Supermodel Lais Ribeiro talks passion and purpose.
Embroidered dress, $13,900, and embroidered dress with swan print, $5,500, both at Burberry, Design District; Samira hoops, $650, and Stripe ring, $200, both at Jennifer Fisher; L’Arc de Davidor ring GM with Palais diamonds, $11,050, at L’Arc de Davidor.
Lais Ribeiro is one of the most hardworking models on the planet. She’s walked countless runways (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, among others) and has been photographed for high-fashion glossies all over the world. But today, she’s laughing and chatting with me about her 11-year-old son Alexandre’s obsession with TikTok and her deep love of guacamole. She’s got that kind of pure and genuine energy that is infectious—the kind of energy that just makes you want to become her best friend. And after speaking with her for only a few minutes, it becomes very clear to me why her success has lasted more than a decade. Sure, she has the face and body of a goddess, but it’s her attitude of gratitude that has given her career such longevity. A lot of that, she says, she owes to becoming a mother in 2008, when she was just 18 years old. “I’m thankful that I was a mom before I started modeling,” she says. “I have so many things going on, but he makes me feel grounded and has given me a purpose in life. I’m doing this for him. I want him to be proud of me and I want to give him the best life possible.”
Tulle dress, tulle top, silk belt and wool and silk pants, all price upon request, at Louis Vuitton, Design District; Arya sandals, price upon request, at Giuseppe Zanotti, Design District; Curb Chain necklace, $17,500, at David Yurman, Bal Harbour Shops.
A year after giving birth to her son, Ribeiro was studying to become a nurse in her hometown of Miguel Alves in the northeast region of Brazil. But little did she know that her studies were about to be put on hold—indefinitely. Ribeiro was chosen by modeling scouts to walk in the Sao Paulo and Rio Fashion Week runways, and from there it was straight to New York Fashion Week. She relocated to New York City in 2009 to pursue what would become a very successful modeling career. “It was tough,” she says of being away from her son. “We spent five years separated because I was just starting out and I didn’t have the setup to have him here [in NYC], so he had to stay with my family in Brazil,” she says. “When I brought him here, it was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Pajama suit jacket, $2,290, pajama suit pants, $1,190, and sheepskin mules, $895, all at Balenciaga, Design District.
These days life is pure bliss for Ribeiro, who is in the midst of planning her upcoming nuptials to fiance and NBA baller Joakim Noah. (They’ll tie the knot in Brazil this summer. “It’ll be a party!” she promises.) But Ribeiro is also working toward a cause that’s very close to her heart. In 2013, her son was diagnosed with autism, and she’s made it her goal to use her platform to raise awareness and compassion. Because, as she tells me during our chat, her most important job is being a mother. Here, Ribeiro shares her inspiring journey to success, and how she finds balance as a supermodel and a supermom.
Mesh embroidered caftan, price upon request, at Mary Katrantzou; Bebe sandals, $995, at Giuseppe Zanotti, Brickell City Centre; Triangle earring 30, $758, by Shihara at The Webster, South Beach; Diagonal Stripe ring, $295, at Jennifer Fisher.
Tell us about your hometown of Miguel Alves in Brazil.
I am in love with Brazil. I grew up by the river. We don’t have a beach in my hometown. Still to this day I take Alexandre there. We do fires by the river, and we fish with family and my best friends who I grew up with. I try to go back twice a year.
Take us back to the beginning of your modeling career. What was your first big break?
I was going to school to be a nurse. But a friend of mine was a model and told me about a contest they were doing in Sao Paulo. I didn’t think I had a chance because in the north, the [models] were very tall and thin. I didn’t think they’d be interested in Brazilians. But my friend insisted, and then the scouters from Sao Paulo came down [to my hometown] and chose me. Everything happened really fast. I stayed in Sao Paulo for three months. It was tough, because I had already had my kid. I was about to go back home and continue school, but then Fashion Week happened in Sao Paulo and Rio in Brazil. Scouters from New York came to Sao Paulo and they liked me, so I came to New York in 2009. My first job in NYC was Fashion Week, but campaignwise, it was Gap. I remember there was a big Gap store in Union Square, and I saw my face on the windows. I would pass by all the time just to see it because I couldn’t believe it. It was pretty cool.
What’s it like to balance your modeling career with motherhood?
I thank God I’m traveling less now. It’s still a little complicated, but he understands that Mama is working hard for the future and he’s proud. I miss him a lot when I travel, but it’s always so good to come home to him. He’s always so happy. He’s a very special one.
You also opened up on Instagram about his autism diagnosis. April is Autism Awareness Month. How can we get involved?
