Leomie Anderson: "I Hated Runway Pictures Knowing I Was The Only Black Girl In A Show"

Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
It’s 2017 and for those in the public eye to captivate us, we need more than good looks and a great aesthetic. From Adwoa Aboah speaking out on addiction and mental health, to Hari Nef fighting for trans issues, the models we admire stand for something and use their platforms to encourage change. Leomie Anderson is one such role model. The 24-year-old south Londoner has an impressive CV: she began her modelling journey with Premier back in 2011, starring on The Model Agency; she’s been front and centre of Yeezy Season One and Two; has walked for everyone from Fenty x Puma and Vivienne Westwood to Jeremy Scott; and, of course, is a Victoria’s Secret model.
But while her past work is testament to her dedication to the industry, Anderson has caught our attention more recently with her collective LAPP. Started as a blog in 2012, Leomie has used it as a platform to talk about everything from racism in the industry to empowering women in the workplace. It’s evolved into a fashion and feminist platform, with her first clothing collection tackling the issue of consent via slogan T-shirts modelled by a host of babes. A self-described “safe space on the internet for women to express their views and perspectives, free of judgement”, Refinery29 caught up with Leomie and chatted body shaming in the modelling industry, the way the media treated Kim Kardashian post-armed robbery, and her work styling the Nike Beautiful x Powerful collection.
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Can you explain how LAPP The Brand came about?
I wrote about consent and the pressures young girls are under on my personal blog and it went viral. I realised how much influence I could have and how powerful my voice could be. When I had the opportunity to speak at a girls' school I asked them who they would turn to for advice – those who didn't have an older sister or family member felt that they had nowhere to go to hear a female perspective. I felt inspired to use my voice and influence for good; that's how LAPP really began.
Why did you want the brand to be both a fashion and feminist platform, and how do you think the two interconnect?
I see fashion as a universal language that can be used to convey all types of messages; look at Vivienne Westwood using her designs to discuss climate change. I love fashion and have always enjoyed designing so wanted to bring together all of my loves into one place. My first collection was the 'Consent Collection' and it featured phrases inspired by the girls I spoke to at the school – really, they were to let them know that it's okay to say no. Then there's the infamous 'This Pussy Grabs Back' hoodie that Rihanna wore to the Women's March in NYC; they were to hit back at the face of misogyny at the time, Trump! Our latest collection is the Nudi-tee Collection, which explores the way that we subconsciously view women's bodies.
Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Tell us about your work with Nike’s Beautiful x Powerful campaign:
The amazing Nike London team reached out to me to shoot a look book with LAPP clothing and the Cortez from their second Beautiful x Powerful collection, and host a LAPP event at their King's Road store. It was a huge opportunity for LAPP and they gave me free rein to create something that truly represented the brand. The event was such a success! We had a panel discussion with myself, singer Bree Runway, photographer and stylist Erika Bowes and British athlete Morgan Lake. It was the first of many events I want to do to bring together contributors and supporters of LAPP to discuss issues that really matter to us.
You've spoken out before about the way in which Serena Williams’ strong physique has been used against her. How do you think prejudice and misogyny plays out in the way the media presents women?
If a woman removes herself from the male gaze, they are chastised for it. The media pushes unrealistic views of women to the public – these are the images that young women grow up with and internalise. This is why I'm such a strong advocate of getting real women's voices heard: because the majority of the people in the media creating the voice and perception of women are middle-class white men.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
Another topic you've talked about is the fact that people spoke about Kim Kardashian as a mother over a human being in relation to her hotel attack...
It really sickened me to see how many people only had sympathy for Kim when they remembered she had children – a thought pattern I've seen in many situations with women. I think it says a lot about how we as a society view and value women's lives.
You’re vocal about issues like racism and body shaming in the modelling industry – tell me about how you’ve fought back against that...
The day I started being vocal is the day I became much happier. When I was younger I was sometimes scared to speak up in fear of being labelled a 'diva', 'fierce' or whatever stereotype people could apply to me because I was a black girl; I didn't want to live up to any of those phrases. But I realised that it made me insecure; I would hate seeing my runway pictures knowing that I was the only black girl in a show or had the worst hair just because I was too scared to say something [to a hair stylist]. So now I speak up when I don't feel happy or comfortable, and in turn I've opened the door to make other young, black models speak up too.
What advice do you have for young women looking to gain self-confidence?
Stop following people that make you feel insecure on social media!
And for young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Write for LAPP! But also, my advice would be to take risks and remember that you can't put a time limit on true success. Just because it doesn't happen when you thought it would, doesn't mean it can't happen.
Nike Beautiful x Powerful collection is available at Nike.com