At 5ft 10 and with enchanting green eyes, Jamaica-born Janelle ‘Nell’ Robinson has taken the modeling world by storm. Her stunning looks helped her to win the first Supermodel of the Caribbean title in 2002 and she has now featured in campaigns for J-Lo and Victoria’s Secret, in fashion magazines Vogue and Cosmopolitan and on the cover of top British men’s magazines Arena and GQ. Nell has shot with internationally renowned photographers Marc Baptiste and Ellen Von Unwerth and owns a successful promotions company with her two brothers called Free-I Entertainment. The stunning model now resides in the UK and has just completed a number of runway shows at London fashion week. Here the 23-year-old beauty is eager to talk to Flavour Magazine about her busy career.
Tell us about your background
I was born 29 August, 1985 and I’ve lived in Kingston, Jamaica my whole life, I live in London because of my modeling. I’m based here and fly over to New York every few months for castings and everything but Jamaica is home. My mum is very light-skinned Jamaican, her dad’s dad was English and my dad’s mum is Portuguese and the rest of the family are Jamaican. So there’s a big mixture in my family.
What are the opportunities for ethnic minorities in your field?
It’s been 20 years since Naomi Campbell was discovered in the UK and I think that it is harder for black people in the modeling world. It’s so much more difficult. If you’re watching a catwalk show they only use one black model or maybe two and I think it’s so unfair. I have no idea why they do this, but I think that they should concentrate more on that then on skinny model problems. They should make this an issue instead of going on all the time about models being too skinny.
When did you get into your present career?
People in the industry kept on telling me that I should model because of my height, my size and my bust and the head [Kingsley Cooper] of an agency in Jamaica called Pulse (the Caribbean’s number one modelling agency) suggested that I enter the Supermodel Of The Caribbean competition and I did that and I won. I’ve been modelling full-time for four years and before that I was just getting prepared, looking after myself and studying in school.
When and how did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Well my mum Janette Finson used to be a model when she was younger and everybody said I should too so I decided to enter the competition and take it from there. It’s been really amazing. I’ve been able to travel to so many different countries and have seen so many different cultures. This is a dream come true. I never thought that I would ever be in this position. It’s not all glamorous, though. It can be tough and the travelling can really take its toll, but you just have to maintain a positive attitude and keep your head on your shoulders and everything will turn out fine.
What challenges have you faced in this profession and how have you dealt with them?
I’m a fun girl and I never really let things get me down so I rise to any challenge. The hardest thing is missing home. I miss the people, I miss the close-knit community, I miss the beach, the sun, the food, the parties – everything! But that’s why I go home as often as I can. I’m there every 2-3 months. Don’t get me wrong though, I love England because of the culture, the museums, the plays and shows that you can go to, but I couldn’t live without my Jamaica friends, Jamaica food, Jamaica people, or Jamaica.
Is it a struggle for you to stay so thin. Do you have a secret?
Luckily, unlike some models, weight isn’t an issue for me. I’m what they’d call a marga [skinny] girl back home. My whole family is really tall and skinny, so I’ve never had that problem. I can eat anything that I want and the only thing that gains weight is my chest which isn’t a problem. I live on Jamaican food. My favourite dish is ackee and salt fish and when I’m here in the UK I go to Ochi Rios or Mr Jerk’s to get dinner. It’s the one sure way that I can feel connected to home.
What is the secret of your success? Go on, tell us…
I’ve no particular secret, I’m afraid. You need to have height, be slim and you need to have something different about you which I think I have. My advice to anybody out there doing what I do is that you should could eat properly, stay healthy and drink a lot of water. You should take care of your skin and don’t party to much or you’ll look run down, go to the gym and keep your heart pumping.
Words by Annika Allen