“A friend says that my life has so much unbelievable history that it would even make a movie”, says top Juliana Nalú as if the rapid rise in the fashion world, of who left a community in Rio de Janeiro and today stars in the campaign for the fashion brand Kim Kardashian was not, in fact, worthy of a movie.
For the 24-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, who dreamed of being a model since she was a child, ascension is more about achieving these goals. On the catwalks since he was 14, he got used to drawing attention wherever he went, but before cultivating friendships with celebrities such as Lewis Hamilton and Diplo, and stamping the campaign for Skims, Kardashian’s underwear brand, he reports having suffered xenophobia and racism in the United States. States and in England, where he lived before.
“It was all veiled, but I noticed that they did the makeup and hair of the white and blonde girls first and, in the last 5 minutes, they paid me a little attention – even because they didn’t know how to fix my hair”, he said in a chat with GLMRM.
“I work so that new faces don’t suffer this anymore and so that black and curly hair is valued as smooth is”.
Juliana’s reality has changed because she has already achieved a certain status in the profession, but she knows that young black and Brazilian women still face the same situations at the beginning of their international career. “They even told me to reduce my hips, lose weight, but I don’t feel beautiful anymore,” she says.
Like every new face, Juliana cites Gisele Bündchen as a reference for a Brazilian who conquered her space and went beyond fashion, but she makes a reservation: “She opened several doors and placed Brazilian models in the ranking, but she is white.”
“We also have to have a wonderful, black top model, after all, there’s a lot more black in Brazil,” he says, with the confidence of someone who wants to reach much greater heights than what they’ve already achieved.
Party at Kanye’s house
Living in Los Angeles for six years, Juliana started participating in campaigns for giants such as Urban Outfitters and American Eagle. But it was a stroke of luck — or the fact of being in the right place at the right time — that led to an invitation from the creative director of Kim Kardashian’s brand to be one of the faces of the new campaign.
Some time ago, Juliana was at a party for another Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, when she was noticed by none other than Kanye West, owner of Yeezy and Kim’s ex-husband, with whom she has four children.
“I was with a friend at a party that had Justin Bieber, Drake and other celebrities, I went to the bathroom and when I came out I saw that Kanye West was in the hallway looking at me and laughing. For a moment, I didn’t understand if he was really looking at me or had worn something,” she recalls, modestly. “When I passed, he complimented my outfit and asked the assistant to write down my number for future work.”
The campaign with Kanye hasn’t happened yet – perhaps because of the ups and downs in the rapper’s life in recent times, with the separation with Kim and the mental health issues he faces. But the two often talk to each other and Juliana believes that soon he should launch a new collection.
“I really came from the favela and I’m not dazzled by these things, but I’m very happy with the opportunity that God gives me to reach such high places, you know?”, he says.
‘Language of love’
Born and raised in the Complexo do Chapadão favela in Rio de Janeiro, Juliana began to fulfill some of her childhood dreams by winning CUFA – Solte seu Brilho, a contest held by Rede Globo in partnership with Central Única das Favelas. From there to work in Spain, Greece and the United Kingdom was a quick hop. With no opportunity to study English in childhood and adolescence, she started modeling abroad without understanding a word of the language.
“I spent two weeks crying in my room for not speaking English, but I realized I needed to get my head up and play.”
It took only a year and a half to learn good English on a day-to-day basis, without classes. In the meantime, she became inspiration for the lyrics of the song “Love Language” by Kehlani, artist nominated for a Grammy in 2016 for “Album of the Year”. The song, inspired by the Brazilian’s romance with Kehlani’s music producer, talks about a couple in love, and makes reference to the model’s Portuguese: “I want to be fluent in your love language.”
the same girl
Even surrounded by international celebrities and full of stories, Juliana says she manages to be grateful for the achievements and stay true to her essence.
“Thank God, I’m in a more comfortable position economically to help my family, that’s my luxury,” says she, who managed to move her family from Complexo do Chapadão and pays for her mother’s, psychology, and brother’s colleges, who is studying dentistry.
Before the new season of work, parties in LA and travels around the world, enjoys family and friends until the end of August in Rio de Janeiro. The city is where the model recharges her energies to continue opening doors for the next generations of black and Brazilian girls who dream of conquering an international career in fashion.