In 2008, Jourdan Dunn was crowned Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards after strutting 75 shows in her breakout season. She was the first black woman to walk for Prada in more than a decade (a long lapse since Naomi Campbell). She’s the host of a YouTube cooking show, Well Dunn, a Forbes-listed moneymaker and the new face of Maybelline. But the 24-year-old Londoner doesn’t want to be remembered for any of those feats. Instead, she’d like to go down in history as “the girl who couldn’t keep her mouth shut.”
Dunn’s making a strong case for that moniker. Last summer she caused a stir after announcing she wouldn’t be walking Dior’s couture show due to her bustiness, tweeting, “I’m normally told I’m cancelled because I’m ‘coloured,’ so being cancelled because [of] my boobs is a minor.” This spring she was at it again, sarcastically calling out Lily Allen as a “lil lyrical genius” after the singer slagged Dunn on the track “Insincerely Yours.”
Dunn’s outspokenness has helped her build an audience of over one million followers between Instagram and Twitter—crucial platforms for her real cause: the single mom is a parent ambassador for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, a non-profit she joined after her son, Riley, was diagnosed with the blood disorder. Her goal is to raise awareness and funds with her Cell for Gratitude campaign, selling a rose-gold cell-shaped necklace she designed (see below). “The first time he had a crisis and went to the hospital, seeing him with drips and wires coming out of his body broke my heart,” she says.
Fortunately, Riley, who turns five this month, hasn’t experienced any major setbacks recently. “They say sickle cell children get really tired easily, but he has so much energy he’s always running up and down,” says Dunn. “Life is normal apart from his checkups and medication.” Though a “normal” life isn’t easy in the fashion fast lane, the model has her mother for help, a parenting set-up that’s similar to Dunn’s own: “My dad wasn’t in the picture, but I didn’t see it as a disadvantage. If anything, I gained so much because I had strong women—my mum, grandmother and great-grandmother—looking after me.”
Today, Dunn’s circle has expanded. Naomi Campbell is both her fan and her mentor, and Beyoncé sought her out for her “XO” and “Yoncé” videos. On and off duty, she’s surrounded by it-model pals, including Karlie Kloss and Cara Delevingne. With such high-profile friends, Dunn’s message—charitable or critical—is sure to be heard. As for any foot-in-mouth moments? “I don’t regret saying anything,” she declares. “Maybe my agent would beg to differ, but whatever.”
Jourdan’s Favourite Things