By Thandi Ntshinga
Leilani Momoisea, also known as Lani, is one of those women you look at and think “boy has she got it!” If you are someone who either follows her on Instagram, a follower of her blog LaniSays, or someone who sees her model from time to time, she’s the type of girl you know want to get to know. In the way of fashion, Lani makes simplicity look extremely chic, immediately making her the go to person to ask about her views on women and of course, mens fashion. Lani speaks about travelling, Instagram, and how women of Polynesian descent are holding it down in the fashion industry.
DS: Where does your inspiration to put a look or outfit together come from?
L: Most of the time I’m just trying to stay comfortable and warm, so whatever achieves that. I look at street style blogs from time to time to get ideas on different ways to wear things, but I don’t often buy new clothes so it’s just trying to find new ways to work old pieces – currently I’m just wearing the boyfriends oversized sweaters and skinny jeans with boots and a beanie because I’m lazy and cold.
DS: You’re the NZ brand ambassador for Boohoo, how did that come about?
L: It was through their NZ PR agency, Beat PR, who asked me to start taking street style pictures for the boohoo NZ Facebook page. I did that for a bit, and basically whenever an opportunity to do something for them came up, I’d just say yes. It worked out, because they asked me to be their official blogger for Fashion Week last year, and they asked me to be the NZ face for their Global Styler Campaign, so that was pretty cool getting that kind of exposure and seeing myself on their website. I’m not ‘officially’ their brand ambassador, but I guess it can seem like that because I do a lot of posts about their clothes. They were one of the first brands to support me, so I’m happy to do it.
DS: How long have you been modelling and how did you get into the industry?
L: I was pretty old in ‘model years’ when I joined up with an agency at 22. I was working at Real Groovy and the lady who did accounts for Real Groovy also did the accounts for my previous agency, 62 Models. She saw me and took in some pics of me to 62, and they put me on their books. I’d been approached by other agencies over the years, but as soon as they took my measurements, they’d tell me to lose weight/a few inches around my hips, etc. before they’d sign me, and I wasn’t keen on that. 62 never told me to do that, so that was cool. But it wasn’t really until I turned 25 that I started getting any real work and most of that wasn’t modelling, the majority of the work I got was TV commercials, which is all good because it pays well. I’m with N Model Management now,
DS: If you weren’t modelling and travelling the world what would you be doing? Like the ‘other’ route you could have gone career wise?
L: I’ve been a journalist for Radio New Zealand since 2007. I’m not full-time there any more, but that’s still how I make my living. Any modelling work just supplements that income, but I don’t make enough as a model to live off of it. Travelling is what I’d like to be doing instead of working haha.
DS: A lot of the time, the modelling industry has a certain look and type of people, especially overseas. How have you found the industry as a model of Polynesian decent?
L: To be honest, I haven’t gotten enough real modelling work to be able to say much about the industry. I’d like for there to be a whole lot more models of Polynesian descent but I feel like all my favourite models and the models that are really killing it and dominating it whenever they’re in the country, are Pacific Islanders/Maori – like Ngahuia Williams, Tia Woods, Yasmin Bidois. In terms of how I’ve found the industry, I’m glad that I started out older, because I’ve been to a lot of castings and obviously not gotten a lot of work from it, so it can be a bit demoralising at times, so I’m glad I had a career and a degree already in hand to remind me that my self-worth is not determined solely by the ability to look good in a magazine – don’t get me wrong though, I’d love to see myself in magazines all the time haha – but I was glad to have had a bit of life experience in hand, so that sort of thing didn’t sting as much as it would have if I was say, 15 or 16. Obviously you need to be a certain size, a size 6-8 in order to fit sample sizes. I’m a size 10, but I have never had any pressure from either agency to lose weight.
DS: You run a blog yourself called Lani Says. What drew you towards blogging?
L: I started it because I quit my full time job to live with my partner in New York for about 6 months. I knew I wasn’t legally allowed to work in the US, but I wanted to stay productive, so I thought a blog would be a good way to do that.
DS: Where’d the inspiration for InstaMay come from?
L: There is a website called Fat Mum Slim, and she does a photo a day challenge every month of the year. In 2012, I thought it would be cool to do my own version of this, but just for the month of May, and exclusively on instagram – believe it or not, there weren’t that many people using instagram a year ago. I thought it would be a cool way to connect with the people that read the blog, and get them to help come up with the photo subjects. It can get pretty personal for some of the subjects, so you really get to know the people you follow and they get a much better insight into you, as you go through the month.
DS: How does it feel seeing so many people joining in on InstaMay and InstaMarch, which you tried for the first time this year?
L: I’m always a little afraid to put myself out there so publicly in case it doesn’t take off, so it’s always a relief when it works out. Last year it was choice, because someone shared the list on pinterest, and the re-pins went nuts, and I had a tonne of people from America who had no idea who I was, doing the InstaMay challenge. This year was cooler because I noticed a way bigger local following – I think a few key, well known musicians taking part helped, and Johnson Raela from Flavainterviewed me about it on the radio as well, so that made a big difference too. It’s cool to see how far-reaching it’s become and it’s really nice to be associated with something as your own. InstaMarch was a bit of a brain explosion, I’d announced InstaMay in February, thinking May was the next month coming up…so yeah, that was a bit of a durrr moment, but there were a bunch of people who were keen to do it in March this year as well, so we just did it, I’m not sure yet if I’ll do it again next year.
DS: How would you describe hip hop and fashion at the moment, especially with it merging in with high fashion; and also with hip hop growing to the point where it’s actually influencing high fashion itself; with people A$AP Rocky and Kanye?
L: Not feeling Kanye’s fashion steeze, ASAP is cool when he’s doing the throwback 90s shit but the high fashion stuff I’m not much of a fan of. I’d rather dudes dressed simple and a lilthugged out, like the way Nas dresses in the ‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ vid, I’ve always loved the way Nas dresses, and how Mobb Deep look in ‘Survival of The Fittest’ (and pretty much all their vids).
DS: If drop crotch pants with the tapered bottoms are out for guys, what’s next for them do you reckon?
L: Guys can dress however they want haha, but if dudes wanted to take their fashion cues from about 3:15 of the ‘Survival of The Fittest’ vid, when Mobb Deep and Nas are standing together, they would become approximately 100 percent more attractive.
DS: Where are your top five places to travel and why?
L: New York
I’d be here for a week if I were to list the reasons why you should visit these places, just go and find out for yourself !
DS: Where will you travel to next?
L: I want to go to places I haven’t been yet, France, Italy – but most likely the next place I’ll go to again is New York and Samoa.
DS: Who’s someone you’d love to see playing live?
L: Michael Jackson if he was still alive, Beyonce and Drake.
DS: For ladies on a budget, what staple, investment pieces do you recommend?
L: A good pair of dark denim high waisted skinny jeans, a pair of flat ankle boots and a camel or black trench coat and of course the LBD.
DS: When did you fall in love with hip hop?
L: For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with Hip Hop. In 2003 I really discovered and fell in love with local Hip Hop.