I remember the day I moved here, the day my life started.
“At first it was amazing. It was like fucking exhilarating.”
I’m sitting in the dark, empty backroom of a bar on the Lower East Side with Dallas Sessoms, known to his friends and fans as Lil’ Dallas. As with any transplant, finding your footing in New York City is a rite of passage, but for Dallas, it was a calling. He moved to the city from Asheville, North Carolina in 2016 and the contract came almost instantaneously.
The 20-year old model is now one in the five-membered cast of Fuse’s new reality show The 212. He first came onto the scene a year or so back with his inimitable look; white-blond, almost lavender hair and the signature rouge birthmark that spills across his left cheek, anomalous among the tanned, chiseled faces that dominate the men’s boards. You’ve probably seen his face, in campaigns for Thom Browne and All Saints, on the pages of Vogue Homme, among others.
Dallas wears top and pants by Reebok by Pyer Moss. Shoes by Pierre Hardy Street Life QX02 in white – $645 – available at pierrehardy.com. Rings by L. Jardim. Necklaces Dallas’s Own.
Dallas is awkward and charming and thriving in the excitement of finding himself. It’s the kind of wide-eyed, infectious commotion that makes me want to go back to when I was 20, when love was something I felt in the pit of mystomach and the energy of New York vibrated through my body at night. I can see his mind moving a million miles a minute and I envy this electricity. Riding the highs, constantly on the up and up. Swallowed into a city of steel and concrete and booze and bills, the attraction came swiftly for Lil’ Dallas. You either have it, or you don’t—the irresistible, untamed, anything goes attitude of downtown’s sparkling underbelly.
But peaks are only measured by their valleys, and as with any coming of age story, the struggles are inevitable.
“Then it all hit me,” he goes on to say. “I was doing a long-distance relationship, trying to figure out who the hell I was at the same time. It was like a mix of trying to adjust and being depressed a little bit, so it was a journey. It’s a big jump, obviously.” You feel something raw and tender when Dallas speaks; he confesses, sans inhibition, as you can only when you’re young and feeling the world for the first time.
His delivery of some of life’s most challenging lessons is pretty damn graceful, and I find myself blushing a little, both attracted to his transparency and in awe of how he’s finessed such trying times in a city like this. He tells me about nights when he didn’t know where he would stay, couchsurfing for a year and a half and in the same breath beams about making music now, collaborating with brands. “I definitely matured really fast, throwing myself into this. Trying to take care of myself, well fuck, I had so many things weighing me down that it was hard for me to be happy and free,” he says, sinking his teeth into the moments where independence and responsibility clash.
But hustle is a red thread for some people. The 212 is merely a jumping off point. “It was actually just our lives and they would just follow us around with cameras,” he tells me. “Like this is a real thing; We’re actually out here doing this, and struggling and having a hard time and having a good time and that in itself is a lot to capture.” The cameras do justice of capturing elements of the modeling world, its cutthroat castings and the inconsistencies of work. One week you can be booked every day and night, and the next your ass will be glued to the couch wondering when that next call will come in. It’s par for the course in creative industries, but success requires vision. And vision, well it all starts with a dream.
“I’ve always wanted to be creative and do something. You know, be a hero.” That’s a lofty aspiration, but not at all far-fetched. Dallas currently has his hands in a lot of different side projects, from starting a band—he will be singing, like rockstar singing—to working on a denim line that features his illustrations. Of course, it helps that he is plugged in with a network of creatives who share his passion. “It’s kind of cool, we’re all becoming a family. We’re all looking out for each other and it’s also a brutal world, ya know it’s cutthroat in a sense.” He understands the importance of fostering relationships in a city that will chew you up and spit you out.
Transparency aside, his frenetic energy is what really excites me. His confidence makes me feel like I could—I should—be doing more. “I just want every part of me out there and once I have a voice and that sort of shit we can talk about the things I believe in.”
And what do you believe in?
“I firmly believe in self-expression,” he says, deadpan. “I think growing up as a boy or a man in this society is difficult. All throughout high school, I was called gay because I showed my feelings, I got picked on because of it…Being bullied feels like shit, but I always got the girls and kids were mad as fuck. Ultimately I always won.” He grins, wrinkling the giant red and blue lightning bolt across his face.
He tells me that when he gets his money right it’s gonna be straight vintage Commes, suits, just like Bowie. Patience paves the way to aspiration, and while the future may hold some Rei Kawakubo, for the moment his style is pretty straightforward. Black jeans, a tight t-shirt and today, some red checkerboard Vans. He realized very quickly that peacocking is reserved for those with little to say—not a problem here.
As a model, as a creative, and as a man, Dallas represents a societal sea change. He’s charging forward without a pre-prescribed plan and expectation around where this will all lead him—and that’s the beauty in it. It’s authentic and based on his own instincts, some of which are still developing. But, of course, that, in essence, is what makes the journey so much fun.
So, has it all gone to Lil’ Dallas’ head? “Every now and again,” his face lights up, “like when we went to the premiere party—I felt famous—like full-blown famous. But no, I still feel like…just a kid trying to figure it out.”
Check out ‘The 212’ Tuesday nights on Fuse TV
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