Jordan Daniels is on the ferry when we speak, the tooting of tugboats and sound of rushing water punctuating our conversation. Doing an interview while in transit seems appropriate for the model, who has spent her life moving between continents. Born in South Africa, Daniels grew up in New Zealand, where she enrolled in college and took a retail job. It was “a normal life,” she recalls. Then she upended that normalcy, jettisoning her studies to head to L.A. in hopes of taking her modeling career to the next level. “I didn’t ask my parents for permission or anything—I just did it,” she says.
The risk paid off. After she notched an exclusive booking for Prada’s spring 2019 show, Daniels has since walked a marathon’s worth of runways, from Dior to Marc Jacobs to Thom Browne. All that travel helped spur an interest in international cuisine. “It was one of the ways that I would get to know a city,” she says. Her dream is to have her own Anthony Bourdain–style travel show someday, focused on food and culture.
In self-isolation, Daniels has been getting creative with remote shoots. “I’ve glued crystals on my teeth,” she says, and incorporated her dogs and cats into the background of her shots.
She’s been staying politically engaged, working with Starfish Greathearts Foundation, which supports children in HIV/AIDS-affected communities in South Africa, and she’s been active in the Black Lives Matter movement, helping to provide supplies to protesters. And she’s given thought to how the fashion industry can be more inclusive when it comes to Black models like herself. To Daniels, that means investing in their careers long-term. “At the end of the day, new faces are, unfortunately, disposable,” she says. “It’s all about longevity.”
Hair by Nicole Nelms; Makeup by Chao-Li for Chanel; Produced by Hillary Foxweldon.
This story appears in the September 2020 issue.