Jamaican-Canadian supermodel Winnie Harlow may have one of the most recognizable faces in fashion, but her talent and expertise reach far beyond the catwalk. 

The Toronto native is only 26, but it feels like she’s done it all already. Harlow has worked the runway for Fendi and Marc Jacobs, hit the red carpet at the Met Gala, made a cameo in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and covered Vogue and Elle. While it may seem like a lot, for Harlow, hustling while serving looks comes with the territory. As she once wrote on Instagram, “to reach your goals, the grind never stops.”

Now, she’s bringing her eye for fashion to season two of Amazon’s reality show Making the Cut, joining judges Heidi Klum and Jeremy Scott to help find the next great global brand from a bunch of up-and-coming designers from around the world. In many ways, Harlow is the perfect choice to critique and offer insight to the designers, having worked with some of the biggest brands on earth while also looking camera-ready both in photoshoots and on Instagram. For Harlow, it’s not just about making clothes that are cool. Sizing and fit aside, as she says on the show, the designs have to speak to her.

The winner of the series will receive a million dollar prize to grow their business, have a collection sold in Amazon Fashion’s store, and even receive mentorship from Amazon Fashion. But first, they have to make the cut by blowing away Tim Gunn, Klum, Scott, and Harlow.

We caught up with Harlow over Zoom to talk highlights from the show, her favourite Canadian designer, and the artists on heavy rotation on her playlist.

How are you!
Happy day after Canada Day!

Yes! [Laughs.] So ready for the weekend. Alright, so we’ll just jump into it since I only have you for a short amount of time. So you’ve modeled for Moschino in the past; how was it reuniting with Jeremy Scott to judge together?
So much fun. Jeremy is such a sweetheart. He’s always showing me love and is someone that I definitely look up to and I’m inspired by, as well as him being a good friend of mine. And it was just a lot of fun being able to work with someone I’m so close to.

Jeremy Scott and Winnie Harlow
Image via Amazon

Definitely. I feel like I got that vibe from watching the two of you on the show together. 
[Laughs.]

One of the pieces of advice you gave to the designers on the show was, “Make me feel something.” What is the trend right now that’s giving you all the feels?
Oooo! Are there any trends? I don’t think I really pay super close attention to trends. I just want something that I love. Like, as long as I love it, I’m gonna wear it and I might over-wear it. You know, I might get a purse and be like, ‘That’s the one, I’m making every fit go with this one.’ Or I have my day-to-day jewelry that I always wear, which is my lion rings and my Cleopatra rings, and all those gold fingers and all that, which is more ’90s than it is today. But if I love it, I’m gonna wear it.

Love that; that’s how it should be. And then who is your favorite Canadian designer right now? If you have one.
Well, I’m kind of biased because I’m good friends with Mikhael Kale.

[Laughs.] That’s OK. You’re allowed to be!
He made me these really sick pants a while back. They were these orange lace-up pants and I wore them to a Raptors game, courtside. And it was just everything! I was wearing a Canadian designer, repping my Canadian team. So yeah, shout out to Mikhael.

We’ve got to plug the real ones. Obviously, we’re pretty big on music over here at Complex, so who is on your playlist right now?
Do you want songs or do you want people?

Whichever one you want to do!
Right now, I have “Gyalis” by Capella Grey on repeat. It is a very short song, but it’s fire.

And, you know what, I’ve been listening to, [and] trying to get into Symphani Soto. She just released a song called “Just Enough,” and she is a friend of mine as well. Actually, she’s a friend of mine through a friend in Toronto. But yeah, she’s coming up, and I’m very proud of her.

We love up-and-comers over here. 
Mmhmm!

That’s awesome. Also, what is a piece of fashion advice that has really resonated with you and is something that you love to share with others?
I just kind of like, roll with it. You know, I learned I am blessed enough to learn from the best: amazing stylists, people backstage, iconic models, and just kind of see what their kind of flow is and then gauge my own.

That’s easy and simple. This is kind of a more off the cuff one, but just something I’ve been personally wondering. If Canada’s Next Top Model ever is revived, would you ever consider being a part of that?
No. Well, you never know, though. You never know. I never like to say no. Maybe if I could make it into my own, you know?

Heidi Klum, Jeremy Scott and Winnie Harlow sit together
Image via Ali Goldstein

I feel like it would be so cool. I don’t know, you’re funny, from what I’m seeing on [Making The Cut.] I feel like you would make it fun.
You know what, I’ll keep it in mind because you said so.

“That’s something that I really stand by, living true to who you are, and if you’re going to do something, that should reflect who you are.”

[Laughs.] Perfect, one day. And then, going back to the show, what was something that surprised you most about the entire experience of being a part of that?
I think what surprised me most didn’t really have to do specifically with design, but it was how well we were able to film in a pandemic. Obviously, a lot of protocol was taken. And you know, we had the COVID police on set every day making sure that everyone was following that protocol. But it was really the first thing that I was filming. Production-wise, obviously, I had done smaller things throughout the pandemic, just, you know, continuing to work, whatever we could make happen. But [this] was the first full production thing that I had done, as the pandemic had taken over. And I was really pleased with how well the team at Amazon, you know, took care of us and made sure that no one… I think no one got sick? And we were in pretty much in the pandemic. So it was fall that we had filmed last year. So I mean, we’re still in the pandemic now. But we’re [sings] into the thick of it! Yeah, it was pretty easy. And I was surprised at that.

That’s good, though. I feel like that’s the best thing to hear instead of a horror story.
Right! For sure. 

A model walks on the runway
Image via Ali Goldstein

About the show as well: Overall, getting to judge and obviously, offer your critique and your feedback to people, was there anything that any of the designers said that you took as a piece of advice or you learned from one of them?
Not necessarily anything anyone said, but whenever someone would—and this was a few designers—but whenever someone would create something that really spoke to who they were, it was inspiring, because that’s something that I really stand by, living true to who you are, and if you’re going to do something, that should reflect who you are. So any time that I could really see their passion flowing through their fashion, it was like, chef’s kiss.

That’s beautiful. But, great, I hope you had a great Canada Day and hope that all this press isn’t too much.
I’m in America now, and I’m so devastated! I’m celebrating the Fourth of July. I did not get to celebrate Canada Day! But I’m wearing my red today.

You are!
You know, I’m upset about it.

It’s fine, we’re like, ‘She’s one of us.’

“Making the Cut” season two premieres July 16 on Amazon Prime Video.