binx, the future face of fashion
She's the face, the one everyone rates. If you're talking about the future of fashion, and you know what you're talking about, it's Binx.
Real name Leona Walton, Binx was nicknamed so by her brothers "after Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars" - the gungan from the planet Naboo. Gungans have humanoid bodies and long ears and live underwater. Now the gungan is a supermodel, signed to Next, with a Céline campaign to her name and 27 shows just from last season, for which she had to stop playing football; "I was playing a lot in my junior year but fashion week was in the middle so I had to stop to do shows." That's what Binx does. She wanted to be a professional footballer and by the sounds of it she might have been, had she not been so otherworldy beautiful, something she still can't get her own pretty head around. "I think I have good bone structure but I don't ever think of myself as this beautiful girl. My sister was always gorgeous, she had the perfect hour-glass figure, but I was just hanging out with my brothers like [puts on deep voice] 'yo what's up'. If four years ago you told me I was going to be a model, I would have laughed in your face." Binx's sister Tati was scouted the same day she was, by the pool. Binx was nine and her tomboy spirit was grossed out at the thought, "My sister was like 'yeah, wohoo', but I was like, 'Heck no, there's no way, I'll pass'". Binx uses words like 'Heck' and 'Shoot' in a way that no one else could pull off… maybe Matthew McConaughey but that's it. Her soft, southern voice sounds like it's about to break over the phone from Paris, which could be au naturale, or merely a symptom of becoming an international superstar. Her favourite word is… "Oh, like…. Man! Man is my favourite word. It's the word I say the most, you can be like, 'hey man', or if you're tired you can be like 'maaaan' or if you're mad, 'MAAAAAN!' It's addictive, you can't stop, it's like 'like'". Even the way she says cool is cool.
Some security men still think I'm a man and they'll say 'Sir' but then they'll correct themselves [laughs].
Growing up player soccer, dreaming of Cristiano Ronaldo, in basketball shirts and a ponytail, first in the Hawaiian island of Kauai, then in Tennessee, Binx was often mistaken for a boy on the pitch. "But I didn't think much of it. I wanted to dress how I wanted to dress, if that was in skater shoes and basketball shorts and a T-shirt, it didn't mean anything to me, I just wanted to be who I felt like being. I was never bullied or anything, they just asked if I was a boy or a girl, and I told 'em." The self-professed class clown of an inner-city school in Tennessee, Binx knows how to handle herself. "Some security men still think I'm a man and they'll say 'Sir' but then they'll correct themselves [laughs]." Those security men are idiots. She might be being sold as "androgynous", with silly internet blogs branding her so, along with dud words like "edgy" and "fresh faced", but it's an insult to her beauty. This girl is far, far better than androgynous.
Getting over her nine-year-old aversion, Binx started modelling seriously a few years ago. "I went to New York but it didn't really work out… Then the head of the office in London called me in and said 'Listen here, I think you should cut your hair off and potentially pin back your ears.' I was kind of flippin… I said 'I'm not pinning back my ears but I'll think about the hair'. I really had no intention of doing it until I was 16 and then I just decided you know, I don't have anybody to impress, I don't have to worry about a thing, so I found this haircut on the internet of this cool, cool girl and I didn't know one single person with that haircut, so I decided it would be me." One short back and sides and long on top later, a star was born. Walking every show worth its salt at spring/summer 14, Binx's light started flashing.
On the future of her industry, Binx says, "Shoot, of course everything is going to change. It's changed since I started. Now with girls like Cara and Joan, we're allowed to have personalities; we don't have to be this beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed thing anymore, we can be real people." She doesn't have a role model or an older model she looks to for career advice because, "I'm kind of done with the whole supermodel thing. When I meet them, they're completely different, so I don't know what to think about them, even if they're cool people. I admire my friends, not people I don't know." The silent supermodel air is not something Binx can understand. Meeting elusive iconic designers on castings, she says, "sometimes I just want to give them a hug they look so sad! I wanna be like 'what's up, how's it going, how's your day', you know?" On meeting the King, Karl Lagerfeld, Binx recalls "He didn't say anything, that's what scared me the most, because everybody else was super energetic and super happy and he just kind of smiled and kind of nodded. But after that I got Chanel. I was just happy to like, be approved!"
Her happy go lucky nature is more than just youth. Binx is alarmingly wise for her years. "I came from the smallest town, two of the smallest towns, so I'm finding all this crazy, but I'm taking it all in and at this point I'm just thinking: do everything to the full. Go for it." When I ask where she wants to be in five years time, she replies instinctively, "No. I'm just going. I'm going with the water". In difficult situations she remembers her mother's voice, "and this is what I live by: 'may be love, may be joyful, may all things go well for you'". This from the girl who's just 17, in her last year of school. And of course everybody who's nice says "personality" when asked what makes a person beautiful, but Binx puts it much more sincerely: "If you're confident in who you are… It might take time to find yourself but once you do… you're you. It makes you a beautiful person to know who you are. You can be the most beautiful girl in the world but, excuse my language, if you're a b.i.t.c.h, then you'll always be ugly."
Lyrical like that, Binx's music taste spans from Lauryn Hill and Andre 3000's old mixtapes, that she grew up on, to Van Morrison, to Odd Future, "Like Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt and MellowHype. And King Krule is really good right now, and of course to chill, A$AP Rocky." With her hip hop honey looks and almost a decade of dance training in modern, West African dance and hip hop, we think Binx will be the next model to feature in music videos by all of the above. If Joan, Jourdan and Chanel can shake it with Beyoncé, there's no telling how big Binx could become in that arena. She's got everything all at once: her peace, her personality, her sexy as hell voice, and none of that is even her day job yet; the 9-5 is just about her face. All bets on Binx.
Text Sarah Raphael
Photography Cass Bird
Styling Natasha Royt
Hair Teddy Charles at Art + Commerce
Make-up Frank B at The Wall Group
Nail technician Elena Capo at The Wall Group
Casting Piergiorgio Del Moro
Set design Michael Flis
Photography assistance Diane Russo, Roman Rasenas, Adam Amengual
Digital technician Travis Drennen
Styling assistance Rasaan Wyzard
Production Palmer Schwartz Agency
Model Binx at Next