LAURISSA WILLEMS IN LOOT & RIOT MAGAZINE
Ink Tone Swep
You were born in Senegal, but moved to Brussels as a child. Talk a little about your upbringing as a beautiful African girl growing up in French-speaking Belgium. When I arrived in Belgium, the mentality was extremely different and I was bullied at school almost every single day because I couldn’t defend myself and there was a point where I was crying to not go to school. I started building my confidence by going on social media and finding other girls who were looking at me, representation is so important. Today, I’m so grateful to be born in Senegal and moved in Belgium because it allowed me to learn different cultures, mentalities, and ways to live. When I meet Senegalese people I start talking Wolof and feel so blessed and lucky to be part of this community, and it is the same when I go back there and meet Belgian people.
Self-described as a “Not slim Mixed girl”, how do you feel your uniqueness and blended heritage add to your value as a professional model? “We love your hair but you are not slim enough to…,” is the sentence I have heard the most in the past. What does it mean? How are people going to feel if the industry told them they want to represent them, but keep putting up barriers? I will keep going on, not only for me but for all other young girls who weren’t felt to be good enough physically and mentally.
You recently shot your first campaign with Reebok. How was that creative process? Yes, the first campaign of my career! I was chilling with my best friend and I received a message from my manager telling me Rebook booked me, I couldn’t believe it! Everything went so fast, a few days later I was on set in a city I’ve never been to before. I was pretty stressed but the team was nice and they made me so comfortable.
How would you describe your personal sense of style? Tell us about some of the brands you have worked with, and also a few of your personal favorite lines to wear. I could literally wear every single style in the world in a week. Nothing is ugly, you just have to associate well. Fashion is a personal playground where you make your own rules… When I was about 16 I was dying for the brand LAMODA and asked for some accessories and my first pair of high heels for my birthday, and today I’m working with them as an influencer. Life is full of surprises! They have every must-have fashion accessory and the quality is unreal. Having a social status gives me the chance to review many brands, such as Nasty Gal, Motel Rocks or Boohoo, which I’m really grateful for. My personal favorite lines to wear are definitely Missguided, Asos and Top Shop – my bank account can confirm it.
Your big, bright, ball of fiery curls is like your signature. Tell us about your natural curls, how you care for them, and why you are on a natural hair journey. I was always begging my mom to straighten my curls but today I feel so lucky she never relaxed them. I began to wear them when the big curly hair trend came out a few years ago on Instagram and Tumblr. I finally saw they could be something other than dry and frizzy, so I started to learn how to take care of them. Having healthy curly hair is difficult but blond curly hair even more so, I personally wash my hair once a week and do a lot of masks with natural ingredients as shea butter and honey: the secret is to keep them moisturized! Everybody is different and so are curls. I’m always trying new products to see what they like or don’t. I’m sponsored by L’Oreal, an amazing opportunity to try and share my experiences but my favorite brand at the moment is called Curls, their products are magical and smell so good.
Let’s talk about music and movies. Whose albums are you streaming right now, what are some of the dopest films you have seen recently? I listen to The Weeknd’s new album every single day at every time! I think his lyrics are pure poetic, real art, and I hope to have the opportunity to assist him like one day. I’m a big dreamer and I love fiction movies so the dopest movie comes to Black Panther. They mixed history with action and supernatural, plus I was so proud to see black actors under the projectors. My eyes were full of stars.
Here in The States discussion on racism is ongoing, sparked by everything from police brutality and senseless killings, to prejudiced employment practices and other miscarriages of justice. What is the racial climate like in Belgium? Racism and slavery are for me the worst conceptions in our world, seeing the way some people treat others just because of their skin color breaks my heart. Belgium is really diversified but racism definitely exists even though it’s with less brutality than in The States. I don’t personally always feel it as a ‘white looking’ mixed woman but I feel concerned every single day in every situation as an African-born woman with black blood. For example, last week a father and his son insulted my mom and me pretending we weren’t Belgian; just on paper, and that there was a loss of identity in this country. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. We are in 2018. Are these kinds of remarks still in existence? Wherever it happens on the planet, the choice of our leaders and the education of our children is the responsibility of us all.
As a full-time model and full-time student, how do you make time to successfully pursue both? Your brand and blog are on fire right now. Doing all of this is easy to say but not to do. Balance is so important. I make sure to know when I will be Laurissa-the-student or Laurissa-the-model and influencer. I’m somebody extra organized. I always know when, where, why, and what I’m exactly going to do the next weeks. But it already happened to me to study on a plane, reply to some business emails and calls when I was at university. So things are intersecting already.
What are your three every day must-haves? Three things you simply cannot leave the house without. First of all my afro pick to keep my curls poppin! A concealer, I’ve used the Nars one for years to be ready and fresh if I have last minute plans. For the last one, I’m going to say cream to smell good and keep my skin hydrated.
Who is the sexiest man on the planet? Who is the sexiest woman on Earth? Why are these two the most attractive two humans in this world? Being sexy is 50% physical and 50% brains, your mentality, attitude and conception of life. I will say Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey because they both started from nothing, believed in their dreams, full of talent, and physically the sexiest ever. I grew up watching his movies and her shows praying to become as successful as they were and still are.
Name one thing no one seems to know about you, that they should. Name one thing everyone thinks they know about you, that they have all wrong. I have a lot – literally, a lot – of energy, and I’m very positive. I use it to make dumb jokes to make people laugh. I’m also super organized and I’m scared of people who are not… Most of the people who see me on Instagram think I’m super haughty, or rude, which is hilarious because every time they meet me they are then saying: “I didn’t knew you were like that.” I’m literally the least serious person in the world.
What advice can you extend to young girls, of all body types, who want to be accepted as beautiful and attractive? Where does their journey from wishing they were pretty to knowing they are gorgeous begin? Be yourself! I know this sentence is so random, you read it everywhere on social media, but you can’t imagine how it can change your life if you do it. Be yourself. I truly believe every single human is beautiful and special in their own way. It’s not because this girl is seen as beautiful by society for having this kind of body, hair texture, or skin color, that it’s going to be the same for you. Look at yourself in the mirror, appreciate every single detail of your face and body. Appreciate love, and rock them by showing your uniqueness.