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Casting Call with Jourdan Dunn

By Joie Goh

Dennis Leupold

3.1 Phillip Lim dress. Tiffany & Co. Whispers of the Rain Forest platinum and yellow gold necklace with diamonds.

Dennis Leupold

Miu Miu swimsuit. Tiffany & Co. Whispers of the Rain Forest platinum and yellow gold earrings with diamonds, and yellow gold brooch with coloured gemstones, yellow and white diamonds.

Dennis Leupold

Proenza Schouler dress and sandals. Tiffany & Co. Leaves of the Sun platinum earrings with diamonds and Whispers of the Rain Forest platinum and yellow gold ring with diamonds.

Dennis Leupold

 DKNY top and skirt.


What can Jourdan not do? A quick Google search reveals her many accolades — a two-time winner of the British Fashion Awards for Model of the Year (2008 and 2015), and the holder of many “firsts”: first British black model to make the “Forbes” list for top-earning models, as well as the first black model to walk a Prada runway in a decade since Naomi Campbell last did it, and land a solo British “Vogue” cover in 12 years (also, following Campbell’s turn in 2002). The face of Maybelline New York, who was inducted into the rank of “supermodel” in 2015, also has a fashion collaboration with e-tailer Missguided, a Marks & Spencer kidswear line, a cooking show on Jay Z’s YouTube channel, and a personally curated playlist on Spotify. 

To add to that list, the prolific catwalker has had not one, but two blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments on the silver screen, both in the last year. The first, a cameo as herself in UK comedy film “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”, and a minor role as one of Owen Wilson’s character’s many baby mamas in fashion industry satire flick “Zoolander 2”. She will also appear alongside Margot Robbie in an upcoming noir thriller, “Terminal”. Perhaps it’s time to affix “actress” in her multi-hyphenated title for good. Here, she shares her thoughts with T Singapore.

What inspired your dreams of being an actor?
Acting is very therapeutic. I think great actors are very connected to their emotions — you have to be. But that was not something I realised until my first film experience. I had to be aware of my body language, facial expression in a way that I hadn’t realised before. But I think what really inspired my dreams of being an actor was the chance to tell a story.

What are your views on black and racial minority representation in Hollywood and cinema in general?
Of course, we are making strides to bridge the gap of race injustices. It’s not about black or white. This is about all races and all ethnicities getting the chance and recognition to live out their dreams. I’ve spoken out about things that I have seen and affected me. I’m happy to see that there is progress. But the job is not done. Change does not happen overnight. But things are happening, slowly, which is better than not at all.

What were your greatest struggles and challenges in your modelling career?
I started modelling when I was 16 years old and like most 16-year- old girls, I was still building confidence. Growing up, I was the tall, skinny girl who had no boobs and towered over all the boys. The kids made fun of me a lot. When I started modelling, I still had these insecurities, even though being tall and skinny was the exact criteria for modelling, I still felt insecure. In fact, I suffered from these insecurities for [much] of my career. Just because you are on a cover of a magazine or other people tell you that you are beautiful, it doesn’t mean that you always believe it.

Once social media broke, it made things even more difficult to feel secure. It was a platform where people could point out your flaws and be bullies. It took a toll on me and it only heightened my insecurity. There’s a lot of rejection in the entertainment business and it was hard to understand and handle at first. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I decided to take control and change my inner dialogue. I started meditating, and reading books about self-love and self-acceptance. It’s a work in process and I still have moments of self-doubt. What I’ve come to realise is that rejection and criticism are a part of life. It shouldn’t break you down. It should encourage you to keep fighting for what you want.

For the full interview and spread, check out the May issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore, out on newsstands now, or subscribe to the digital copy of the magazine here.

Creative direction by Jack Wang & Jumius Wong
Styled by Tok Wei Lun
Photographs by Dennis Leupold
Modelled by Jourdan Dunn/ Women Management NY
Makeup by Porsche Cooper
Hair by Yusef / Factory Downtown
Manicure by Candice Idehen/ Bridge Artists
Produced by Christopher Sollinger
Digital Tech by Courtney Walter
Contributing Market Editor: Erin McSherry 
Photographer assisted by Jamie Ellington
Stylist assisted by Kames Narayanan and Julia Gudova