In New York, the top model from the state of Minas Gerais exalts the pride of being black and her career. The first black model to grace the cover of a Brazilian women’s magazine, Danielle Leonel, has been invited to participate in a film.
Living in New York since 2001, model Danielle Leonel still makes Brazilians proud. She was born in Ipatinga, Minas Gerais, and was the first black woman to be featured on the cover of a Brazilian women’s magazine back, Marie Claire magazine back in May of 2001. Now, all she can do is celebrate having been invited to participate in an American film. The title of the film can’t be revealed yet, but it is certain that it will show even more Brazilian beauty and talent.The model is now represented by John Casablanca’s agency, Joy Model, and her film project promises to reveal her sensual and dramatic side.
Leonel on the cover Marie Claire in May of 2001
At age 16, when she moved outside of Brazil, Leonel learned an important lesson about New York. “The next day I arrived, I woke up and it was beautiful sunshine outside: I put on my very Brazilian shorts and went outside…in the cold! At that moment I learned that a beautiful day is not synonymous with a warm day here”, she recalls, laughing.
After seasons in France and London, Danielle returned to settle in the Big Apple, where she has lived since 2001. “What a shame, after all this time I still haven’t seen the Lyndhurst Castle. I never imagined that it was so magical”, says the beauty of Tarrytown.
Danielle entered the fashion world by winning a contest in São Paulo. Eleven years and many clicks later, the top model became one of the most sought after black women in the market. Having experienced some success, she took the day off to talk about her plans.
Is the Lyndhurst Castle like you imagined?
It’s much better! It’s so close to New York and at the same time, so different from the city. The decoration, the natural light, the view…
Is a model’s life fast-paced?
I’m always traveling and keeping it all together, I stop at home about two months per year. Once, going from Germany to Canada, I only realized that it was my birthday when a person from immigration wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ in my passport (laughs).
There is a contention that black models have less space (in the modeling world).
This is on everyone’s mind. Thank God I’ve always had a lot of work. For example, I did a Louis Vuitton runway carrying the bag commemorating 500 years of Brazil. On the runway of Maritima, I went on after Naomi Campbell and was applauded.
And you make a point of appreciating your features, right?
I love my crazy hair! This is how I am and I like this image. When you assume and respect yourself, everything becomes beautiful and your soul is revealed.
You’re studying acting. Do you have plans of becoming an actress?
In New York, I took classes at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, a school where many big names have gone like Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore. Being an actor is to go out and learn about life, imagining yourself in the place of another person, understanding the human being. This course changed my life.
Are we going to soon see you in a novela (soap opera)?