Following in mentor Naomi Campbell’s footsteps, this young catwalk queen is a surefire legend-in-the-making. The 21-year-old, who became a superstar teenage model shortly after leaving school, has had a career that has in many ways been defined by race. She was scouted while out with a friend in the Hammersmith branch of Primark.
When she left school in 2007, Jourdan did her first season of shows in New York, walking for Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs. By the following summer she was on the cover of Vogue Italia and since then has been on the covers of British, Italian and American Vogue, modelled for most international houses and fronted campaigns for Topshop, Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry.
Jourdan never planned to become a campaigner for more ethnically diverse catwalks, but it’s something she is happy with: ‘At the end of the day it’s down to casting directors and designers and who they want to front their campaigns. But then again, if I voice my opinion and other people agree then more voices will be heard and people will listen and start to look at the situation and realise that there is a problem and we need to sort it out.’ At London Fashion Week in February 2008, her comments about race made the news: “London’s not a white city,” she told the Evening Standard. “So why should our catwalks be so white?” Dunn proved her point when, the week after her comments in London, she became the first black model on Prada’s catwalk in Milan since 1997, when Naomi Campbell walked for the label.
Jourdan also became a single mother, aged just 19. Shortly after being named Model of the Year at the 2008 British Fashion Awards, she became pregnant. She gave birth to Riley in December 2009 and a couple of months later hit the headlines once more when her boyfriend and Riley’s father, Jordan Cummings, was convicted of dealing cocaine.
While she is no longer with Cummings, Jourdan has made sure he plays a role in their son’s life. ‘We were together for five years, but whatever issues we have with each other it’s not that important because it’s all about Riley. We both come from broken homes, so even though we are not together we want to put on a united front for him, to be in each other’s lives. I want Riley to have his dad in his life.’
Jourdan was back on the catwalk during London Fashion Week just two months after giving birth, although she didn’t fully return to work until the following season. ‘Everyone said, “You’ll snap back, Jourdan, you’ll be fine,”‘ she says. ‘But I did a Vogue shoot and I couldn’t fit into the clothes. I found it kind of funny because it’s never happened to me before so I thought, “Ah, OK, that’s what it feels like.”‘
Her agency arranges her modelling around Riley, who suffers from sickle cell disease. Jourdan travels between London and New York every few weeks and has turned down jobs if it means being away from him for too long. ‘It is still hard, especially when I come back and he says a new word or he’s doing a new thing. I Skype a lot. It got to the point where my mother would say, “Riley, where’s Mummy?” and he would point at the computer.’
Her favourite assignments are with the British stylist Edward Enninful, now fashion director of W magazine (‘He is like my fashion daddy’), and Pat McGrath, the superstar make-up artist. ‘They are also great friends and they are a crazy duo. Plus they are English, so if I’m away, just being around English accents is really comforting.’
Not that she plans to do the shows for too long. ‘I always say once I get my big beauty contract I’ll slow down,’ she laughs. For now, though, she’s focused on finding a new home for her and Riley in Chiswick. ‘That’s my ideal place, it’s so green and I couldn’t live anywhere other than West London.’