COCO: Tell us a little bit about your career. How did you get started?
Jess-Louise: I’ve been quite the performer and poser since I was a little girl, and was interested in fashion from an early age. I was in my first fashion show at age 6 and then started dancing and gymnastics too – I never sat still! This flamboyance seemed to calm down almost overnight, during my teens, and I became more interested in the art of modelling and the creativity it allowed me to explore. I decided to take it seriously as a profession around age 17 or 18 but never had any luck with agencies and even got scammed once, which I took quite hard. After all that rejection, I chose to pretty much forget about modelling for a while and focus on my studies, completing my A-Levels and then going to university. During this time, I learned I could model independently so I would still do the odd shoot with friends or through sites like Model Mayhem, and really enjoyed travelling and meeting new, like-minded people. I pretty much freelanced for 5 or 6 years, going full-time for about a year and a half, before going back to my studies to finish my Master’s degree at University College London in 2013. Less than a year later I joined my beautiful Bridge Models family!
COCO: What was your favorite shoot?
Jess-Louise: What a tough question! Off the top of my head, I’d say a shoot I did when I was on Britain’s Next Top Model a few years ago for Eve Lom cosmetics with a photographer called Nihat Odabasi. The photos were just fantastic. And pretty much every shoot I do with an indie lingerie brand called Kiss Me Deadly is brilliant because the lingerie is exceptional, the concepts are just astounding and the photographer, Morgana (Iberian Black Arts), is a beautiful genius!
COCO: Tell us about your style?
Jess-Louise: It often depends on how I’m feeling right before I leave the house or whatever film I just watched, or what music I’m listening to as I’m getting ready. Recently, it seems to be a bit 90s but I also find a 40s or 50s style suits my figure well. I’m also obsessed with corsetry. So in a nutshell, it’s grunge with a cinched waist. At least, it is today – ha!
COCO: What are three items you must have in your closet?
Jess-Louise: A wrap-around dress (SO practical and versatile), well-fitting underwear, and anything high-waisted. Oh oh, and Kiss Me Deadly lingerie’s ‘Day corset’ is an utter blessing and a godsend – I can get a little extra cinch under an outfit and still move around easily at work (I have a reasonably physical day job).
COCO: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this industry?
Jess-Louise: Well, it’s toss-up between my size and my skin. I’ve always been “Amazonian” in stature, and even when I was a lanky teenager, I was never skinny enough for agencies. As my figure filled out during my twenties, I realised I couldn’t keep beating myself up for not having small enough bones, and that I could instead pursue plus-size modelling. Unfortunately, the problem then became that I wasn’t big enough! Coupled with that, while looking for representation late last year I went to one of the biggest agencies in Europe, which has really hopped on to the curve bandwagon during the last year or so, and was told by the main booker that “[their] books are closed to ethnic models”. I find it too painful a subject to write about further so I’ll leave that there. As I said earlier, the modelling industry can be a rough ride.
COCO: If you weren’t modelling what would you be doing?
Jess-Louise: I’d be an interpreter and/or a contortionist. I’m still training towards both.
COCO: Do you have any advice for aspiring models?
- Believe in yourself and your potential. It’s a rough, tough industry and sometimes it feels as though there are more lows than highs. Often, the rejection feels personal but it isn’t, it’s usually entirely superficial. I’ve been doing it long enough to know that I’m a skilled and talented model, and if a client doesn’t pick me for a job, they have their reasons (and it’s their loss). On to the next!
- Make sure you have something else you can do alongside or afterwards, try not to let it consume you as it can be a fickle beast. When televised modelling competitions were really popular a few years ago, one thing I often heard girls say was that modelling was their life and there was no “plan B” which was something I always found quite worrying. An industry that relies on whether someone likes the way your nose sits on your face or how big or small your hips are is not a place to build your life around.
- Be passionate but stay grounded and level-headed.
COCO: What makeup items are a must have for you daily?
Jess-Louise: I lost my expensive make-up bag last year and didn’t have the heart to re-buy everything so it was a great opportunity to explore new, budget products. I’m not huge into brands and a lot of my kit is cheap and cheerful stuff from the African/Caribbean hair shops near where I live in north London but one foundation I’ve discovered that has the best coverage I’ve ever experienced is Black|Up ‘Full Coverage Oil Free Cream Foundation’(http://www.blackupcosmetics.com/full-coverage-cream-foundation.html). I wear colour 007.
Essentials-wise, I was not blessed with thick eyebrows so I always have a light brown pencil to fill those babies in, under-eye concealer, and tinted lip gloss or plain lip balm.
COCO: Who’s your fashion icon?
Jess-Louise: Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks.
COCO: Do you have any beauty secrets you’d like to share with our readers?
- Bioderma Sensibio H20 makeup remover. I read about it in a Vogue supplement 11 years ago and have never looked back. I have oily/combination skin that doesn’t like a lot of things but this cleanser is fantastic. I’m sure it is bottled morning dew from greenest, lushest grass on the tallest mountains in heaven, or something.
- Keep hydrated. It’s advised over and over and I’m going to add to that and advise it even more! It’s so important to flush your system in order to keep everything running smoothly.
- Sleep! There’s nothing like it. I’m partial to an afternoon nap, I got into them whilst living in Spain a few years ago and it’s one of my favourite hobbies.
COCO: Tell us some of your favorites:
- Model – Myself! (It’s taken me a while to get there though)
- Designers – Lady Lucie Latex, Ava Corsetry, Albert Martincich Couture, Kiss Me Deadly Lingerie, Bordelle
- Stores – Vintage or second hand shops. I like recycling and upcycling clothes
- Colour – To wear for make-up and clothing, I’m loving flesh tones lately (as in my skin tone!). And at home, my bedroom is all white, decorated with lots of big green plants.
- Item of clothing – My ultra-90s black Buffalo Boots platform trainers
- Food – Jollof rice (and all African food, and all food in general)
- Drink – Fresh lemon juice in sparkling water – on ice
- Perfume – Dior ‘Addict’, Tom Ford ‘Tobacco Vanille’, or anything by Amouage
- Song – THIS ONE IS TOO HARD, I CAN’T ANSWER IT, I WON’T!!
- Celebrity – Malala Yousafzai