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

Photo: Courtesy of Nike.
It’s 2017, and those in the public eye need more than good looks and a great aesthetic to capture people's attention. From Adwoa Aboah speaking out on addiction and mental health, to Hari Nef fighting for trans rights, the models we admire today stand for something, and use their platforms to encourage change. Leomie Anderson is one such role model.
The 24-year-old Londoner has an impressive resume: She began her modeling career with Premier back in 2011, starring on The Model Agency; she’s been front and center at 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. And though her past work is a testament of her dedication to the industry, recently, Anderson caught our attention with her collective, LAPP.
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Started as a blog in 2012, Anderson's developed LAPP into a platform that discusses everything from racism in the industry to empowering women in the workplace. Since its conception, it’s evolved into a fashion and feminist destination, with her first clothing collection tackling the issue of consent via slogan T-shirts. A self-described “safe space on the internet for women to express their views and perspectives, free of judgement,” Refinery29 caught up with Anderson to chat body shaming in the industry, the way the media treated Kim Kardashian post-armed robbery, and her work styling the Nike Beautiful x Powerful collection.
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 realized 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 I 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 New York City; 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 lookbook with LAPP clothing and the Cortez from its second Beautiful x Powerful collection, and host a LAPP event at the King's Road store. It was a huge opportunity for LAPP, and they gave me free reign to create something that truly represented the brand. 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."
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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 internalize. 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."
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 modeling 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 labeled 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 realized that it made me insecure; I would hate seeing my runway pictures knowing that I was the only black girl in a show, or that I had the worst hair just because I was too scared to say something [to a hair stylist]. 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 who make you feel insecure on social media."
And for young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
"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."
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