Last July, the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Louisiana became one of the most high profile cases of police brutality. This was but one event that moved Sports Illustrated model Ebonee Davis to pen a powerful letter about her own experiences with racism and cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. Her words have propelled her to become a leading advocate for this sect of the Black Lives Matter movement when it comes to cultivating a more inclusive idea of beauty. She’ll be continuing the conversation in January with her first TED talk, but in the meantime we went one-on-one with Davis the change-maker here:
What was your first memory of fashion?
“Fashion was introduced to me through music videos. BET and VH1SOUL were the soundtracks to my childhood and my lens into fashion. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Aaliyah, TLC, and even Brittany Spears were my style icons. It was also around the same time that brands like Rocawear, Baby Phat, and Phat Farm were emerging. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a piece of clothing as much as I wanted a powder pink velour Baby Phat sweat suit.”
How were you discovered?
“I knew I wanted to be a model from a young age, so it was something that I set my focus on and really pursued. I researched local agencies in Seattle, my hometown, and went in for open calls. I signed with Seattle Models Guild at 18 and grew from there. Finding an agency in New York wasn’t easy though. Agencies were very quick to say that they already represented a girl with ‘my look,’ but I kept trying until finally a door opened.”
Do you remember the first show that you ever walked in?
“The first runway I remember walking was for a GAP kids collection when I was about six-years-old. It was at a local mall in Portland and my dad, being the proud father that he is, signed me up!”
What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
“Some of my favorite moments have been shooting for Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret Pink, and booking my first Calvin Klein campaign. I had all three of those jobs listed as career goals for years, so being able to put a check mark next to each one has given me such an immense feeling of accomplishment and gratitude.”
Who are your role models?
“Career-wise I have numerous role models including Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, and Arlenis Sosa. These women inspired me to get where I am now because they reassured me that there was a place for models like me in the fashion industry. On a personal level, anybody who does their job passionately is a role model to me. It’s beautiful to see people doing what they love, because that’s all I want to do too.”
What is the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
“The best advice I ever received was to live in the moment and focus on the now. As soon as I started abiding by that advice, I stopped thinking about consequences or fear and my past ceased to be a burden. Living in the now is life-changing.”
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
“That I am just a human too! I am working as hard as everybody else to overcome insecurity and eradicate doubt. Sometimes people put models and celebrities on pedestals and they shouldn’t. We all feel love and hate, happiness and anger, sadness and bliss, embarrassment and excellence, triumph and failure. It’s important for people to realize how similar all of us are.”
What’s your best beauty trick?
“Drinking water is the best beauty advice I can give. Keeping your body hydrated is so essential for hair growth, clear skin, maintaining a strong immune system, and so many other important functions that affect how we look.”
What do you do to stay in shape for your job?
“I do a wide variety of things, such as eating well, exercising my body, and staying hydrated. In reference to working out, I like to try lots of different classes—particularly ones that allow me to learn a new skill because it keeps things exciting. Dance classes are always a super fun alternative to hitting the gym.”
What do you never leave home without?
“I never leave home without a smile!”
Who is your celebrity crush?
“Tupac Shakur is my ultimate celebrity love forever!”
What do you like to do when you’re not modeling?
“I enjoy doing things with my hands like pottery and coloring. I also enjoy going on small adventures outside of the city and exploring what’s around me. Being in nature is very soothing for me.”
Favorite place in the world and why?
“India—because traveling there in 2014 exposed me to an unfamiliar way of life that sparked a massive desire to better myself and those around me. Practices such as stretching and meditation in tandem principals such as humility, karma, and compassion have become integral aspects of who I am and how I choose to live. Besides that, it’s absolutely gorgeous and the culture is so rich: The food is delicious, the clothing is colorful and free flowing, and the architecture is unlike anything else in the world.”
What projects do you have on the horizon?
“I am currently working on assembling a panel to discuss inequality in the fashion industry, how we can continue to inspire change, and how the media can help redefine what it means to be black in America. I am also preparing to do a TED talk at the University of Nevada this January. Besides that, I am looking forward to seeing some new editorials I have shot recently and continuing to build myself as a model and a brand.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
“I don’t know exactly where I see myself in ten years. Everyday my life is changing so drastically that the possibilities for my future seem infinite. What I do know is that I want to be able to help people and be in a position to give back to the world.”
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createdAt:Tue, 13 Jun 2017 17:12:48 +0000