Model and Futurist Sinead Bovell on Imposter Syndrome, AI and the Future of Mental Health, and Defining Success for Yourself

Name: Sinead Bovell
Role: Founder and CEO of Waye Talks, Model, Futurist
Based in: NYC
Photographed by Felix Wong/ Provided by The Lions Talent Management




The following is an interview with Sinead Bovell: model, former consultant, futurist, and the founder of WAYE talks. We touch on imposter syndrome, identity (Blackness, childhood), how to get over anxiety, and how AI is changing our mental health landscape. Some of the questions have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

1. In your words, describe who you are.

I’m a model, futurist, and tech educator on a mission to make concepts in advanced technologies more accessible. I’m also bi-racial: my mom is Irish and my dad is Guyanese. And I am a first generation Canadian. All of those factors play a big role in who I am and how I see the world.

2. You are a multi-hyphenate, as many millennials and Gen Z are. I loved your post about not prescribing to kids what work or profession they should pursue and that doing so could set an identity trap for our youth. Identities are rarely static, and yet categorizing like that can distort and harm one’s sense of self. Can you speak a little more to that with your own story and the mental narratives you struggled with about being many things: a model, a futurist, a consultant, and more?

I think imposter syndrome is something that haunts all of us. Sometimes it can be channelled productively. Other times it’s simply counterproductive and unhelpful. Living so many “different lives,” it’s been interesting to see how imposter syndrome presents itself in each industry. In the management consulting world self-doubt in your skills creeps in a lot. Despite the rigorous interview process that means you are more than ready for the job. I am sure over time it gets better. But I didn’t stay in the industry long enough to witness my personal evolution with it. When it comes to modeling.. well, naturally as a model you have a lot of insecurities. Whether you’ve just stepped into the industry or are an internationally renowned supermodel, you are very critical of yourself. Industry standards have changed quite a bit, and there has been a marked shift– progress–  in the industry focusing on physique to focusing on what the model stands for. That’s been really refreshing to watch. But the internal dialogue we have with ourselves as models can still be a challenge.  

Regardless of the industry you work in, I think we all have moments when we feel so far from our goals or get stuck in comparisons thinking that other people are just soaring past you. But I have learned to really reign in those thoughts. If you have an ambitious roadmap, you have to take control of your internal dialogue or else you will get in your own way.

3. Speaking of identity, it’s Black History Month. What does being Black mean to you today? What did it mean to you as a kid growing up in Canada in the 90s?

Being Black today means I am part of the ongoing fight to be seen as equal. Statistically speaking, whether looking at data from law enforcement to banks to rates of school suspensions, we have a long way to go when it comes to equality. But, I am committed to that fight. And I’m incredibly proud of my Blackness. 

Growing up in a predominantly white community, I felt the exact opposite to how I feel now. I wanted to minimize my Blackness as best I could. I didn’t want to be seen as different. I didn’t want people to see my natural hair. I just wanted to blend in with everyone else. There wasn’t a particular experience that made me feel this way, but an accumulation of small and large realizations—from the all white dolls on the shelves of toy stores to being one of five Black students at my high school. I do wonder how things would have been if I had felt more confident in my full identity growing up. I have had all of these realizations retrospectively.

4. Do you have a wellness regimen or specific routine for your mornings during the week? If so, can you walk us through it?

My wellness regimen actually starts the night before. I always plan my day in my planner before I go to bed and that really helps start my day on the right foot. Waking up with a plan and knowing that I can get everything done is really helpful for minimizing stress versus scrambling around in the morning trying to sort out my day as soon as I open my eyes.

I start my mornings with a big glass of warm hot water and calming music to get my day going and maintain a sense of therapeutic routine. I also think it’s important that the first thing you put into your stomach is something nourishing before moving on to coffee. It also gives me some time to check in with myself and how I am feeling. I have started sharing this part of my mornings with my digital community; it’s been fun seeing the responses and having other people join in.

5. What self-talk have you employed to take care of your mental health and anxiety? Can you share any specific examples or situations you’ve incorporated self-dialogue?

Whenever I feel anxious about where I am at and where I think I need to be in life, I always stop and think of my ten year vision for myself. It has been the most powerful and transformative solution for my mental health as it relates to career anxiety. For example, social media has been a blessing and a curse. It’s been an incredible tool for my business, but I know it also lowers the barriers to self-comparison. That’s counterproductive. That’s definitely a situation where I apply my “long-term vision” solution.

6. Let’s talk about WAYE Talks. What experiences have influenced your decision to start a platform dedicated to bridging the education gap between tech and youth?

As soon as I moved from the corporate business world to the creative world of fashion I saw the gap right away and made it my mission to fill it. What I found incredibly telling was how interested in technology my fashion peers and colleagues were, but it was as if they were simply never invited to these tech rooms, when they had just as important of a reason to be present in them. Advanced technologies impact every one of us, and this fueled  my desire to make tech education accessible and digestible to the  creative markets I found myself working in.

7. How do you believe AI and a future of widely accessible BMIs will affect our landscape, our conditions (1 in 4 people in the world are affected by mental illness or a neurological disorder) and the state of our consciousness?

Al is already transforming the world of mental health. Take for example the Companion App. Born out of MIT Media Lab and clinically validated at Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals. The app securely records voice features and phone meta-data and assigns biomarkers correlated with symptoms of mental health. It then uses AI to convert data from the app on your smartphone and turns it into scores on dimension such as depressed mood and fatigue. It then displays clinically relevant data and trends from the securely in the cloud for your mental health provider, who can then make clinical decisions from abroad. 

Longer-term, I think we will all have some form of an AI-based mental health support system, and likely wonder how we lived without it. But just as important as supporting mental health is understanding it and the science of the brain. I think AI will help us take strides in better understanding the brain. So much is still unknown. 

I think brain-computer interfaces will certainly shine a light on concepts like consciousness—what it means, can we recreate it, etc., But we have such a long way to go in terms of the actually technology itself, and then the data regulations that will follow, that it’s hard to say with certainty how this technology will evolve.

8. Do you have any podcasts, bloggers, or hosts you look to that are strong in thought and/or wellness leadership?

I follow influencers such as Phyllicia Bonanno and Lauren Ash. I also really look up to Heidi Smith. She is a psychosomatic therapist, herbalist, and flower essence practitioner and offers such incredible insights on wellness.

9. What are a few of your favorite wellness picks?

-Starting my morning with a huge glass of hot water and music

-Supplements (vitamin D and Omega3 are some of my favorites)

-Yoga

-Regular fitness

-Reading (books that are in line with the industry I work in, but also books for pure enjoyment)

10. Letters to My Younger Self: If you had any advice to give your younger self, what would it be? 

Define success for yourself.

Interview by Susan Yoomin Im

Follow Sinead Bovell here. For more information on WAYE Talks, subscribe or reach out.

Read clinical psychologist and professor Jessica Lopresti’s discourse on race and mental health here, about influencer Laura Jung’s experience with imposter syndrome here, and more on impact work by CEO of startup Amsterdam based Proof of Impact here.

Interview by Susan Yoomin Im

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