Anything you can ever say about supermodel Jessica White has already been said. Call her an angel, a diva, a bad girl or the past girlfriend of [insert male celebrity name here]—she's heard it all before, multiple times. For the woman who's been a face of CoverGirl, Maybelline, Victoria's Secret, and several Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues (she's been featured every year since 2003), it makes sense why her exposure makes her a prime subject of tabloid fodder. Yet despite what gossip mills have fed the public about her, the 26-year-old Buffalo, New York, native has kept herself a relative mystery—until now.
White, whom Tyra Banks has dubbed "the model of our generation," is slowly becoming a self-made mogul. Not only is she starting a skin care line to address the needs of women of color, writing her own autobiography, and filming her own documentary series, but she has also started Angel Wings Foundation, the sole mission of which is to provide support for victims of sexual abuse, an experience that doesn't exactly escape her.
We spoke to while she is in New York for Angel Wings Foundation's benefit for UNICEF's City of Joy Program (taking place this Sunday evening, in Wainscott) to discuss the organization itself, how she's comfortable with being completely bare on camera, and the man she will one day marry. And, guess what—you have a chance!
Complex: You're transitioning from being a fulltime supermodel to an entrepreneur. What motivated you to make that career change?
Jessica White: I don't think there was one thing, actually. I mean, this is something I had planned since I was 13, when i first started modeling. I just needed to grow my career as a model and build my self-confidence as a business woman, most importantly, before I was going to really branch out and take the risk to do what it takes to kind of start a business and basically turn myself into a beauty mogul. It took some time, and I needed to build my credibility. Everything is definitely in timing. [This] definitely went in stages.
Are there any supermodels whose careers you were inspired by or you're trying at all to emulate?
Jessica White: No, not really anybody's. To be honest with you, I don't think there was anyone really like me. I'm probably the most courageous; I probably wouldn't even say "courageous," or crazy enough to go and get like 18 tattoos. I was just myself, you know? Being that I started so young, I lived a life that was very disciplined and it had to be that way. But then I realized, being a child star and being successful from day one, I didn't want to not live my life.
So what I decided to do was just be me and be as real as I possibly could and hope to God that people accepted that. No matter what bad decisions I was making. I basically learned through trial and error. And thank God people just accepted me for who I was. The really mysterious and dark and edgy girl which worked in my benefit.
Have any supermodels reached out to you to offer advice for your new business ventures?
Jessica White: Tyra Banks, from day one. I was sixteen years old when I met her. And she gave me the best advice in the world. She said, "I don't care if you do Sports Illustrated one time," and at that time I hadn't even been in Sports Illustrated, I had just recently signed my Cover Girl contract, and she said, while we were in Ireland, I'll never forget and we were doing a fashion show together for charity: "You know what, I want you to get a publicist and the one big job that you get, I want you to promote it like [it's] your last job."
That advice really stuck with me throughout my career, even now. When there's just one big thing going on, I promote it like it's me running for president, and I have to thank Tyra for that because it was that frame of mind.
Speaking of what you're promoting right now, you have the Angel Wings Foundation fundraiser coming up this weekend.
It's a daily process because when you're victimized in such a great way; there's a constant battle to continue and that's what this facility is. It's a place of healing and healing is something that, you know, you, there's something maybe you've been hurt over in your past but it takes, you know, every single day is a journey to overcome that. And really it's just about, there's so much hurt and pain in the world, that what we need is real people that are going to be vocal and be able to talk about it because really, being a victim isn't something you should be ashamed of. You didn't cause the abuse on yourself. You were victimized and you should tell your story because you never know who it's going to touch and that's why I talk about it.
So this event over the weekend is to raise money to create more of these facilities with UNICEF, like the one Angel Wings built in Buffalo?
Jessica White: We're actually in the process of doing it. That's why UNICEF is involved in this particular event because we're still in the process of what's being built upstate.
That's definitely very admirable. And I know you also have your skin care line coming up.
Jessica White: Yeah, Devise Beauty is my baby. I've been working on that with my chemist, Maria Ash. She's the best chemist in the world and I was so lucky. I mean when you're branching out and you're doing a project like this, you have to get the right team with you. There's only so much you can do. I'm not going to get in the lab with the scientists and create it myself. You have to have the right team of people.
I was so blessed, let me tell you, to be able to find a chemist like Maria. She's just a beauty whore and she'll tell you in those words. She just loves creating and she loves being in the business of finding new technology that's going to improve the skin in a woman's life. We've teamed up with this really great scientist who actually worked on all the Chanel products for years. He has started his own lab. He's the best scientist, and we're using this new technology. It's a huge undertaking but it's the most amazing thing that I think is going to be out there.
It's for women of color, not just African American women but Indian women, Asian women, Latinas - you name it. It's about improving the skin and healing the skin which is basically everything I believe in anyway. Just help out self-esteem. Now we're doing the Angel Wings Foundation, but I also want to help to heal the outward appearance of a woman and the scars that you may have. I don't believe in bleachers and bleaching the skin to give you that glow. And women of color with darker skin, they feel like it's impossible to achieve a glow, but with this product, it really just enhances a woman skin deep. I know everybody probably says that but, you know, in due time. It comes out in October and I really can't wait for the world to see it.
Yeah, that really isn't a very common thing you see out there right now. Also, with a name like Devise Beauty, how did that come about?
Jessica White: Actually, my best friend named the line. I was actually going into a meeting and couldn't figure out what the hell to name the product and I needed to trademark it that same day. [Laughs.] I called my best friend up and she was like,"All right well let me do something." She called me back and she was like, "Well what do you think about Devise? You're devising a plan and you're devising a product that is very unique. It's not out there. Nobody will ever be able to get their hands on it unless they copy it."
It's about devising the way people view themselves and just being able to be bold. She said it has a dark edge to it, which it does, which is why I chose it because it sounds like it would be me.