It took hitting rock bottom for Myles Sexton to realize what he had to do to rise to the top.
Sexton, a Toronto-based model, makeup artist and jewelry designer who graduated at the top of his class from Avon View High in 2009, returned to his old school in December as the keynote speaker for Solidarity Day — a universally celebrated human rights movement promoting diversity, equality, respect and understanding.
“Coming in here today, it’s kind of overwhelming because this is the place that I manifested the dreams that I live every day,” the sharply dressed, stiletto-sporting Sexton announced to a packed gymnasium.
Before Sexton found his niche as a respected professional in three highly competitive industries, he was a teenage boy struggling to come to terms with his individuality.
“I was a physically feminine teenage boy, which I think a lot of people can’t relate to,” he said.
“I was terrified to come out of the closet so I didn’t understand myself sexually or who I was as a person, so it made me become really depressed internally.”
Sexton says he feigned happiness for the sake of others but, on the inside, the constant bullying he endured had taken a toll on his self-esteem.
“I was bullied every single day… I would come home crying a lot of the time because students would pick on me in school because I was feminine, because I was different,” he said.
“When you’re bullied in high school I think that it’s something that’s really hard to deal with because you just want to fit in and I remember all I wanted to do was feel beautiful like everyone else and I just wanted to be popular.”
Sexton says his lowest moment came one night in Grade 10 when he started to contemplate the value of life, and wonder how he came to be so lonely.
“Within that darkest moment of my life, I asked myself one question: would I allow the actions and opinions of others to change the outcome of my life?
“To be honest, since that moment, I remember coming to school the next day and I no longer walked these halls staring at the tile floors.”
Sexton says he pushed past his fear, and introduced people to the real Myles Sexton. And, they liked him.
“Don’t forget that life is always worth living because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” - Myles Sexton
“When I started opening up, it started attracting people.”
Sexton came out to his family and peers, started making new friends, joining clubs and playing sports.
“Every day became a little bit better and a little more exciting and my depression was slowly going away.”
Sexton, 21, says he took an interest in modeling upon spotting a Vogue fashion magazine while working at the local Sobeys.
“I remember looking at it and there was all these exotic men and women and they were wearing all these weird clothes I had never seen before and I realized that that was wanted I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
At 16, Sexton, who was encouraged to become a lawyer or doctor, landed a modeling contract. When he finished high school, he studied makeup in Halifax, and soon after received a job offer in Toronto.
In the last few years, Sexton has worked as a makeup artist named to the national teams for Smashbox Cosmetics andChanel, he’s walked in more than 21 fashion week events as a male model wearing both men’s and women’s wear, he’s been featured on the Italian Vogue website three times, he’s starred in an autobiographical online web series called “I Walk For Myles in These Shoes,” and he’s designed a line of M. Sexton jewelry.
His jewelry, which recently caught the eye of Nelly Furtado’s stylist, has been worn by a few celebrities, including Dragonette’s lead singer, Martina Sorbara.
Sexton says there was a time when he would never imagine he could be strong enough to be true to himself, but that fear is long gone now.
“I learned what it was like to feel proud and believe in yourself and that being 100 per cent yourself is OK, and it doesn’t matter what other people think about you.”
Sexton urged all of the students, and others struggling with their own personal battles, to treat one another well and think positive.
“Don’t forget that life is always worth living because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”