“Precious Lee is like a magnet, she draws people in,” says Jeremy Scott, who created a fabulous custom Moschino look for the model to wear on the April cover of British Vogue. “She breaks the mould, and for me, she’s so modern in that way.” The Atlanta native, who originally had her sights set on becoming a lawyer but saw the fashion industry as providing a bigger platform from which her voice could be heard, has blazed a trail of body positivity and empowering beauty, and during a time of introspection and change.
Her Insta bio (“In the business of making history / Radical Self Lover”) is not written lightly; she works hard for herself, and to pave the way so that others can walk a more inclusive path. “This is for all of us,” Lee said of her Vogue moment, which she put her heart into. Here, the change-maker – who Scott also says is “charming, confident but not cocky, smart, cultured and intuitive – all of the things you need to be a good model” – shares her dream jobs, eternal muses, and what she hopes the future holds.
How does it feel to be on the cover of British Vogue?
[*screams*] EPIC. I will never forget this moment and how aligned this feels. I am full of gratitude and pure joy. It is literally extraordinary! To be selected for a cover by the first Black editor-in-chief of Vogue is an absolute honour. To think about what it means for people that can see themselves in me, what it will mean for women that feel marginalised… it shows how incredibly magical it is to believe in yourself and persevere through all of the noise of naysayers.
What does British Vogue symbolise for you?
Fresh, chic, trendsetting, iconic style. And now with Edward [Enninful] as editor-in-chief, it’s even more of a marvel to see the innovation of British fashion.
Jeremy Scott said your Moschino cover look was inspired by what Elizabeth Taylor should have worn to the Oscars in 1967, but how did it make you feel?
The iconic beauty of Liz! Well that’s fabulous. I grew up watching her movies with my mother, who loves her and her timeless beauty. My mom met her once years ago and said she was even more stunning in person. My grandmother wore her White Diamonds perfume every day. I absolutely love that it was the inspiration. I hope to be at the Oscars one day in a fab gown like that… I’m working on it.
Jeremy also said you share a mutual adoration of Old Hollywood and pop culture references, what sparked this love?
My mom and I love old movies. We reference Sunset Boulevard on the regular. Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Dorothy Dandridge are all icons that exuded an inside-out beauty and strength. They were all opinionated characters, and obviously I just love the glamour of that time in cinema.
Can you share some of your favourite films and why you love them?
I truly cannot pick between What’s Love Got to Do With It, Mahogany, Troy, Harlem Nights, Titanic, Set It Off, Eve’s Bayou, Purple Rain, Boomerang, Dead Presidents, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Batman Returns, Gladiator, All About Eve, The Damned Don’t Cry, Mommy Dearest, Get Out, Cadillac Records, The Other Boleyn Girl, Salt, The Others, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, BUtterfield 8, and Splendor in the Grass.
What have you been binge-watching during lockdown?
I rewatched all my favourite Joan and Bette movies, sped through Ozark and The Sopranos, and watched Bridgerton in one day. I am working on my accent as we speak and getting prepared to call Shonda [Rhimes] to pitch myself for the next season, ha! I got attached to Downton Abbey and literally cried during the last episode, so I was happy to see a new English drama I was able to fall in love with. I love period pieces! I’m a history lover, so I was glued to the screen seeing how that time was reimagined with Black people as main characters, and I can’t wait for season two.
What do you love to read and why?
In recent years, I’ve read more about astrology and energy. It’s so expansive and informative, I can’t get enough. There’s always something more to learn and to tap into on a soul level. I try to balance it out with fiction and biographies.
Where does your love of fashion come from?
My family. Everyone has style. My paternal grandmother owned boutiques, and my parents dress like they are going to be photographed every day. I grew up in a glamorous household that utilised fashion as an extension of our personalities. My sister Charisma would try on at least seven outfits every night to pick one for school the next day… accessories, shoes, the whole nine [yards], and I would sit on her waterbed and watch her. Our parents bought us almost anything we wanted for clothes (which could often get ridiculous, ha). I remember telling my parents in middle school that I only wanted to wear pink and blue for an entire year, and they actually supported it… I made it six months then I was over it. So I had a tonne of inspiration and support with fashion growing up. I was voted “best dressed” in school and “best hair”. Growing up in Atlanta was so fun because you see so much individuality and style; it was a free space to express ourselves.
What is a classic Precious Lee look?
A high-waisted skirt and a button-down tied up, paired with some sort of heel or boot and a gold choker. A skinny cat eyeliner and some statement hair sometimes, with a hat and frames. But it could also be a catsuit and trench. It depends on my mood and the season. I also love statement pieces so I’m usually wearing one with my look.
What have been your career highlights so far?
Shooting this cover with Steven Meisel, Pat McGrath, Guido Palau and Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele – the whole dream. And of course, working with my Versace fam.
What do you love about modelling?
Performing while taking pictures and walking the runway is so much fun for me. It’s like dancing and I’m all in on set, I love it. I understand light and my body, so when I have the opportunity to model a beautiful look, I do my best to give everything to bring it to life. But I have to say, inspiring people is truly a beautiful blessing I’m grateful for.
Your dream job?
Steven Meisel cover #2; an Academy Award-winning role, and modelling in a campaign that I creative direct myself for one of my dream brands.
What’s your advice for models starting out?
Work with people you have an open line of communication with and who you trust. Be as fearless as possible, and please don’t let anyone minimise or discredit your dreams.
What do you hope fashion’s future holds?
More love. More unity. Style-wise, I’d love to see a huge shift like the Roaring Twenties Part 2, because everybody just wanted to get dressed up to go out and dance. I’m looking forward to post-pandemic style being exciting and joyful.
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