Winnie Harlow is just the best. Aside from having a smile that boosts the mood whenever it’s flashed, she’s got an attitude that does the same. Writ large in her TEDx Talk My Story Is Painted on My Body, wherein she spoke generously about her skin condition, vitiligo. And also in the way that she can say, with cool-headedness, that she has more to offer than just these stories.
Winnie has also walked loads of runways for everyone from Dior to Marc Jacobs and Fashion East. She also starred in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, alongside favourites including Zendaya and Amandla Stenberg — so, you can see why we wanted to find out more.
Hayley Morgan: Hey Winnie! You’re in the middle of Fashion Week, who are you hanging with?
Winnie Harlow: I’ve been hanging with Doutzen quite a bit, which is amazing because I think she’s a goddess — and she knows that [laughs]!
What are the best and worst bits about fashion weeks?
The best part, I think, is getting to see the runway photos! Seeing yourself in the designers’ creations is so beautiful, you feel so honoured. The worst part is probably breaking out from all the make-up. Always nice to get a good facial before and after Fashion Week!
How do you stay looking good with all of the make-up, hairspray, late nights and minimal snack times? Do you have any rules and quick beauty fixes?
[Laughs] what a coincidence! I think a major player is taking off make-up every night before bed. Fashion Week can get so tiring and it’s tempting to fall asleep with the make-up on, but that’s never good for your skin. I would also recommend investing in a good emergency breakout mask and face wash to travel with. A quick beauty fix I have is using your favourite natural oil and warm water to remove your makeup with a face towel. Then washing your face twice with a cleanser. My favourite oils are avocado or coconut.
And after Fashion Week, how do you bring your body/hair/ health/mind back to normal?
Reading a good book is always refreshing! I’m currently reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Getting massages helps a lot too. I also really love going back home and seeing family and friends. I always feel so happy after going home to Toronto for a while.
What was your approach to makeup and beauty when you were a teen, and how has it changed since then?
I didn’t wear a lot of make-up as a teen, if any. But when I started going to house parties and all-ages parties, I would wear some mascara and do my eyebrows. I wore bronzer all over my face, shiny sticky lip gloss and even experimented with false lashes once in a while. Since then I’ve educated myself a lot on make-up and what suites my face. I love trying new things and products, and I continue to learn everyday from the make-up artists I get to work with.
Do you remember the first stages of experimenting with your look? Any regrets?
I don’t think I really experimented with my look until I got older. I always hated everything my mother bought for me — lots of turtlenecks and corduroy [laughs]. I think my only regret is not experimenting. I’m going to give my future kids lots of style options!
Are there days where you’re not feeling beautiful? What do you do to snap yourself out of it?
I think we all have our days when we don’t feel our best. It’s tough to always feel on top of your game. For me, I like to do my hair. When my hair is done it gives me a confidence boost.
Our issue theme is ‘Popular’, so I want to touch on that… What was your life like before Beyoncé, TEDx Talks and Dior — did you ever struggle to ‘fit in’?
I definitely used to struggle to fit in — and I probably would now if I was still trying to t in. I just enjoy walking in my own path instead of trying to fit anyone else’s mould.
Which popular beauty standards do you wish you could change?
I would just take beauty standards away all together. Who is to say what is or isn’t beautiful?
Does it feel weird that diverse and interesting casting is almost being called a ‘movement’ and that designers are being applauded for it?
I definitely try to stay away from this ‘movement’. A lot of people are happy about it but I’m just not satisfied. It’s not a movement, it’s just equality. It’s diversity. It’s real life.
Who is your style icon?
Who do you look up to in terms of philosophy and way of living /being?
I pull a lot of inspo on life philosophy from my best friend — @badgyalshanshan. She was shot in both legs and used the power of positivity to heal. That’s real strength!
Did you grow up with any customs or traditions in your family?
I used to go to Jamaica every summer and every Christmas to see my dad, siblings and grandparents. It was so much fun!
What’s the most fashionable thing you own?
The first purse I bought — my Prada purse. I bought it as a gift to myself for my first magazine cover.
What does originality mean to you and what does it take to be original these days?
It doesn’t take anything but being yourself. To be honest, I don’t think there is much originality today. Everything is inspired from something else.
What do you want to be known for in hundreds of years to come?
Being unapologetically me.
Photography Jesse Lizotte, fashion Sarah Starkey, make-up Xeneb Allen.
Shot at Superteam Studios. Special thanks to Parfums Christian Dior and Kym Ellery.