How long into your modeling career did you start working with vice?
I haven’t modelled for years so the whole me being a model thing is a long time ago, I’m 28 now, I was modeling from 14 until I went to uni and then a little bit through uni, the modelling thing feels like a very long time ago unfortunately!
Was the transition from model to journalist organic or was journalism always the goal?
Journalism was always my goal. I know that on paper I sound like I’d be a good model but I’m just too much of a clown. Put a camera on me and I just want to pull a stupid face. Being in the fashion world was something that was more of a default rather than me deciding that I wanted to pursue any kind of career in fashion.
For me what I always loved was everything behind why people do stuff. I’ve always loved culture and news, even when I was doing fashion interning as a journalist I was rubbish at fashion journalism. I was always looking at Al Jazeera for fashion stories when I should’ve been looking on fashion blogs. I’ve always had a bit of a strange take on it. It never really was any good and my editors were always like “can’t you just find me some nice stories about what’s trendy in bloody New York?” and I’d come back and be like “but look what they’re doing in Pakistan!”.
How does reporting on and sometimes walking in the fwi’s compare to you’re experiences of walking in the more established fashion weeks?
In Rio they put on these modelling schools to help empower the young people who really don’t have that many opportunities in a scene that everyone expects these boys and girls to just become cleaners. It was completely different because it had a completely different reasoning behind it. When I was doing bits and bobs of modelling there was a lot more money involved, it was a lot more professional but this was quite touching. It wasn’t about being cool or being hot, it was about trying to empower yourself as a woman and take charge of your sexuality when you’re young because these people so often fall into teenage pregnancy because they’re not aware of all the dangers. It wasn’t about them trying to be the next Giselle, this was about expressing yourself. So it was very different but it was much more fun, and the scenery was so beautiful.
The last series of FWI was pretty daring, how much further are you pushing the envelope this time around?
I have been to some pretty dangerous places but the thought of going to Kinshasa in the Congo, I don’t even know if it’s a good Idea. Everyone I know is trying to stop me from going and I don’t even know if we can afford it with the insurance but as is the case with most things the more dangerous the more shocking the better the story is the more I want to go. I don’t know for sure if we’re going there but there will definitely be some more obscure stories that we’re not used to in our culture. We’re not going anywhere obscure that people haven’t heard of. We’re just uncovering cultural idiosyncrasies linked in with fashion that are going to be a bit of a shock. Shock is good.
How do you go about picking the fashion weeks you report on?
It’s a combination of things, obviously when I first started the series I realised there was a fashion week happening every week, I just wanted to do everything. It really depends on our budget and when the actual fashion week is happening and when we can fit it into our schedule. Sometimes there’ll be two events happening at the same time and we have to choose the best one but the main reason for choosing is the stories. You find which is an interesting fashion week, the fashion week itself might be an interesting one, or it might be the first in that country or at the fashion week they might be doing something new, like in Brazil they’re really pushing transgender models. We might pick somewhere for the stories around the fashion week, the young people and the street fashion might be worth going out to cover.
Have you picked up any particular customs or style inspirations from your travels?
I’ve always taken inspiration from other cultures and the way they dress so I always make sure I’ve got enough money with me to raid the markets. I really loved Jamaica, I love all the bling, the jewellery, the daring outfits and I really like Asia. I love how Asian women can wear trainers and a dress and just look like effortlessly chic. I’ve become really interested in Middle-Eastern beauty in all my research and have learnt a lot about what goes on under the Burka and women’s ways of getting round the restrictions. My aesthetic’s changed a bit after going around the world and understanding what people think is beautiful.
You’ve traveled extensively, are you ever scared of the places you report from?
I think I probably should be scared but I’m a bit of an idiot, I’ve never been very sensible. It’s just the journalist in me, to me the scarier or the more ridiculous the better the story, and the more I know I’m gonna find. I know if I’m intrigued or scared by something then I think I have a duty to show something about the place. Also a lot of these places we read about in the press like Pakistan or Nigeria – which are some of the places that I’ve been to for this series – they only ever get bad press. The reason why people are scared of them and is because all you ever read is about how bad life is out there and how dangerous it is. I feel a bit of a duty to go out there and be like it can’t be that bad because there are people who are bothered to get up in the morning, get dressed and put on a fashion week.
You’re a modern renaissance woman! You’ve been a dj, a model and now an investigative journalist, is there anything else you’d like to add to your resume?
To be honest I’ve been working on the series for nearly two years and it’s been so brilliant, but I’m getting a little bit older and I’d like to maybe leave the topic of fashion behind a little bit and explore more about different sides of culture. I would like to keep making better documentaries, not even necessarily hosting them but just producing documentaries about women, different parts of culture, different stories I think are interesting and just trying to present them in a neutral way that can teach people something.
Interview by Florie Mwanza