Maybe she was born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.
Whatever the answer, the U.S. cosmetic giant has announced the next sublime face they’ll plaster on billboards, magazine pages and on TV worldwide belongs to a sweetly shy 20-year-old from Orléans named Herieth Paul.
Haven’t heard of her? You will. Already a major player in the rarified world of supermodels, she earned instant recognition status last year when she signed with Sephora and an eight-foot image of her smiling face adorned every store from New York to Toronto and Paris to Vegas.
But the Maybelline contract, which involves 12 days of shoots, commercials and international travel, possibly to India and South Africa, puts her firmly in the same class as ultra-famous Maybelline spokesmodels Christy Turlington, Adriana Lima and Jourdan Dunn.
“This is every model’s dream, to be an ambassador for a huge beauty brand. And this brand represents beautiful, strong, independent women, so now I get to travel to Africa and around the world to tell my story. And I get to wear makeup along the way, which I love!” she told the Citizen Thursday afternoon.
The timing of the announcement — Paul herself giddily leaked it on her Instagram account — couldn’t be better, coming midway through Black History Month, New York Fashion Week and amidst a slow, but noticeable, shift towards including more models of colour in major campaigns.
“I used to see just one type of girl at every show, but now I see beautiful girls from all over the world and all races,” she noted.
“The diversity in the industry is better, but it’s not at the point where we don’t need to talk about it anymore. There’s more work to be done by me, and my peers.”
Born in Tanzania but brought to Canada as a child on her mother, Nsia Paul’s diplomatic visa, the New York-based supermodel still owns property in Ottawa and has a sister and brother-in-law here. She has shelved plans to seek permanent residency in Canada for the moment in favour of a green card, which will mean easier international travel for work.
It’s a long way from when the then 13-year-old showed up an hour early for a casting call at Angie’s Models and Talent International in the ByWard Market — and was told to come back on time.
“The moment I did that, I said to myself, ‘I just closed the door on a supermodel,” laughs Angie Sakla-Seymour today, who quickly signed the teenager as soon as she returned.
“When she came back, she walked the catwalk and said, ‘I want to be an actress.’ I looked at her and said, ‘You can act when you’re 40. Right now? You’re a model.’”
And what a model. Since signing with Angie’s, Paul’s career has literally taken off. Her perfectly symmetrical features — a rare thing even amongst the most beautiful — have been seen in every major fashion magazine on the planet. She’s also stalked the catwalk for most labels, from Tom Ford and Diane Von Furstenberg to Calvin Klein and Phillip Lim. Paul has also been nominated for Model of the Year at the annual Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards on April 15
“It’s taken her five years, a lot of rejection and a few tears and hearing no over and over,” recalls Sakla-Seymour. “She would shed a tear, but just say, ‘I understand they wanted another girl, God has something else for me.’”
Yet her first job in New York, when she was just 15, nearly ended in disaster. Tired and feeling unwell, she decided to sleep in rather than go to the job. Before long, Sakla-Seymour was on the phone, laying down the rules.
“I said, ‘Listen, this isn’t summer camp. Get up, get to the casting or you’ll be sent home.’”
There’s little chance of that anymore for the former Lester B. Pearson High School student, who says her post-career plans include getting a degree in women’s health studies.
And does she miss anything about Ottawa, aside from her sister, Happiness Floyd, and her high school pals?
She laughed, delighted at the question.
“Oh yes. I miss poutine. I miss melted cheese curds. I miss that very much.”