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MEET THE BROOKLYN-BORN MODEL TURNED LOUIS VUITTON MUSE
By Chrissy Rutherford - Mar 8, 2017

Theresa Hayes has been a worldwide exclusive for two straight seasons.

For models walking in fashion week, there's nothing more coveted than an exclusive casting for a designer's show. Many top models today like Joan Smalls, Karolina Kurkova and Karlie Kloss got their start by being casted exclusively for the most talked about runways of fashion week— Givenchy, Prada, and Calvin Klein respectively. So considering New York native Theresa Hayes just finished her second season as a worldwide exclusive for Louis Vuitton—her rise to the top is imminent. The 22-year-old model found time to chat, on her way to the airport before her flight to Paris, about feeling insecure as a teenager, how her Brooklyn roots help her in her career, and her favorite thing about the City of Lights.

Harper's BAZAAR: How did you get discovered?

Theresa Hayes:
Before I signed to Ford Models, I was using social media to book small gigs for two years on and off and then I just decided I should go see agencies. So, one day I was on my way to see different agencies, and someone yelled to me, 'Hey are you with an agency?' I was a little nervous, but he said he was with Ford and suggested I come check it out. So I was like, 'ok, why not.' I had nothing to lose, so I went and it felt right, and I signed with them.

HB: Were you interested in fashion at all when you were growing up?

TH: I watched Top Model, who didn't watch Top Model? Modeling cross my mind but I would never really say it because I wasn't really comfortable with myself and my body and I was really insecure, so I never said it. Guys would be so mean to me, and say, 'oh my gosh you're so skinny, you need boobs, you need a butt.' Other people would tell me I was beautiful and that I should model, but I'd never really feel it or believe it. I wasn't really into clothes until high school when I started to see how everyone dressed differently and how everyone wore their hair differently. So I was like ok I guess I have to step my game up. I was such a tomboy that I really didn't care about anything.

HB: How did your Louis Vuitton exclusive come about last season?

TH:
I met with casting director Ashley Brokaw the first day of castings for fashion week last September. Everyone said I had to meet Ashley, 'she's so important'—so I knew the pressure was on. I went in and did my thing, and went along to my other castings. The last day of the callbacks my agents were like, 'oh yeah so you're going to go to Paris tomorrow to cast for Louis Vuitton,' and I was like, 'what'? I couldn't even believe it. Then the next day I went to Paris for literally 4 hours—my first time and I was in the car for most of it. I met Nicolas and it was really exciting. Before I even made it back to the agency I got the confirmation— I just started crying because it was just the greatest feeling to know that the my first show I booked was Louis Vuitton.

HB: Did you understand how big of a deal it was that you were casted as an exclusive?

TH: No, honestly it didn't hit me until we were at the lineup for the show.

HB: Now that you're walking as an exclusive for the second season, do you feel like you've missed out on New York Fashion Week? Or the other cities?

TH: I did but when I really think about it, I know what a big deal it is to be a Louis Vuitton exclusive—and I know I could gain much more from this. I think it's a big deal for people to see that for two seasons Louis Vuitton booked me exclusively. It's definitely a good thing for sure.

HB: Do you have a favorite place in Paris?

TH: So far the Eiffel Tower has my heart. When it's lit up at night, with the light beaming—it's so beautiful.

HB: What's your favorite thing about being a model?

TH: I don't think I would of made it to Paris at 22 years old if this weren't my job— so traveling is definitely my favorite part. Also I get to meet so many people.

HB:
Do you think being a New York native has helped your career?

TH: Yes, it's just such a tough city to grow up in and definitely the fast-paced life has helped me. You always on your toes, it's the hustle, I don't know where it comes from but if you're a New Yorker you just know your born with it. I wouldn't want to be from anywhere else.

HB: A lot of shows in Europe still get pointed out for not casting enough models of color, how do you feel about being a black model walking in one of the most important shows in Paris?

TH: I feel very honored and I think that people are seeing that the change is happening. Look at all the other models also, its happening. But I also feel so lucky because Louis Vuitton didn't want to change my hair, they didn't want to put makeup on me for the first show. I felt really appreciated because that's who I really am—I'm not into makeup and don't do much for my hair. I just go as I am. So it felt really amazing that they wanted me to just be myself— not only for the runway show but also for the Pre-Fall 2017 lookbook.

HB: Have you always had natural hair?

TH: I didn't actually, growing up I had braids a lot. I didn't even know my hair was this curly until I chopped it off like two years ago. In high school I always wore my hair super straight. I went to the hair salon as much as possible. I don't remember who it was that inspired me, but one day I just washed my hair and I was like I'm gonna wear it curly. My hair was so big I had no idea what to do with it. I wore it huge for about three years and really had no idea what I was doing—it was so damaged. So I cut it off. Then it grew to what it looks like today. I wouldn't change it.

HB: What are some career goals you've set for yourself this year?

TH: I want to work with as many people as possible— I would love to shoot with Steven Meisel and Mario Sorrenti.

HB: What would you be doing if you weren't a model?

TH: I'd definitely would be a social worker or a therapist.

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