Supermodel Jourdan Dunn “I worked hard to love myself”
#Girlboss, #Mumboss, just call Jourdan Dunn The Boss.
an hour after Jourdan Dunn has to leave GLAMOUR’S cover shoot to catch a flight, she posts an Instagram story. It shows her reading material for the journey and is captioned, “I should have read this before my interview today.” The book is TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson (Headline Publishing; R200). The interview she’s talking about was with me.
So what went wrong? Did she give one-word answers, ramble on without actually saying anything or walk out? Nope, nope and nope. She was open, friendly and happy to talk about anything, a far cry from some of the subjects I’ve profiled. It just wasn’t, she tells me later, the best that she could do.
“I’m in a new stage of my life, a new chapter, and I want to give something interesting. I was just so disappointed in myself,” she tells me a week later. “At school, I would always know the answer, but be scared to put my hand up because I get nervous and I start muddling my words up and stutter.
Sometimes in interviews, in my head I know how I want it to sound, but it comes out scrambled.” That’s not at all how she comes across, but what’s clear is that when the 26-year-old model-turned-businesswoman does something, she’s all in.
Our second meet-up is on the set of the campaign shoot for LONDUNN + Missguided by Jourdan Dunn, the 96-piece clothing collaboration she launched with the brand in March.
Plenty of collaborations begin and end with the celebrity linking their name to a label, but when the online retailer approached Jourdan, she immediately concerned herself with the minutiae of the project.
“They’d say, ‘You don’t have to come for the design meeting,’ and I was like, ‘ What do you mean? That’s the whole purpose of it,’” she says. “I want to be there for the casting and the design and for everything. I want to have the final say, because it’s my name on it and it’s a representation of me.”
Her 2016 kids’ clothing line with Marks & Spencers, Lil’ Londunn, sprung from a desire to design for her seven-year-old son, Riley, but she had more selfish motivations for this range: creating clothes that she wanted to buy and, more importantly, that would fit her. “The struggle was real when I was growing up,” she laughs about her 180cm height. She was a tall and skinny teenager, too self-conscious for it to cross her mind that her proportions were ideal for a modelling career until she was scouted by Storm Management at age 15. She quickly went from London teen to one of the UK’S most in-demand models. In 2014, Jourdan landed the coveted role as Maybelline New York’s spokesmodel, joining supermodels Adriana Lima and Christy Turlington.
These days, she splits her time between her place in New York and her mom’s house in London, where Riley also lives. And yes, she is stunning. Even before hair and makeup get to work at the cover shoot, her willowy frame, flawless skin and perfect bone structure are unmistakable.
It’s hard to imagine that a collection designed with that raw material in mind would translate well for us real women. “One thing,” Jourdan says politely, “I don’t really like the term ‘real women’. When you compare ‘real women’ to models, it’s like, what do you mean? I live on earth. I have breasts, I have a vagina, I am very much real.”
For women without model proportions then, I modify. “I want all types of women to feel comfortable in it and feel good. So, once I got the mindset of how I wanted it to be, I had to then think, ‘OK, maybe that fabric might not be too complementary to this kind of woman or that kind of woman.’ We played around.”
To her two million Instagram followers, Jourdan is very much real, and that’s why they love her, even if her candour on social media has occasionally got her in trouble. “I don’t regret it at all, but I’m a bit smarter about it now,” she says. Her feed is still updated daily, but these days her output is more considered. Because, well, monetisation.
“It’s a business,” she says. “I’m getting my head around the fact that social media is also a way to brand yourself and show everybody who you are.” But she’s still committed to keeping up the flow of selfies that her fans love (average likes: 45 000) – and she makes an effort at both shoots to take some to post.
But will we ever see anything as candid again as the 2014 post that showed off her stretch marks and caused the internet to have a bit of a meltdown? “I honestly didn’t post it because of my stretch marks,” she says, laughing. I posted it because I thought my crop top looked cute, and my stomach looked quite nice and flat. Then I looked at the comments and everyone was going on about my stretch marks. It wasn’t my reason, but I’m happy I did, because I’m real and even ‘someone like me’ has stretch marks.”
Because aside from branding, authenticity is Jourdan’s other 2017 buzzword. “I’m not just going to put my name to something random. With the kid’s line, it was authentic because I have a child [Riley appeared in the ad campaign], and with Missguided, I want to be able to dress women.”
What else fits the remit? “Cooking.” Jourdan was helping her grandmother in the kitchen from age seven or eight and has already hosted cooking shows online ( Well Dunn on Jay Z’s Life+times Youtube channel, and How It’s Dunn on i-d magazine’s lifestyle platform). Now she’s applying that laser focus to a cookbook that focuses on spices. “But not just heat. Different flavours, like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, that liven up dishes.”
Nothing stands in the way of Brand Dunn. Except her inner critic, she says. Right now, she’s in a good headspace, but she says it wasn’t always that way. Just a few years ago, she says, “I was having negative thoughts about myself, and I had to change that because it doesn’t get you anywhere. I had to re-programme my mind for positivity, and really look hard at myself so I could find something I actually liked about myself.”
Jourdan is a big fan of self-help books, and that’s what helped her start thinking positively. “My favourite was Louise L Hay’s How to Love Yourself (Hay House; R171, audiobook). It reshaped my whole mindset. Everything makes sense, it all does start from self-loving and forgetting, blocking out negative thoughts and other people’s thoughts of you.”
But that doesn’t mean she never wavers. “I have down moments, but I just let them be moments and not drag on,” she says. “Because then it will just affect me and my energy and other people. I’m allowed to have those moments, but I’m like, ‘Be a big girl, get on with it, you’ve got things to do.”
You heard the woman: buckle up; she’s got things to do.
“I’m in a new stage of my life, a new chapter.” “I have down moments, but I just let them be moments.”