have to not take things personally. I haven’t really had that much bad shit happen to me in modeling. I know if I don’t get a certain job or if people say some sort of thing to me, it’s not personal. It’s just the vision they have for that brand. I feel like, too, as a curve model it’s a little better. Less stressful, because I don’t have to maintain certain measurements, or a certain type of body. If I gain weight or if I lose weight, it doesn't really effect me at this point. Because that is really stressful."
Photography by Jamie Girdler
Photography by Devon Endsley
Traveling non-stop around the globe, away from the people and places you love can get to you. It’s the little things that help to keep Hayley’s mind right.
“What keeps me in a good headspace is my mom and my family. I talk to my family every day. Going home as much as I can and seeing them. In New York, I have a core group of friends that I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to find and they just all had me keep it in perspective. Mostly, also just realizing that balance.
Sometimes you need to take the day off, and make sure you get some sleep! You need to do a face mask and lay down for a second, like there will be another time to do all these things. Also, that I have enough time to go out because you need to release. You gotta party!”
Now, Hayley is right where she’s meant to be–comfortable in her body and in her power.
“I feel my most empowered on set. When I’m taking pictures, especially when there’s a good song on and we’re shooting. It’s a beautiful moment. It feels like time almost stands still. Like, for real. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s so true. I really like shooting. It’s peaceful”.
Tag along with Hayley on Instagram as she lives her golden life.