this model went from walking the catwalk to working in the bush
Aleksandra Orbeck Nilssen shares her notes on being a woman
Photography Pierre Stine
A self-proclaimed “blonde viking from Norway”, Aleksandra Orbeck Nilssen (also known in the bush as “N/aisa) first started modelling at the tender age of 14. Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Oscar de la Renta, Vogue -- you name it she walked, posed, preened and pouted for it. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Aleks spent the next few years travelling the globe for work, meeting all sorts of incredible people along the way, even finding the time for a spot of method acting as well as learning screenwriting and directing skills in New York. Then, after her 18th birthday, she made a decision that would change her life forever, moving to the other side of the world to help save the wildlife of Namibia. Since then, Aleks has worked side by side with the Namibian Bushmen to conserve the last wilderness of Namibia, becoming a family member of the Ju'/hoansi San people in the process. Of the move, she says, “I realised that I needed to learn to love myself as much as I shared and gave love to animals and people.”
Combining her previous work in film and fashion, Aleks works with a variety of different media, from documentary films and sustainable fashion to public speaking, workshops and retreats, to aid in her mission of expanding the ecological consciousness of our planet and reconnecting people with the environment.
Here she shares her notes on being a woman.
The best thing about being a woman is that women know how to make time stand still, they make you feel loved, seen and heard. Women bring you closer to nature, because women are of nature. Women care deeply, love fiercely, women are soft and powerful. Women are practical and spiritual. Women can inspire, influence, provide and create what should exist.
The hardest thing about being a woman is that we are often better at loving others then loving ourselves, and we often fear to take up too much space or stand out, because jealousy and conformity likes to put us in our place. Men often prey on us, which in turn makes it hard to be taken seriously. We allow others' opinions to be greater than our own. Women like to pretend that we are scared of the dark, but we are really scared of our own light.
The best advice someone ever gave me about human bodies is to have the heart of a lion, the skin of a rhino, and soar like an eagle, and if that does not works, then teach people the illusion until they are ready for the truth.
When I was a kid I used to talk a lot and take up a lot of space, but as I grew older I became more and more aware of this unwritten social law in Norway called the “law of Jante”, which says that that you should not stand out too much, think that you are something special, or take up too much space. I thought I had to fit in, be perfect and please others. I tried to become who I thought people wanted me to be instead of being myself. I became a person that was always there for others, but hardly ever there for myself. The perfect girl, with long blond hair, who never had problems and always a smile on her face... Fuck, what a lie.
The most unexpected thing I’ve found about being a woman is that I walk with roots under my feet, knowing that I am home in myself. I am everything that I see. I discovered that women are here to make sure that we keep a connection to our roots, nature and the bigger picture.
The film that taught me the most about being a woman is Pocahontas. She was strong, rebellious, bold, adventurous and wise. She was kind in ways other Disney princesses were not. She stopped a war and chose herself and her duty to her people over a man.
My favourite song about being a woman is What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.
The women I admire most are the Norse goddess Freya, my Ju/´hoansi Bushmen mother, Jane Goodall and Mother Nature.
The best thing about getting older is that you realise that there is a voice on the inside that is much stronger than any voice on the outside. You can do whatever you set your mind to. You can choose how you perceive challenges as on the way, and not in the way. But the coolest of all is that you can turn your scars into stars.
The biggest lie about getting older is that we think we have to become serious, practical and do a job that we don’t like. No matter what age we are we can still continue to play, create worlds within worlds and decide what should exist. We might look a bit older, have a bit more baggage, but we have tons of stories, experiences, and that gives us access to a larger target group.
I feel like a grownup every time I have to log into my internet banking.
Love is one of the intangible wonders of the world, it unites us all regardless of background, culture, size or shape. Love smells like cacao, it looks like a unicorn and it feels like a lion brushing against you.
I’m the happiest when I can create freely, write, act or tell stories, share and spend time with people in nature. Some of the most special happy moments in my life have been spent with the Ju/´Hoansi Bushmen people in Namibia, surrounded by the wildest of nature. It’s real, it's honest, present -- and it's when I feel happy and connected. They have taught me that we are all just people, in essence we are the same but through existence we lead our lives differently.
Sheryl Crow asks: what do you love about yourself? I love that I am a lion-hearted woman. And through my lion heart I am so grateful to be able to empower and reconnect people to their own true nature.
My question for the next woman doing this column would be: Every woman is a goddess, what superpower would you choose to have?
Aleksandra is with Viva London.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.