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Paloma Elsesser & Binx Walton talk buzz cuts and breaking into the fashion industry | i-D


She was like, "you should cut your hair you should just do it" And I was like "No

" And then I realized like, I'm afraid to, because my hair is my identity So I just shaved it all off I was like, "well if it's not for modelling like I need to do this for myself Hey guys it's Paloma Today we're gonna get into it with Binx Walton, who most of you know as a supermodel, who I also know as a friend

We'll be talking about identity, independence, I'm excited to share her brilliance with you Let's get into it Hey, boo -Whats up Oh my God, I'm actually really excited to be like doing this

Like I know you, but like, the world knows you I feel like people don't really get to know the way that you think all the time So I know you grew up in Tennessee but I'm curious to know like what it was like growing up there? I was born in Inglewood I moved to Hawaii when I was like two and then my parents split and when I was around six we moved to live with my grandparents in Tennessee What was that like, do you feel like it was polar like at six years old, were you like "OK this feels really different

"? Yeah I mean like, Hawaii was mostly like Polynesians, Samoans, South East Asians you know what I mean and then I went to Tennessee which was Caucasian -Interesting

They're just asking me weird things and saying, you know, "How do you feel about African-American culture, Leona" You know just like weird stuff, so that's why I go to the city But it's like there was no middle ground Right Because it's polar especially when you're like mixed, like I feel you

Later on empowering qualities, but when you're a kid you're like, “Where do I fit in all of this?” Because in the end you have to adapt, which later helped me with this industry But it's like, as a child it's like, you're thrown into so many different situations My mom was working My brothers were older than me, my sisters older than me So it was kind of just like, "OK what are you going to do to survive

" When I had started I had long hair, I was like trying to model I was so thin So like, I couldn't really do the whole markets in Tennessee like, it was like Macy's and fucking Dillard's I just was kind of in the middle You know, I wasn't like edgy enough for any of that

I definitely was brainwashed a bit already at 16, 17, I was like, You know, "I have to be lighter to do shows, I have to be lighter, I can't get a tan People, tanning is bad" And people wanted to like change how you looked and stuff like that? -Oh yeah At 16 I had I had quit school, came to New York, failed I went to L

A for like four months Booked maybe one job, was in mad debt And then they called me into the agency and was like, "You know Leona, I think that we should pin back your ears and then cut your hair" I'm not making money I'm just getting myself in debt

So there was no really win for me What kind of brought you back to New York and feeling like, "OK, I'm going to try this again" My mom has always like, been very fun with her hair, like shaved her head and like went blond and all that stuff And she was like, "you should cut your hair you should just do it" And I was like, "No

" And then I realized like I did some introspective work and I was like I'm afraid to because my hair is my identity So I just shaved it all off I was like, "well, if it's not for modelling like, I need to do this for myself" I went to the agency to take Polaroids they were like, "Do you want to go by another name?" They were like, "Leona Lewis" you know, at that time and I was like, "no, that's not me" So I was like, "OK

" But it wasn't like a consistent nickname like, people were like, Binx, Binx, Jar Jar Binks It was more like, “Jar Jar Binks, haha, you have big ears” You know what I'm saying -Right It was like a teasing thing

-Right And then like literally two days later I was on a flight and did some castings for New York fashion week, it was during New York Fashion week Being essentially alone in New York at 17, like– And do you feel like that was like, this kind of supercharged acceleration into maturity 100 percent I mean I was definitely like around different people

crazy people, who do lots of drugs and party and go to raves, and people also were such good liars, like, you just never really know what's good with people Especially in this industry because people just can play you so many different ways My first critique is always like, "would you have the energy if I was a waiter like, would you have that energy?" -One hundred percent And like I had to be crushed by my friends, I had to be lied to by my friends, I had to be misunderstood by my friends to find people who really made space for my growth I've changed, I've shifted, I was a bit of a mess for sure at 16, 17, I was partying a lot

You have to understand all of this is just a blip You got to just go through it because, you'll inevitably have some breakdowns listen, but you just gotta keep pushing -A lot of breakdowns Did you know at that time in your career that like, you were shaking shit up? No, like -Right

To be real, I didn't know anything about fashion, -Right I'm from Tennessee, My mom worked four jobs I remember like, I went to Marc my first season, and it was like, all these people, Cara Delevingne who was like huge and I was like, "This is so crazy" -Right I had it, just like this idea of Hollywood and this idea of modelling and like all of this stuff that people feed you in small towns

-Right -And it's not realistic I found my place instantly, that first show I was like, All y'all is crazy Like, all y'all is crazy, yeah -Yeah

The mirage was like, immediately– -immediately, -immediately wiped -immediately, and I was like– Can I get like a water and a sandwich? Like, why is everyone screaming at each other like, this is scary And then you step out and pump down the thing and it's like you don't even know what's going on, literally backstage If you haven't been in touch with your spiritual side or like grounded self it’s just like, “oh, I can’t even” -Yeah

