Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Kathy Chan writes "...Who's Robbie Williams? I've just been invited to his party tomorrow night,' asks Nadine Willis.
Considering this is the girl who's just shot the latest Gucci campaign and is on first-name terms with Mario and Tom (Testino and Ford to you and me), it's not as if she's been living the life of a hermit. But it's true, she hasn't the foggiest who Robbie is. Hailed as the new Naomi and with fine, gazelle-like stature, Willis doesn't know her Knebworth from her kneecaps. Her main concern these days is her four-year-old daughter.
At 23, Willis is the current darling of fashion. She's only six months into what looks like being a very long modelling career, but already she has snagged an exclusive contract with Gucci and shot for the style bibles French Vogue, i-D and 10. To have not only Testino but also David LaChapelle and Ellen Von Unwerth chasing after you within weeks of being in the industry is every model's dream. 'I got the French Vogue shoot with Mario three weeks after I arrived in London,' she says. 'I didn't even know who he was then. When I found out I was shocked that I was working with one of the top photographers in the world. The next week I got Gucci. I screamed when I found out!'
Willis grew up in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. With an absent mother and a father who was unfit to look after his family, Willis and her 22 siblings were brought up in various boarding houses. When Willis became a mother at 19 she was dancing for a living and struggling to make ends meet. Deciding she had to make a better life for her daughter, Tatiana, Willis moved to London in search of an agent. 'I was a wannabe model,' she jokes. Despite the fact that she was rejected by 11 agencies, Mario Testino took her under his wing and showed her the ropes. 'Mario is so great because he really works with me. He's like my dad,' she says of her mentor.
Today, Willis is something of a celebrity herself in her homeland. 'I'm in a very privileged position now. I've gained the respect of the people in Jamaica, and besides all the fun things like travelling first class and staying in amazing hotels, the great thing about my life right now is that I can provide a good life and an education I never had for my daughter. That's the most important thing to me..."
Photos courtesy of Pride Magazine