The face of Louis Vuitton for autumn/winter 2011, Nyasha Matonhodze is hotly-tipped to walk in Naomi Campbell’s stiletto-shaped footsteps in years to come. i-D Online met up with her on the brink of her biggest season to date.
Scanning the snaps just taken for i-D Online, stripped of make-up and wearing her own clothes, Nyasha Matonhodze sits sipping on a cappuccino. After the marathon of campaign, video and magazine shoots she’s just completed in New York, these snaps show Nyasha in a fleeting, styling-free moment! For autumn/winter 2011, she’ll feature in the Louis Vuitton campaign and a film for Balenciaga by Steven Meisel. In the new face race Nyasha is leading the field.
If anything rivals her rarely composed beauty, it’s her cuteness. After walking her breakthrough show for Louis Vuitton in March of this year, she posted the catwalk picture on her Facebook page with the caption: ‘I hope this dream never ends.’ Level-headed and charmingly honest, Nyasha’s not only great for the fashion industry, she’s great for its reputation. Born in Zimbabwe in 1994, Nyasha and her family moved to Northampton in 2002. At fourteen, she won the Elite Model Look competition and signed with Elite London, where she quietly waited for her big break…
When did you start feeling it kicking-off? I woke up the morning after walking Louis Vuitton and had a hundred and fifty friend requests on Facebook. People saying, “Well done on the show” and “Thanks for representing Africa” and stuff like that. There was a picture of me in The Daily Telegraph. It was crazy.
Did it feel like a dream? When I first started, I didn’t really know what to expect, because it’s generally hard for black girls to get into the industry. I started booking shows, but it wasn’t really until Louis Vuitton – which is such a big household brand that everybody knows – that I thought, “I can do it. It’s not impossible.”
And now you’ve shot the campaign? It was the best experience ever. Sixteen years old and doing the Louis Vuitton campaign, it’s amazing. I was sitting there in this beautiful car with all these dogs around me, Steven Meisel was shooting, Marc Jacobs was complimenting me, and I was just like, “Oh, wow!” It’s the ultimate memory.
They’re calling you the new Naomi… It’s a great compliment. I mean, there will never be another Naomi Campbell. I just hope I’ll be successful… and if I could ever sit down and ask her, “What is it you’ve done to maintain such success?” I’d do it.
You’ve taken a year out from school now? Yeah, I’m working full-time now. I was barely ever at school so I spoke to my head tutor, who said, “Do it! You can always come back to school.” They were very supportive. Modelling is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, right?
So you commute between Northampton and London? Yeah. I moved to England from Zimbabwe when I was eight. I was raised by my Grandma in Zimbabwe while my mum was here in England creating a life for us. It’s very different there, both culturally and traditionally, but I have really good memories of it. I remember the beautiful sun, the nice people… But you know, children have so much freedom in England and they don’t in Zimbabwe. They have a tough way of disciplining children there. I remember being told at school, “If you do this, you’ll get a slap!” But there were a lot of good sides to growing up there as well. In England you’re almost forced to grow up quite early, whereas in Zimbabwe you get a to be a child for much longer. My grandma would go crazy if she found out I was flying away to other countries on my own!
How do your parents feel about it all? They’re both so proud and so thrilled. My Dad is very protective, though. He’s a Christian so it’s bit scary for him. You know, fashion isn’t exactly the most Christian industry—but I’ve never been forced to do anything I didn’t want to do. Not once has someone like Katie Grand ever said, ‘You must do this’ or, ‘You must do that’. They know I’m only sixteen.
Have you made any friends in the industry? I’m good friends with Ajak Deng. I don’t know what it is about her, but she just makes me feel really comfortable. We always tell each other what we think. We’re always joking around. She’s the complete opposite of me, actually, but she’s such a good person.
Have you had any weird experiences on the job yet? It wasn’t weird as such, but recently I shot this Ungaro video, where I had to reference a type of woman that’s much older than me, and tap into that sort of sexuality. That was quite a challenge… because I’m not a woman, I’m a girl. But it turned out pretty nice.
What’s your favourite thing to do in the world? This is it. This is what I’ve wanted to do, always.
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Personal photographs courtesy of Nyasha Matonhodze. Special thanks to Camilla Bigler at Elite London.