I also think the like, at that time on the conversation around like blackness and like the nuances of identity weren't there it was not a demand -It was not, no It was not a demand and like, -No, no, no, no, no I'm sure that if you were to go to look back at like, you know that first crazy season that like, you'd probably have been one of the only black girls in that cast

Oh, majority of the time Feeling isolated in being one of the only ones at the time, like what other adversities did you experience that you were surprised by? I mean, just classism, just like you know, the hierarchies of everything It's just, it was a totally different environment It was really a culture shock you're also going through puberty

You're like trying to find who you are Like girl, I went through so many crazy stuff I would change my accent and I know a lot of girls of my colour who changed their accents, did all different types of stuff because you just were trying out things to fit in and people were constantly judging you People were constantly like putting names on you you know like, "This androgynous skateboarding–" I don't think I'm that, but people see me as that, but maybe I can get out of it You know, and they they put you in this box so eventually your box expires and they can throw you away

And that's like, that's just not the truth Like, we are more than mannequins but the thing is is when we try to have personalities in the fashion industry it's like, no -Right You know you're too you're too much of a social thing now How do you still deal with that? Growing up predominately in inner city Knoxville, everybody’s thick, everybody got booty, everybody got boobs

And like, I always wanted that I'm mad lanky like, boyish, everybody was like “Is that boy or a girl?” and I was like, "I'm a girl!" "I'm a girl!" and then, You know I mean, like I never dated through high school never had a boyfriend, I was just always like, friends with guys like, I enjoyed guy activities I remember when my brother was trying to holler and I was like look, either she's gay or she's shy Everybody thought I was gay And then the more people put pressure on me like "oh she's gay

" like, "oh she-" I was like OK I don't have to actually say my orientation I don't think that it's nobody's business The most important thing is really just be comfortable in yourself I know that I can do shows, I know I'm good at shows and I'm good at like, working with these high fashion people, I know I'm good at like, getting my rate up I shouldn't have to feel conform to do anything

That's the most liberating thing I say this all the time and like, where I got my confidence I will say it's called radical acceptance I'm never going to be like six feet tall and thin and it's like and that's what it is, It's like the longer– It's not about that like, I wake up every day like "I'm a bad bitch" but I know that like, I just am who I am -A realistic view of things And it feels like this kind of thing of like, ingratitude

So then you're ungrateful, yeah You're mean, you're hateful, it's all of those lower vibration frequencies and it's like, "no, I'm just realistic because I see this world but it's not their fault because they've been conditioned to see it that way" How do you feel you've maintained those relationships and how important are they to you? You have to be kind You have to be better than all of the rest because you're already looked at as lower than all the rest You have to pay attention you have to see the environment that you're in and best adapt to it because it's like you don't want to be the problematic person and that's the excuse why they're not hiring somebody who looks like you

you’re the inventor of your reality you’re the creator Over the many years that I've been in the industry hair issues have been a mess And there would be lots of girls in the bathroom crying, having to be consoled, me looking angry always being like, "Why are you putting hair spray on my hair and straightening it?" and they'd be like, "Oh well it's water based" "Why is there a flame on it So if I just hold it up with a lighter and blow it on you, It's water based, right? Like an hour to do one braid and had done four of my friend's hair

At that point, you would still be like I don't fuck with this because I feel like– -Yeah I'm 100 percent -Right It was like instant, like, how dare you And then literally after that conversation we had a show and Tasha came in they all came to braid and killed it And I was just like, "wow, like I feel so refreshed I feel happy

I feel– -You feel seen I feel seen, I feel acknowledged I feel like a normal human being who just got their hair did and looks good" And it's really exciting that you do this creative direction for this story that's coming out in this issue of i-D What was that experience like? Literally talked to Al about it and was like, "Yo we should do this braiding story

" Like, I really want to do this braiding story and I get frustrated with it so much because it's like when I'm at shoots I'm sure you feel the same, It's like, "OK I get it, it's is the outfit, but can we make a beautiful photo?" because it's almost a disconnect It's my face is different from the clothes so many times where it's like, "Why did this photo run" -100 percent -I don't look like this

-But it's because of "the product" -Exactly -And it's like, but that's not imagery we're in this business to create art and imagery and a moment in time The thing that matters most within industries is the connection that you have with people What does like, your future feel like, like in a fantasy what does that look like and feel like? I know what I love I love connecting people

I love animals and I like being at home "And I like being at home" It's like in an ideal world that's where my future is My future is working with people to connect people and make things happen talking with big companies about what we can do to kind of move things forward and then in the future hopefully start my own thing

It's that higher vibration frequency and if you're constantly living on that there's no way anything go wrong I have friends that I can talk to, I have– -Abundance -Abundance -Abundance And I'm not all alone You know what I mean

That's the importance in this whole generation's, beautiful generation of girls talking to each other and hanging out with each other and being there for each other even if we're not with each other all the time So it's important to really step back and be like, "OK I love you, I love me, what can we do" You know what I mean So all the haters, like, "Yo, stay on the lower vibrations" "Don't come over here with that shit

" I love you so much, I'm so happy Seriously I'm so grateful for you I know I, love you

Source: Youtube

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