“If you don’t know your worth, and you don’t demand your worth, you will never progress.” – Lailani Mekeel
Welcome to Face Time. DFW Style Daily’s exclusive series goes beyond the runways to get to know top Dallas models on a personal level. Why?
Boasting prestigious agencies, award-winning producers, and anticipated shows, the Dallas market is emerging as a fashion force on the national scene. And, as our interviews with Carlotta Lennox, Myles Crosby, Donny Boaz, Atti Worku, David McKay, and many more prove, Dallas-based models are among the most fascinating and accomplished in the country.
Today, we’ll shine a spotlight on a rising star with a strong, unforgettable look – and the attitude to match. Lailani Mekeel already has an international clientele, and she knows that great things happen when we stop dwelling on our ‘flaws’ and start recognizing our true worth.
Name: Lailani Mekeel
Hometown: Nashoba, Oklahoma
Agency: The Dragonfly Agency
Notable Clients: Toni & Guy, JCPenney, Swatch, Kaufman Franco, American Airlines, Mary Kay, Paul Mitchell, Stanley Korshak, Oscar De La Renta, D Magazine, Smith II
DFW Style Daily: At what age did you begin modeling? Were you scouted or did you pursue modeling as a career?
Lailani Mekeel: “My first attempt at modeling was at the age of 14, but it was no bueno. Instead, I pursued basketball to a college level, and after that, at the age of 19, I decided to try modeling again. I struggled without representation for two years before signing with The Campbell Agency. Today, I’m almost five years in, and currently represented by The Dragonfly Agency. I have come such a long way, traveled to amazing places, and met so many incredible people! I love knowing that this is still just the beginning.”
Your look is stunning, exotic, and androgynous. What is your family background?
“I usually just say I am a ‘mutt,’ but I am of Lakota-Sioux, German, Dutch, and Russian heritage. I was raised with a heavy influence of traditional Native American heritage and culture.”
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the modeling industry?
“I think the biggest misconception is the glamour of being ‘beautiful.’ The modeling industry is full of high expectations, a ton of hard work, and gorgeous competition. Modeling can be a critical and vain industry, and meeting others’ ideas of beauty can be a task easier said than done.
“I also hear a lot of negative stereotypes about models being catty or ditsy or diva-like. For the most part, that is far from the truth. Just about every model I’ve met or worked with has been absolutely loveable and memorable. It’s a tough industry, but the people you meet become like a second family. That’s one of the things that makes it all worth it!”
Are there any “deal breakers” for you when it comes to job requirements?
“[I won’t do] anything that I feel is belittling. Believe me, I have done my fair share of trade work and unpaid work and ‘it’s great exposure’ work. Occasionally, for charities and such, I still do unpaid work. I’ve also done nudes and lingerie. I’ve worked in 110-degree weather and I’ve worked in a foot of snow and ice.
“For me, modeling is an art, and I love pushing the boundaries, so there aren’t too many ‘deal breakers’ for me, but you have to know your worth. If you don’t know your worth, and you don’t demand your worth, you will never progress – but that’s true for anyone pursuing a dream or career of any sort. Never settle, and never, ever do anything you can’t be proud to show the ol’ mom and pops.”
What is your dream assignment, or who would be your dream client?
“I can’t wait until I book a Calvin Klein ad campaign. I have tons of dream clients and assignments, but for some reason, Calvin Klein has always been a favorite of mine. Oh, and of course, gracing the cover of Vogue – American, Italia, Paris – all of them, really!”
What is the craziest, silliest, or most unusual thing you have ever done on a shoot?
“Last summer, I was shooting with Gregory Prescott in New York. I was on a rooftop in the middle of Brooklyn, naked with two giant pythons! One of the snakes was close to nine feet long, and the other was almost six feet long. I would love to get the chance to shoot with more exotic animals.”
Tell us three facts about yourself that might surprise us.
“First, I grew up training horses, and I have a few scars to prove it. Second, I love to paint. Third, I am never nervous when I have to be nude, but I do get nervous if someone looks at my bare feet. I still love a good foot massage, though.”
Do you ever feel insecure? If so, when?
“Sure. Everyone has insecurities. My skin is rarely flawless, but at one point I had pretty severe acne. Acne can definitely have an effect on your self esteem. You think it’s the first and only thing people notice about you – but it’s not.
“I used to dwell a lot on all of my ‘flaws,’ until I realized that flaws are usually what I find most physically interesting in other people. Also, it’s always their personality that leaves a lasting memory.”
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
“I had a spinach, mushroom, egg, and cheese breakfast burrito.”
What was the last book you read that made a big impact on you?
“The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.”
Finally, if you could have any other job in the world, what would it be? The sky is the limit!
“Professional basketball player. Basketball was my first love.”
All images courtesy of Lailani Mekeel.