Dilone moved into her mother’s house last November after finishing a job in Manhattan and—quite unexpectedly—ended up staying for months, all but abandoning her new apartment in Los Angeles. (Already a fixture on the runways both in New York and abroad, she’ll soon find an even bigger audience: Last year, Dilone was cast as the supermodel Pat Cleveland in Halston, Ryan Murphy’s limited series coming to Netflix in May.) Her life on Long Island, amid a vibrant Latinx community where “everyone knows each other’s business” (her parents grew up in the Dominican Republic), turned out to feel both nostalgic and strangely, wonderfully new: When she wasn’t holed up reading somewhere (most recently, she revisited bell hooks’s Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black), Dilone could be persuaded to join a raucous round of Phase 10, an old card game—“The family goes insane over it,” she says.
In quieter moments, she’s taken the opportunity to both work on herself and spend time with her mother. “I got sober a year and a few months ago, and I meditate every day, I do yoga—I need to take care of myself in order to have the relationships that I want with other people,” Dilone says. “My mom’s really seen this change in me.” For one thing, the two are now communicating better than they ever have before; to help scale the language barrier between them, Dilone started taking Spanish lessons. (Only her eldest siblings speak the language fluently.) “That alone changed our relationship so much,” she says. Now, “My mom and I will pray together, and she even meditated with me one time, which was really big for her.”
The photographs and albums crowding Dilone in the topmost picture are the fruits of her mother’s impassioned labor. “She had just brought those picture frames over from the house that we grew up in,” Dilone says, “but when my mom starts hanging things up, it’s kind of all over the place, so I took them off the wall and hid them in a room.” Happily, her scheme didn’t work—the trove was discovered during a house tour before this shoot—and the result is a joyful clashing of present, past, and future. “My mom always said that her greatest wish was that we would all stay close,” Dilone says. That wish seems to have been granted.