The Root Interview: Designer Lois Samuels on Life After Modeling

In the '90s, the Jamaican-born model made the buzz cut hot and happening on the runway. The model-photographer-writer-designer talks to The Root about her new collection, the lack of diversity on the runway and why she didn't want to be another model-turned-actress.

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LS: Whenever I have shows with models, I always have a diverse cast. It's always important to me to have diversity not just in race but also in age and in size. I use older and younger models. And why should all the models be size zero -- or minus zero [laughing], as I call it?

TR: What do you think about the current state of diversity on the runways?

LS: I don't think it's as diverse as it used to be. In some ways, it seems it might have gotten worse than it was. There are one or two [black] models in a show, but I feel there should be more. It's always like 20 [white models] to one [black model]. I don't know when it's gonna change. There was a time it was changing, and now it feels like we've gone back. I have a son who's 9, and I tell him, "You can do anything; you can be anything." So you can't let it stop you.

TR: What led you into design rather than, say, acting, which a lot of models do as a second career?

LS: I feel like this is my life. Fashion is what I'm used to; modeling or design, the glamour and the grit are the same. Once you're in fashion, you're involved. I've been an account manager at Thom Browne. I do photography. I've written two books. I do painting. It's my personality to create.

Also, with design, I am doing something where I am in control of my life. I'm creating something. In acting, you are constantly judged and told what to do, and you have to deal with, "Do they want me?" You have to deal with all that.

TR: Where is the collection sold, and what's the price range?

LS: Right now it's only available through my company. I hope to sell to stores like Barneys. Prices are $350 to about $1,000. Most things are under $1,000.

TR: How do you keep in shape for your modeling?

LS: Well, you know, you get older, you have kids and you start to put on a few pounds, you get a little belly. I am tall [5 feet, 10 inches] and my legs are thin, so it doesn't show as much, but I put on a few pounds. But I eat well. Lots of vegetables, soups. I cook at least five times a week, with my son. I try to make sure we're eating healthy.