Jourdan Dunn proves there’s more to today’s models than just good looks. An outspoken critic of the fashion industry, the British supermodel is trying to change the face of beauty from within. As the newest face of Maybelline New York, she’s found the perfect platform, says Rosaleen McMeel.
Jourdan Dunn might be at the more mature end of the model spectrum – at the ripe old age of 24–but she’s part of a whole new breed of models who aren’t afraid to let their personality shine alongside their looks.
Breaking from the Kate Moss school of silence, Dunn has been refreshingly outspoken since she was scouted by Storm while shopping with a friend in a Primark store in London at the age of 15. While Moss’ strategy of keeping mum clearly paid off for her in the 1990s, more is expected of today’s model, and Dunn’s open and direct approach is proving pivotal to her success.
She is the first black British model ever to enter the Forbes models rich list. Her career hit the ground running when she appeared in 75 London Fashion Week shows in one season in 2007. Dunn has walked the last two Victoria’s Secret shows, had guest appearances in Beyoncé’s videos, and hosted a cookery show called Well Dunn.
She has been a part of various campaigns for Calvin Klein, CK One fragrance, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, Burberry Beauty, Gap, DKNY, H&M, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Rag&Bone, Topshop, John Galliano and Benetton, among others. And at 191,000 Twitter followers and over 910,000 Instagram followers (and counting), she’s riding high on a wave of social media.
Beauty giant Maybelline New York recently snapped her up as their latest spokesmodel. “Jourdan’s look, style and positive energy are perfect for the Maybelline New York brand,” explains Jerome Bruhat, global brand president of Maybelline New York. “She truly reflects Maybelline’s vision of global beauty.”
Another title Jourdan holds dear is Cara Delevingne’s “wifey” (to seal the union, they got matching tattoos), and counts Joan Smalls, Chanel Iman and Karlie Kloss as mates.
This new breed of beauties love to speak their minds, be honest, direct and real. Their flaws-and-all approach has singled them out as real role models that young girls can identify with.
When we meet in the Maybelline lounge at London Fashion Week, Jourdan is ushered into the VIP area, and the room goes strangely quiet. It’s hard not to notice the 5-foot-11 beauty. Addapair of killer heels (which elevate her to an easy 6-foot-4) and a tiny denim skirt and matching jacket by Moschino, and her presence is truly felt.
When we sit down to talk, she’s bright, funny and very engaging. She describes her personal style as “street chic”–a mix of high street brands and designer labels. She loves Victoria Beckham’s line–“It’s very chic”–and Alexander Wang, Topshop, Burberry and Stella McCartney.
She also admits a slight obsession with Irish designer Simone Rocha. “I got her shoes–the ones with the pearls. They’re so cute. I really like her stuff.” The model also talks openly about her son, Riley, who is five, and how motherhood has impacted her career path.
“I’m much more selective now about what I do,” she says. “Number one, I am a mother–he is always my priority. I remember when I got pregnant, people were like, ‘Oh, that’s her done’, and I feel like my son gave me the push and the motivation to keep going. He is my daily motivation now. I’m not doing this for me anymore, I’m doing this for him.”
Jourdan with her son Riley
When I ask how she copes with the demands of modelling at the top of her game and motherhood, she admits it’s been difficult, but credits her own mother as her rock. “It’s hard, but thank God for my mum. When I’m working, he’s at home with her. My mum was like, ‘Jourdan, this is your moment, go and do your thing, and he’ll be fine here with me.’
I think kids need a structured life, routine and a schedule, and I just want his life to be as normal as possible.” Like any working mother, she struggles with the decision to leave him in her mother’s care, but with a demanding schedule that requires her to be away from home for long periods of time, she has to weigh up the options.
“Every time I go, I feel so guilty. I wonder is it really worth it, all the things I’m missing out on. Every time I come back, I feel like he’s said something new or he’s getting bigger, and I do wonder if it’s worth it, but it is because I have to remember this is for him now. And this is for his kids, and I just have to put up with it.”
Although a model’s schedule can be gruelling, especially during Fashion Week, Jourdan loves what she does and the opportunities that it affords her.
“The fact that I’m now a Maybelline girl is a dream come true. Actually seeing my dreams become a reality, I know that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. It’s been crazy. I’ve walked shows with Naomi–stuff like that is really enjoyable and an amazing feeling.”
If she could change one thing, it would be the lack of diversity in the industry, although she has noticed some positive changes over the last few years.
“I think there have been moments when you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a move in the right direction’. When I was pregnant, I was out of the scene for a bit, and I came back and there were all these new models, and that was so refreshing – not just to see one black face or only one Asian model; but then it goes back into the old routine of just having one or none. So it’s up and down. Things have improved, but there is still so much to be done.”
Her frustration at the lack of diversity isn’t reserved just for skin colour, but sizing too. “Whether you’re black, brown, tall, skinny, white, whatever, all women love fashion and look into magazines and like to find someone they can identify with.
So whether it’s a tall, skinny chick or someone who’s short and curvy, we want to be able to see someone and go, ‘If that looks good on her, she’s like me, so that although a model’s schedule can be gruelling, especially during Fashion Week, Jourdan loves what she does and will look good on me’. So size is something that also needs to be looked at too.”
Dunn is just as outspoken on the solutions as she is the problems. “People ask questions to the models, and I get it, but they need to be asking the questions to the casting directors or the agencies and ask them why there aren’t enough black models or Asian models. They’re the people who can make a difference.”
Her direct approach has made her an accidental spokesperson for change in the industry, and she laughs at the title before accepting it with pride. “I know, and I probably shouldn’t have been [so outspoken], but I just needed to be real and true to myself. I say things that everyone else is thinking, but just don’t have the balls to say.”
Has she regretted any of it? “Hell no. My agent might beg to differ, but no, I don’t regret anything. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and voicing it.”
It seems candidness is in her DNA, and she credits a long line of confident women as her inspiration. “My mum has always been my role model. And then my grandmother and my great grandmother. I’ve always had strong women in my life.
I look up to Beyoncé, but I’ve never idolised celebrities. It’s always been my mum, my grandma and my great grandma. I’m not surprised by her answer when asked the lesson she’d most like to teach her own son. “Always stay true to yourself. And speak your mind!”
Beauty Quick-Fire Round
Beauty pet peeve?
“I hate bleached eyebrows. There was a trend for bleached brows for a while for editorials and shows and sometimes it was a two-day shoot and I had to go home with my bleached eyebrows, and my brother would say, ‘Get away from me – you look like an alien.’”
Desert island product?
“My Great Lash Clear Mascara. I use that to keep my eyebrows tidy – I’ve got big brows. And then probably Big Eyes Mascara, €11.99, as well.”
Clear skin secrets?
“I love a good face mask. Sisley’s Radiant Glow Express Mask, €83.50, is my favourite. I put it on in the morning and it’s like I’ve got a whole new face.
It’s really simple: tinted moisturiser, mascara, and some lip balm.
Standout Maybelline product?
Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise, €8.99, and the nude eye shadow palette [launching in Ireland in May]. It has so many different shades, and it shows you on the back how to apply it, which is great for someone like me, who is only learning how to do eye make-up.