Paloma Elsesser & Binx Walton Talk Hair Issues And Breaking Down Hierarchies In Modelling | 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.

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  1. So cool to hear Binx’ story in her own words and her perception of the modeling industry, also the two had such a nice chemistry throughout the interview. Very nice to see. Thank you!

  2. I would love to get Involved with both of them on any projects or Ideas they have. I can Sense the genuine care & understanding through there facial expressions and tone about their own experiences In the Industry. We on high frequency's babyyyy lol

  3. Just because someone wears baggy clothes doesn't mean they are gay. But low key I thought she was gay too. lol Now binx is dating paloma's brother. I love both these women! Great interview ❤❤

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