We remember Fashion Week A/W 18 like it was yesterday; the late night bookings, the backstage frenzy…and Olivia Anakwe’s stunning season of course. Before Olivia arrived in town for London shows, she’d just come off a hot streak in New York walking for Marc Jacobs, Jeremy Scott, and Prabal Gurung to name a few – then shutting it down in Paris for Margiela, Kenzo, Jacquemus, and Thom Browne.
But enough of the name drops. There’s more to Olivia than her runway credits.
A former tap dancer (pretty damn good too) and current psychology (pre-med) student, Olivia’s character is composed of a young woman with a strong foundation, warm presence, and intellect. Currently based in New York, not far from her home town in Philadelphia, Olivia took some time out of her supermodel schedule to tell us more about herself and her experiences within the fashion industry.
M1: How did you get into modelling and what was life like for you before you began modelling?
OA: After my first year of college at University of Pittsburgh, I came back home to attend my sister’s graduation. After the ceremony we went to lunch at Westville in Chelsea, NYC, and I was scouted by my booker, Marina [at New York Model Management].
M1: Was modelling something that you always wanted to do?
OA: No, it kind of just found me at different points in my life but I had never sought it out seriously.
M1: What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you became a full-time model?
OA: Be prepared at all times, for anything! I was never the best at surprises, now every day I can expect the unexpected.
M1: Tell us a bit about your best moments in your career so far?
OA: Working with Miu Miu on the Spring Summer ‘18 collection was incredible. I got to see the collection being built, then walk the show, and shoot the campaign; forever my most proud moment. I have wonderful moments all the time, and am just very grateful! I’ll never forget opening a Kenzo show, walking for Jacquemus, Maison Margiela, Marc Jacobs and Off-White. After each one of them I had this crazy wave of emotions stepping off the runway like, “I just did THAT!”
What are some values/lessons you’ve learned growing up that you think help you as a model?
OA: To be happy for everyone’s success. People always ask about the competitiveness of this industry but I don’t view it like that. It’s just amazing to see everyone shine in their different way. The same goes for life; be happy for other people’s accomplishments, it makes us all stronger!
M1: As a Black model, how do you keep your head up in face of bias/discrimination in the industry?
OA: It can be hard and it still throws me off, in this day and age, when I hear racist remarks or even being told I can’t wear a piece because of my skin color. But as a black woman I want to represent for any one of color that you are stronger than those who try to knock you down and black is beautiful, #BlackGirlMagic. Representation is important and seeing people who look like you can give hope.
M1: Do you ever find it hard to speak up for yourself on set? How do you overcome that fear?
OA: I will say that it takes time. I remember my first season I was so scared to speak up, especially about products being used on my hair. By the end of that season in New York alone, my hairline was gone. Now, I have my products I carry at all times and ask nicely if they can be used instead. It’s of no offence to anyone, some hairstylists actually take a picture of it so they can get it for their kit. We are all learning from each other when we work together so fear of being told “no” needs to strut out the door.
M1: You’re currently a psychology student, do you find it difficult to find time for school and modelling?
OA: It can be a bit difficult because of switching time zones. Most of our time is spent in transit or waiting so you find ways to make the most of it! I sometimes will have a writer’s block then all of a sudden on the train it clicks; I’ve written a few stellar essays on my phone while on the subway.
M1: Also, how do you think your knowledge of psychology has helped you as model (if it has)?
OA: I believe it has made me more understanding and aware of different personalities. It helps dictate how I can interact with people better and I’m able to form friendships when I meet others from various cultures.
M1: You have an unmissable confidence – where do you feel this comes from?
OA: I’m all about bringing good energy, if I embody it I can give it off to other people. I also think my mom has this spice in her that I got, confidence is KEY.
M1: You’re traveling all around the world now, which city is your favourite and why?
OA: Paris in the summer because it’s everything you see in the movies.
M1: If you could have written any book, movie, or song – what would it have been?
OA: Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve always admired that book for its perfect storytelling of self discovery.