meet braina laviena, the model and photographer with a background in caribbean politics

Get to know the star of Rejjie Snow's new video, the hyper-creative Puerto Rican native who looks up to Cass Bird and Christy Turlington.

by Tom Ivin
11 May 2016, 2:17pm

From the white sandy beaches of Puerto Rico to center stage at Yeezy Season 3, Braina Laviena is the gold-hearted and peroxide-haired 26-year-old model and photographer with a background in Caribbean politics. Ambitious both in front and behind the lens, Braina takes control of her own image by freeing the nipple on Instagram, and shuts down social media trolls. Here are 10 things you need to know about her:

1. She grew up on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.
"Caguas, Puerto Rico, a small just south of the capital, a small town where somehow everyone ends up knowing everyone."

2. She started modeling because dancing took up too much time.
"Being a performer of any kind always appealed to me, I used to dance when I was younger. When starting college, I decided to go to an agency and try to become a model, because dancing took up too much time. I had wanted to do it for so long; I would spend hours watching and dreamed of walking down runways, but never thought that I could actually be a model because I wasn't white, skinny, or tall enough -- which is what I would see on TV and magazines. I'm happy to have pursued it and pretty lucky to have been given the opportunities I have. It's so great to see how much more diverse the industry is becoming."

3. Beyond modeling, she's also involved in politics.
"The opportunity came about right after university. I got to work with a group of insanely brilliant and talented people that became a second family. It wasn't something I wanted to do long term, but I learned so much from it."

4. Her role models are also some of i-D's favorites.
As a model, I look up to people like Christy Turlington, people who have used their voice as a public figure to help causes close to their heart. I think that's always important and really, the end goal everyone should have. As an artist and a female photographer, I really look up to Cass Bird. She seems like just a grounded person who just loves to create beautiful, beautiful imagery highlighting the personality of her subjects in every photo. And to top it off, she's got a wife and kids that look straight out of a fairytale.

5. Speaking of photography…
"It's something I've kind of always done. I grew up with all this camera equipment around. I always had either disposable cameras or a little digital camera later on that I'd take with me everywhere. I was that annoying kid at the parties always flashing in your face. The Polaroid Big Shot is my favorite to shoot with because it's a whole experience, but I actually use some expired disposables that take the absolute best shots in daylight, the colors are so rich it's insane."

6. But does she have a favorite Snapchat filter?
"Hard to say because there's always new ones! But love the vicious bunny!"

7. Her love of social media is not limited to Snapchat.
"I like reaction memes. I love any that cleverly use the 'feels bad man Pepe the Frog,' or the more recent 'Persian cat room guardian'."

8. Only the finest ethereal actress would play her in a movie.
"I would want Tilda Swinton to play me, because she is a magical creature who can embody anything and anyone and just oozes charm."

9. She takes cues from Kanye West.
"Work tirelessly."

10. After her numerous successes, she's still hugely ambitious. 
"I have a job that keeps a roof over my head and food on my plate but I'm always trying to do new things and get involved in new mediums that let me express myself creatively. I don't like limiting myself. Next probably, more art immersed experiments and films, both in front of and behind the lens. I would like to think I have many adventures still to take place."

And if money was no object then how would her life change?
"I would live on a huge space of open land where I could have an animal sanctuary. I'd travel and rescue animals from all over and work with other foundations around the world; but I would still pursue creative endeavors like art, photography, and writing."



Photography Andrew Echeverrria
Make-up Esther Foster
Clothing Cypress Label

Braina Laviena
Rejjie Snow
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