Canadian model Winnie Harlow was first discovered on YouTube in 2013 and landed a spot on America’s Next Top Model in 2014, but it was her turn in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” visual album that took her career to new heights. The outspoken model has since walked the runway for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Coach, starred in campaigns for Nike and H&M, traveled the world, and amassed over 2 million Instagram followers. This year she’s set her sights on booking Victoria’s Secret. “It’s a pinnacle for models. I’m so proud to see my friends walking on that runway and I’d be so honored to walk with them,” she says. “Hopefully, somewhere near in the future.” We caught up with Harlow in Arles, France at the opening of Dior’s Art of Color Exhibition where we talked to her about her skincare obsession, McDonald’s habit, and theory of self-confidence.
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On her skincare philosophy.
I have a really strict skincare routine. I use Avene face lotion and water mist. And I wash my face with black soap from Shea Radiance, I literally don’t use any other soap. They’re this really great company—this is not sponsored, by the way—that sources all their stuff from Africa and makes sure the women [soap producers] are paid fairly. They sent me free products and obviously I get so many free products that I don’t try them all. This is one that I tried and it’s a cult favorite now. It’s hard to find products that are good for the planet and your skin, but they have such a good background I don’t mind talking about them, even for free. After I wash my face, I use tea tree oil mixed with water as a toner.
On her YouTube makeup skills.
I’ve been doing my own makeup since I was 15. I would steal my mom’s products, go online, watch YouTube videos of girls doing their makeup and try. Say a girl did a look with yellow eyeshadow and all I had was peach. I would substitute the peach for yellow and still try to create the look. And being a model, I’ve gotten to see a lot of tricks from my favorite makeup artists. And lots of products. I’ve tested a lot of things. I love doing my own makeup.
When I wanna do a nice little beat, I use concealer to carve out the bottom of my eyebrows. A lot of girls use too much concealer and start to look very blocky. I still want my eyebrows to look super natural, but just clean. So sometimes I’ll use concealer to clean up the bottom of my brows, even if I haven’t had them done in a few weeks. Just a little bit of concealer, and always blended properly.
On the importance of eyelashes.
They change a whole look. Sometimes I’ll be doing my makeup and I’ll be like, ‘Do I even have enough makeup on?’ And then I put my lashes on and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, now I definitely have enough makeup on.’ Mascara versus lashes? I definitely wear lashes for events. For everyday, vacation, and all that, I just throw on a little bit of mascara. My go-to mascara is They’re Real by Benefit. And I usually mix. That one’s very lengthening, but sometimes it needs a little help with thickening or volume, so I might use any random mascara. I’ve been using the Dior Pump and Volume. I’ll use that one first and then I’ll put the Benefit on top for length. The Dior adds so much thickness and the Benefit just pulls the lash all the way out, like to the sky. It’s the perfect combo. I’m always mixing stuff.
On body image.
When I was in high school, I wanted to be so thick that I’d eat all the pizza and all the McDonald’s and everything. So it depends on what place I am in my life. Right now for my job, I wear a bunch of sample sizes, so I’m at sample size. Thank god I didn’t mess up my metabolism too much in my high school days, so I can get back to sample size fairly easy. But it kind of just depends on where I feel like I wanna be. If you’re comfortable having more meat on your bones, that is perfectly fine. If I need to get ready for an event, like fashion week or Cannes, I’ll go to the gym at least three times a week with my trainer and I’ll be on a meal plan that I usually get from a company.
Sit down with someone that knows how to get you to your goals and make a plan. I [used to] go to the gym and be like, ‘I’m gonna run on the treadmill or I’m do whatever this machine does.’ But there are certain workouts that aren’t made for what I want to accomplish with my body. I don’t want to bulk up my legs or my arms, so that was something that I had to sit down with my trainer and be like, ‘I love my arms. I don’t want them any smaller or any bigger, I love them just the way they are.’
On her relationship with food.
I literally love food. I went to Mykonos two weeks ago and looked at the menu and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, sea urchin, I’ve never had that before.’ [My friends] were like, ‘No you never want to try that.’ And I was like, ‘Bring it on!’ I tasted it and didn’t like it so I didn’t finish it, but I tasted it. I will always try something. The craziest thing I’ve tried? Maybe frog legs.
I don’t do much cooking because it’s impossible when you travel so much. You go grocery shopping, buy everything, and then get a call to fly out for two weeks. By the time you’re back, all the food is rotten.
I [generally] have three meals and two snacks. Breakfast is something like an egg scrambled with quinoa and spinach and turkey bacon. Then I have a snack, like a healthy lemon poppy seed muffin. And then lunch is salmon with maybe veggies and quinoa again. And then my late night snack is protein balls or a protein shake.
If you’re not drinking enough water, or you’re not eating enough vegetables, or you’re not working out enough, or you’re not getting your toxins out, I feel like it always reflects. When I am in the gym consistently, eating right, taking care of my skin, my skin is flourishing. Don’t forget your water. You need to stay hydrated. Whatever your goals are, you always need to stay hydrated.
I think we’re born with it. We’re just educated differently. I think everyone naturally is really confident, but when you’re deterred from believing you’re perfect the way you are, that can lower your self-esteem. Naturally, I am a confident person who loves myself. I [used to] feel like I had low-self esteem or I wasn’t the prettiest girl. But I realized that wasn’t really my opinion of myself, I was just paying attention to what other people were saying. I had to sit myself down and be like, ‘I actually don’t feel that way and whatever they say really isn’t relevant.’