“I’m a model with a mission,” Precious Lee tells me from her Paris lodge room the place she has simply wrapped up a gruelling fashion month. “I’ll at all times have issues that I’m doing to raise the collective and to make extra space for others like me.”
At a US dimension 12 (a UK 16), Lee’s curvier silhouette places her within the “plus-size” class — and she or he is a passionate activist for dimension diversity within the trade.
Having walked for Versace, Balmain, Lanvin and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty in Paris, Milan and the US, the rising supermodel is lastly having a uncommon “day of chill” earlier than heading straight on to Toronto for work. She is among the most in-demand fashions of the second.
Lee, 32, is, as her Instagram bio reads, “within the enterprise of creating historical past”, having landed a string of firsts for the trade. Again in 2015, she turned the primary black curve mannequin to look on the pages of American Vogue and final autumn she was among the many first three plus-size fashions — alongside London-born Alva Claire and Dutch mannequin Jill Kortleve — to stroll for Versace in its runway historical past.
This yr she has owned September, the largest month within the fashion world, showing on the entrance of Vogue with the likes of Anok Yai, Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber and transgender mannequin Ariel Nicholson in what is taken into account the journal’s most various cowl so far, earlier than kicking off New York Fashion Week, opening (and shutting) Christian Siriano’s spring/summer time 2022 assortment, and later making her Met Gala debut (on her birthday) in a spectacular silver shoulder-padded blazer gown by New York-based designer Space.
“I was born into fashion, possibly not this fashion world that I’m in right this moment, however I’ve at all times been surrounded by lovely issues, from the artwork within the dwelling that I grew up in Atlanta to the sculptures, to the clothes that my dad and mom wore. They have been very unique of their model and I at all times had area to specific myself by means of fashion,” she says. “My dad and mom would give me a funds and one in every of my favorite issues to do would be to get a catalogue that had all the youngsters’ clothes and my mother would inform me to place my initials on all the things that I wished. Again-to-school buying was actually like one in every of my favorite issues to do. I was like a tiny editor, I was so obsessed.”
Regardless of a deep love for garments — and the limelight (“I was at all times making my dad and mom watch me in lounge fashion performances”) — Lee never thought of a profession in modelling. “Individuals have been at all times like ‘you’re so fairly’ or ‘you’ll be able to gown properly’, however I never actually related it to modelling since you didn’t see non-traditional dimension fashions at the moment. I don’t know if subconsciously I never went into that thought course of as a result of I didn’t see anybody that seemed like me.” The trade has lacked range in most methods however significantly for those who’re not a dimension six, and whereas the likes of Lee, Claire and Ashley Graham are smashing limitations, there’s nonetheless a lengthy technique to go.
Lee landed her first modelling job at 18 after accompanying a good friend to an open-call casting. “He was not very assured to go on his personal and I’m that good friend who would actually drag you to the place you want to be, I’ll actually stand there and maintain you up if essential.” She ended up being the one individual they requested to remain. Work rolled in — “there weren’t that many plus-size fashions in Atlanta at the moment” — she graduated and moved to New York after being supplied a contract. “I stated I was gonna give it one yr and if it wasn’t epic, I was going to legislation college.”
I stated I was going to offer it one yr and if it wasn’t epic, I was going to legislation college
As we speak Lee oozes confidence however never veers on the facet of cockiness. Her resolute self-belief, self-love and dedication are infectious. “My path is actually studying, relearning, unlearning, accepting and actually specializing in what I wish to obtain. It’s a aggressive trade and our job and livelihood relies on our appears. Individuals don’t perceive what which means by way of vanity, evaluating your self to the subsequent individual is the worst factor that you are able to do, genuinely.”
Who’s her largest inspiration? “I’ve at all times admired Naomi Campbell and what she’s completed for girls of color in fashion. What I realized from her was accepting your personal energy. When you try this, you don’t have to consider anyone else’s legs, physique, abdomen, none of that.” What’s her largest piece of life recommendation? “Embrace your originality. When you try this, you’ll open doorways that you just didn’t even know you wished to open and your path will grow to be so a lot clearer.” She continues: “You may make a complete profession out of being one thing you’re not and at some point not perceive how you bought there and never wish to be there.”
Although, she concedes, it’s simpler stated than completed. “If anyone learns something from me, it’s take heed to your personal voice. I actually really feel like having an indomitable spirit has taken me so far. I’ve been told so many times I’ll never be a high fashion editorial lady. I’ve been told I’ll never be industrial. I’ve been told I’ll never work this, I’ll never do that, or I wouldn’t get this with out this. And I at all times knew it was bullshit. I at all times knew that the those who have been telling me that have been restricted themselves. You’re going to get a lot of that on this trade however you need to perceive that projection is a waste of time when you have got a objective in thoughts.”
How does she keep grounded whereas taking the fashion world by storm? Practising breathwork and gratitude are her two largest wellness instruments. “I really haven’t been doing very a lot of it as a result of I’ve been so busy however that’s while you’re purported to do it essentially the most! These are the breakthrough moments, while you really feel actually, actually, actually low.” In truth, she has a explicit visualisation approach which helps her by means of. “Take a deep breath and take heed to your personal heartbeat. Consider your coronary heart as a lung, inhaling love after which releasing out. I wish to transfer from my coronary heart in all the things that I do. I feel that folks ought to do extra deep respiration and say thanks and be grateful, even while you’re cry-screaming in your pillow — gratitude releases so a lot heaviness out of your coronary heart, it’s fairly magical.”
We’re chatting right this moment to debate her function as one of many new faces of jewelry model Pandora’s new marketing campaign, Carrying Events, which she says is a pure match. “Jewelry is one thing that has at all times accomplished a search for me and my household. I imply, I had my ears pierced at three months! I might put on little bangles and hair equipment, I simply didn’t know that it wasn’t a a part of your outfit. And I like the Pandora traditions of giving your mother a attraction each Mom’s Day or Christmas,” she says.
What’s subsequent for this trailblazer? Lee has her sights firmly set on Hollywood. She’s now represented by WME and has landed her first function showing in two episodes of Run The World, a Starz sequence about a group of black girls dwelling in Harlem. “I play a bartender. I wished to be one in faculty so unhealthy, however I was a hostess as an alternative. I’m writing and I positively have extra to come back.” So keep tuned. “That is essentially the most exhibits that I’ve ever walked in a single season, so now I’m being extra selective on the issues that I interact with project-wise.”
Her dream function? “A superhero! I’m a enormous Batman and Marvel fan. There’s one thing about that energy and this vulnerability in superheroes that I determine with so a lot — it’s form of like being a little indignant Care Bear,” she laughs. “Having the battle and making the battle be a a part of your energy. I might additionally like to be in a actually gritty, drama film, I wish to be like arggggh!” she screams. “There are so many totally different roles on the market that you just don’t ever see anyone that appears like me, my dimension or my color doing.”
Our time is up and I’m so consumed by how articulate, humorous and fearless Precious Lee is that we’ve barely bought by means of half of my questions. Regardless of having simply survived fashion month, she has a manner of energising you. She is that good friend who lifts you up.