Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Teen Vogue.

Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn on the November 2009 issuue of Teen Vogue.

Her full name is Chanel Iman Robinson. Yes, she was named after that Chanel; no, not after that Iman (her cousin happens to share the name with the seventies supermodel). Chanel grew up in Los Angeles, signed with Ford Models at twelve, landed her first Vogue cover at sixteen, and now at eighteen is one of the youngest Victoria's Secret models in the company's history. She's appeared as a guest judge on America's Next Top Model, hosted by another former super (she calls Tyra Banks "my mentor"). She's assumed such a high profile that her name regularly pops up in gossip columns like "Page Six," which have romantically linked her to everyone from Kanye West to music producer Ryan Leslie. She claims both are "just friends." Her actual boyfriend, who hangs out on the sidelines during the interview, is, by her own account, "just a regular guy."

Chanel is not just a regular model. A striking mix of African-American and Korean, she's one of the only models of color to break into the major leagues in a long, long time. Not since Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, both of whom are now in their late 30s, has a black model garnered this much intrigue and attention. You would think in a day when America has elected its first black president, the notion of a black supermodel wouldn't be such an anomaly. But until Jourdan Dunn appeared on the scene a few years ago, Chanel didn't have much company at the top.

Nineteen-year-old Jourdan Dunn was discovered at a chain store in her native London by the same agency that lifted Kate Moss out of obscurity. She quickly established herself in the fashion elite with a history-making turn on the runway at Prada—the five-foot-ten Brit was the first black model to walk a Prada show in over a decade, the last one to do so having been Naomi Campbell in the nineties. "Everyone kept saying, 'Jourdan, you know how huge it is if you do this,'" she says. "Prada is notorious for cancelling girls last minute, so I was like, Okay, I'm confirmed, but I'm not going to get all excited until I'm actually on the runway. As I was lining up, I was still thinking, Any minute now they can come round and tell me, 'Jourdan, you're not doing the show.' So once I turned the corner and stepped onto the runway, I was like, Oh my God, I'm doing Prada!'"

"It's competition. There aren't a lot of us, but instead of sticking together, we're pitted against each other. People will say things in Chanel's ear like, 'Jourdan is taking your spot,' and then they'll say to me, 'Don't trust Chanel.'"

"I could sit here and tell you, 'I love Jourdan! We've always been the best of friends! But we haven't. Until recently, we barely even spoke. We went from being superclose in the beginning to dead silence if we saw each other backstage at a show. If we did say hi, it was hi, and that's it."

Jourdan, on her unplanned pregnancy:
"It was really hard. "All I could think about was what my mom was going to say, my agency, my boyfriend. When I told my mom, she started crying and blaming herself. She got pregnant with me at the same age, and she said, 'I don't want you to have to go through what I did.'"
CHANEL, ON MOTHERHOOD: "No babies for me until I'm in my 30s! I'm focused on my career right now. I can't even take care of my dog."

Jourdan, on the harsh realities of the industry:
"I remember last season I was about to go into a casting, and my agent phoned and said, 'Turn back. They decided they don't want any black models.' I was like, 'They're actually telling you that's the reason? Are you serious?!'"

Chanel, on the future:
"I don't want to be known as the black model. I want to be recognized as Chanel Iman, a personality. Five years from now I see myself still working hard to get where I want to be, because I think big. I think the best. Maybe I think too large."

I'm beyond interested about the rest of this interview. I'm not upset at either of the models. Who doesn't like to see two young African American women making it in our world>?

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