Jour­dan Dunn: the so­cial su­per

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - @of cial dunn @ms_hat­tingh mc

THERE’S SOME spec­u­la­tion about what Jour­dan Dunn will be like. I have flown to Lon­don to meet her and talk about her cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tion with HTC. Ac­cord­ing to some, Jour­dan has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing dif­fi­cult, while oth­ers swear she’s one of the most gen­uine mod­els in the in­dus­try. As I’m es­corted up the stairs to the pent­house at ME Lon­don ho­tel to in­ter­view her, I get strict in­struc­tions – only 10 min­utes, and stick to the list of pre-ap­proved ques­tions. Can I take a selfie with her? One, I’m told.

As I en­ter the mod­ern, min­i­mal­is­tic room with its panoramic views over the city, I see all 1.8m of the 25-year-old model un­self­con­sciously and leisurely stretched out on the white couch. When she sees me, she gets up and wraps her long arms around me like we’re old friends. She’s wear­ing white strappy heels and a short, sleeve­less navy dress with in­tri­cate or­ange pais­ley pat­terns. Even af­ter eight hours of in­ter­views, she’s fresh, com­posed and glow­ing.

We start by talk­ing about her work with HTC. The model worked with lead­ing English tat­too artist Cally-Jo, who has inked the likes of Ri­hanna and Si­enna Miller, to cre­ate the HTC One M9 hand­set. The smart­phone has a body art il­lus­tra­tion en­graved on the back, which the two women cre­ated to­gether. The in­spi­ra­tion, Jour­dan says, came from her ex­ist­ing tat­toos – she has eight, in­clud­ing her son Ri­ley’s name inked on the side of her hand, which was her first tat­too. ‘For me, body art is very per­sonal. I took in­spi­ra­tion from my own and also what I would like to get done next. The open hand and eye sym­bol­ise the need for pro­tec­tion and strength, while still be­ing open and ap­proach­able in per­son­al­ity and

style,’ she says, de­scrib­ing the im­age. The leaf el­e­ments and pat­terns re­flect the growth in cre­ativ­ity that she is feel­ing at this time, while the sun and moon in­di­cate bal­ance and har­mony. ‘For me, that’s a good re­minder to have on a hand­set,’ she says.

‘In the past I’ve ex­pressed how much I re­ally want to get into design,’ she says about the col­lab­o­ra­tion. ‘HTC picked up on that and when they pre­sented me the op­por­tu­nity, I thought, you know what, I love my phone, I love body art, I feel like this is a good mix.’

Our con­ver­sa­tion moves to so­cial me­dia. She has more than 1.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Instagram and 225 000 on Twit­ter – giv­ing her the kind of so­cial me­dia clout most mod­els only dream of and that brands are more than happy to buy into. Jour­dan – along with her friends Kar­lie Kloss, Ken­dall Jen­ner and Cara Delev­ingne – is part of an era of so­cial me­dia su­per­mod­els whose self­ies are as in­trin­sic to their brands as ad cam­paigns. They can in­flu­ence the in­dus­try with a sin­gle post and form part of an exclusive club that we all have ac­cess to in some way. Yet she bub­bles with laugh­ter when I tell her I fol­low her on Instagram. ‘When I first got into so­cial me­dia, it was some time be­fore peo­ple were look­ing at me. Christo­pher Bai­ley [CEO of Burberry] said, “I fol­low you on Twit­ter, you’re hi­lar­i­ous” and I was just like “what?”. Very, you know, no fil­ter. But I don’t do that any more.’

She could be re­fer­ring to any num­ber of times she’s used so­cial me­dia to ad­dress im­por­tant is­sues. Jour­dan is an out­spo­ken force for diver­sity and in 2013 fa­mously tweeted about be­ing cut from a Dior show: ‘I’m nor­mally can­celled be­cause I’m “coloured” so be­ing can­celled be­cause of my boobs is a mi­nor :)’

Her fear­less­ness is part of what makes her pop­u­lar. She has con­tracts with Burberry and Maybelline, has run cam­paigns with Calvin Klein, DKNY, Bal­main and Top­shop and was re­cently the first solo black model to be on a Bri­tish Vogue cover in 12 years. In 2014, she was also the first black model to Make Forbes mag­a­zine’s list of top-earn­ing mod­els. And when Bal­main’s Olivier Rouste­ing an­nounced his col­lab­o­ra­tion with H&M in May, it was Jour­dan, along with Ken­dall, who wore the first pieces from the col­lec­tion to the 2015 Bill­board Mu­sic Awards.

But that doesn’t mean she’s obliv­i­ous to the kind of up­roar her tweets cause: ‘Be­cause now I’m a mom and all that stuff – I have to think be­fore I tweet. So I don’t re­ally have a so­cial me­dia strat­egy, I just try to keep a good bal­ance and give peo­ple what they want. A cou­ple of self­ies, show what you’re work­ing on, then more self­ies.’

Part of her suc­cess is how re­lat­able she is. She laugh­ingly tells me about how she tripped the first time she shared a run­way with Naomi Camp­bell. ‘I still can’t re­ally walk in heels,’ she says. Du­bi­ous for some­one who walked in 23 shows in the last year alone.

Jour­dan was dis­cov­ered at the age of 16 and has mod­elled ever since, with a short break to give birth to Ri­ley, now five, in 2009, when she was 19. She con­tin­ued mod­el­ling and walk­ing run­ways while preg­nant, with Jean Paul Gaultier spe­cially dress­ing her six­month bump for his SS10 show. She re­turned to work 10 weeks af­ter hav­ing Ri­ley, who has sickle-cell anaemia. (The in­her­ited ge­netic mu­ta­tion causes ab­nor­mally shaped red blood cells, which then can’t carry oxy­gen ef­fi­ciently through the body.) Jour­dan uses her high-pro­file po­si­tion to raise aware­ness of the disor­der and sup­ports the Sickle Cell So­ci­ety, a UK-based NGO, through fundrais­ing and events.

When asked who in­spires her, she says, ‘When I grew up, my mother and grand­mother in­spired me, be­cause they were work­ing moms and got things done. Another work­ing mom who in­spires me is Bey­oncé; she’s just like su­per­woman.’ Jour­dan should know – she starred in Bey­oncé’s ‘XO’ and ‘Yoncé’ mu­sic videos.

Her pub­li­cist calls ‘last ques­tion!’ and so I ask: what is her guilty plea­sure? ‘Ah… I know it’s re­ally bad, but I do en­joy swear­ing. It feels so good,’ she says with a laugh.

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