'I'm from Coney Island. Brooklyn, New York, born and raised. I went to LaGuardia High School for dance, and then, when I was 13, I got scouted performing at Chelsea Piers with my dance center. I was really hesitant at first because, when you’re from New York, you see what that world can do for you—like, it can go left or go right. I was so excited to be going to LaGuardia that in the end, I just said, 'OK, but I'm not going to miss any school.' They’d do things like book me gigs in Paris on Thanksgiving or during Easter. I only ended up missing four days, ever. I did the YSL beauty campaign during winter break!
Now, I get to do all sorts of stuff for work. I did Sports Illustrated three years in a row and, after that, I started working as a correspondent for the NBA Style team. I also dance for Prince—one day, he saw me somewhere and I just got a phone call and then we became great friends. Then, he asked me if I wanted to come to Australia. I thought he was joking so I said, 'Yeah, sure, yeah, right.' And then three months later he said, 'So, are you coming to Australia?' He was totally not joking and so I got into rehearsal and I've been dancing with him ever since.
There's no other person like Prince. He is a musical genius, he is a factual genius. He is just a genius. And the fact that somebody could see me as a model and be inspired to ask me to do do something out of my element, well, I really appreciate that. You found more of that back in the '90s. Back then, models were muses and they had personalities. People knew who they were—you didn't have to hashtag 'em on Instagram! With Prince, I feel like I'm reliving the '90s model inside of me. The person who's able to walk across the stage and spin and twirl and dip and flip her hat.
My fitness routine is pretty crazy. I have this app called Nike Training Club that is awesome because you literally have like 300 workouts to choose from. That's what I did all summer, because sometimes you just don't want to get to the gym. But the rest of the time, I love to do things like heels classes, like, dancing in stilettoes. And I still go out dancing every week. My friend has an amazing party called Baby I'm A Star and for the past two years it’s been my dance floor.
I actually just started learning how to DJ—recently, I DJ'd at The Dream Hotel with my friend D-Nice. I'm not anywhere near good but it's an experience, it's trying new things. I know that Naomi [Campbell] once said that one of the reasons for her success is that she tried everything. I think that you should try everything you want to do. If you want to be a fisherman, get on a boat. You know what I mean? If you want to be a dancer, dance. It might not be for you, but do it. So that's what I do.
WHAT TO WEAR
To be honest, I don't go to many events. I'm not gonna lie, I live at the Garden…I go to a lot of Knicks games. But how I dress really depends on where I’m going. In Brooklyn, I’m chill, t-shirt, sneakers, no makeup. I’ll go hang out at the Burrito Bar near the Barclays Center, that’s our spot. But if I’m going out to somewhere like the Meatpacking District, I know that there’s going to be tons of fashion people around, so I’ll probably wear all black, leather jacket and some leather BCBG leggings. In Miami, I wear light colours, a lot of whites. Cuff shorts and t-shirts with a blazer works all day, and then just change up my shoes for the nighttime. If I'm going out in Atlanta, again, it’s totally different—probably something short. A sky-high heel. Something I can move in, cause I dance more when I'm there.
Even if I’m just going to a game, I basically always put on a boot. I love boots with a heel—my lowest pair of heels is probably four inches. If I'm going somewhere, then I want people to know when I walk in the room! But I do also love sneakers. I’ve been obsessed with them since I started modeling. I have this pair of metallic gold Nikes that are my go-to now, but when I started out I only had one pair of sneakers, one church shoe, and one boot. When I started making money, I started to buy the things that I couldn’t afford when I was a kid!
I have a speaker in my bathroom so when I get ready, I can always have music playing. I make playlists for everything, every shoot, whenever friends come over. So if I'm about to get ready, I make something for whatever my mood is…it might be Prince, might be Enya! If I'm going to a gala then I probably want to hear something a little bit more soothing. If I'm going to the club I might want to throw on like my Atlanta mix, stuff like “Drop That NaeNae.” But I always put something on.
Whenever I have like a big event and I want to get ready, I want fresh flowers in my place. It's really hard in New York to find a good florist, but there's a spot called Spruce a couple of blocks away that makes the most gorgeous colored flowers…instead of just getting a red rose, they have amazing purple roses and orange roses. And I always have like, five candles burning in my house. I’m obsessed with Sabon Sweet Vanilla, and I used to burn a lot of pineapple candles but it was a bit much when people came over.
I’ve been using Christine Chin products since like 2006, and I use her Hydrating Cleanser to wash my face before everything else. Then, if I’m going out and want to freshen up, I have this Intensive Moisturizing Mask from Rituals that I leave on for about 15 minutes. I also have these Earth Therapeutics Hydrogel Under Eye Recovery Patches that Mary Irwin recommended to me—she knows that I don’t wear much makeup, so she’s been trying to find different ways for me to get ready! I use the ones with aloe vera and cucumber and leave them on for about seven minutes after I wash my face, it kind of takes away any bags.
Then, I'll use my Christine Chin Perfect Hydrating Cream or this amazing oil, Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil by Ole Henriksen. I really like oily skin, it looks a lot fresher sometimes than a face full of makeup. The night before I do a beauty shoot, I always eat something really greasy like a burger so that my skin is oily in the morning. Never sugar before a shoot, though. I order pizza like three times a week from Chelsea Pizza, but sugar and my pores do not get along.
Then, I go straight to my mascara. I’m a mascara ho…I have a lot, but my favorite is Buxom Lash Mascara in Black is Black. The thing I like about it is that, even if you don't have super long eyelashes, this makes them look thicker but not clumpy. I find that a lot of brushes are totally left field with that. Sometimes, I’ll put on Smashbox Full Exposure first, just to put them in order and give a little length. And I’ve been a fan of Givenchy Noir Couture Mascara for years, it has this crazy, curved brush that can get both sides of your lashes at the same time! I’m also really into L’Oreal’s Voluminous, that totally pumps it up. And MAC’s False Lashes Mascara is great, too—it’s not too noticeable, which is good sometimes.
I also love putting black eyeshadow on my bottom lashes as a liner. Any black eye shadow works…I just think that with that and mascara, you can look phenomenal if you wear the right lip. Over the past few months, I’ve basically just been wearing MAC Lingering Kiss because it matches my burgundy fedora. If I’m not doing a bold lip then I’ll go for my favorite Bare Minerals Lip Gloss in Sugar Cookie or Tom Ford’s Coco Ravish, which I love to mix it with Blistex to make it a little shiny. And, no matter what, I always line my lips. MAC Lip Pencil in Currant is one of my favorites, but I mix it up. I like when your makeup looks like you had two hours in your room with a makeup artist, when it really took you 10 minutes at home, and I think that things like liner and a great mascara are always going to do that.
I don't like a lot of foundation because I love skin, but sometimes I put a little of Make Up For Ever HD Definition Foundation under my eyes and on my nose, and then use a beauty blender. One of my pet peeves is when you can see the entire outline of someone’s makeup in a photo, but the blender kind of gets into your hairline so that when you do take a photo, the makeup just looks like part of your skin. So, I touch up those areas and then apply some powder, just with Make Up For Ever. Then I take a brush and hit my cheekbones with some contour, like Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Deep. I'm a big cheekbone person. You can go out with some cheekbone highlights and mascara and call it a night.
I get my hair done once a week at Amoy on 65th and Lexington. I’ve been doing that since 2006, she’s amazing and she’s done everybody. As a model, your hair is touched by so much heat, so you need somebody who knows how to fix the damage. I just do a leave-in conditioner whenever I go there and then the rest of the time I just use L’Oréal Elnett Hairspray. It's the only one that I can brush out right after. It still holds but it's not super hard. Then, I use Amoy's Citrus Serum…she always puts it on for me at the end, and I love it.
My favorite, favorite nail color ever is Passion by OPI. That's what I have on now. I like simple. I'm very simple. But if I want a nude that's more brown, I use Brooch the Subject by Essie. And if not those, then I just love anything gold, any shade of gold, gold packaging, accessories, nails, shoes. And your nails can be your accessory! So, if I’m going out, I might wear my gold sneakers and throw on some gold nails and then I’m done. Always with some gold. Maybe that’s Prince. He’s definitely heightened my gold obsession.”
—as told to ITG
Damaris Lewis photographed by Tom Newton.