I always wanted to be involved with a charity that made sense for me, and I am working with my agency to put something together to use my voice for a good cause, especially because of my son. We have to understand more of what their needs are. I have to understand more. That’s why we’re trying to put something together and work closely with a charity that brings awareness to everyone. It’s in the process.
You have more than 2 million followers on Instagram. What’s it like to share such a big moment with so many people?
It’s crazy. Technology and Instagram play a very big role in our lives, and it can be good for us to have a voice. I try to post pictures of natural moments, not only professional moments, because I want people to know me, my personality, that I have a son, that I work, that I have fun. I think it’s pretty cool that we can inspire people to do good things. But it can also consume a lot of our time, so I try to balance that.
Denim jacket, $995, and striped blouse, $2,350, both at Versace, Design District.
There are a lot of changes happening in the fashion industry since you started modeling in 2009. How do you think the industry is changing for the better?
The industry is slowly learning and changing its perspective of beauty and being more inclusive and diverse. And that makes me really happy. Before it was straightforward. It had to be one way. It’s good for people to see and relate to the people who are in the campaign. I think what’s happening now in the industry is great.
What’s been your favorite experience in your career?
It actually just happened. I filmed a reality TV show in Brazil and it’s about diversity. It’s called Born to Fashion. It’s the same concept of America’s Next Top Model, but with transgender models. It was really beautiful to learn their stories and their struggles. It’s the first TV show in Brazil that’s giving them a voice and allowing them to express themselves and open people’s minds. I’m really excited for that. It’s airing in Brazil this May.
Who is somebody who you want to work with who you haven’t collaborated with yet?
Oh my gosh—there are so many! I was never a makeup girl, but lately I’ve been getting into it. I’ve been doing makeup tutorials on YouTube. I did one recently that was a Carnival look. But during fashion shows, I would always sit in Pat McGrath’s chair and she would do makeup so well. I would love to have a collaboration with her.
Dress, $14,900, at Valentino, Design District; Berry heels, $625, by Pyer Moss x Aurora James at Pyer Moss; necklace, $6,500, at Bottega Veneta, Design District; L’Arc de Davidor ring MM with cognac lacquered ceramic, $1,800, and L’Arc de Davidor ring GM in cognac lacquered ceramic, $2,750, both at L’Arc de Davidor.
How do you prep for a big shoot?
I think being in front of the camera is something that we get used to. As a new face, you’re a little scared. You just have to find yourself—you have to find your confidence and be aware of the people around you. As a model you have to be at peace with yourself and everything else will follow. And skincare is important...
Yes, and your skin is so flawless. How can we achieve that glow?
I use cleansers because I wear a lot of makeup all the time for work. And I love Clarins Hydra-Essentiel lotion. I use it every single day, every time I’m getting out of the shower. And I do the sauna every day as well. It’s really good for the skin, and it’s good for stress and sleeping—everything. And the sun is good for the skin. Be tan!
What does your fitness routine look like?
My favorite workout is Pilates. (I do not like to run!) I love Pilates because it engages every single muscle of your body. I also lift weights here and there, and I train with my fiance. He’s pushing me. It’s been really good to see how focused he is because he’s an athlete. It excites me and I want to do the same. And I love boxing because you have to be present and you don’t think about anything else. You’re just there.
Diamante sleeveless dress, $1,790, and crystal harness, $690, both at JW Anderson; sandals, price upon request, by Kenzo at Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops; L’Arc de Davidor ring GM with cognac lacquered ceramic, $2,750, at L'Arc de Davidor; Stripe ring, $200, at Jennifer Fisher.
Speaking of your fiance, do you have a wedding date set?
Oh boy. I’ve been planning! My dream wedding will be at the beach in Brazil next summer. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and the list is just getting bigger and bigger, which scares me. We have almost everything settled now. We have friends all over the world and it’s a little hard to get everybody together, but we are working on it. But I promise you, it’ll be really fun!
What do you love to do when you’re in Miami?
Sip a margarita on the beach! I also love to get sushi at Azabu.
Your mantra for 2020?
Be present. Live in the moment because you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.
The model answers our rapid fire-questions.
The show you’re binge-watching?
Grace and Frankie. They’re so funny!
Volleyball. I play really well. See, I’m so humble!
Last movie that made you cry?
What stresses you out?
I’m such a Libra. I don’t like when people are unfair. I like balance and justice.
What relaxes you?
Hanging out and playing with my kid.
What’s the emoji you most commonly use?
The emoji that’s crying and laughing tears. Or the salsa dancer.
What’s the weirdest app that you have on your phone?
My son has so many apps on my phone, it’s crazy. He’s obsessed with TikTok. It’s very creative.
First thing you thought when your alarm went off this morning?
I was thinking that my trainer told me to wake up too early and I was a little bit mad at him!
My fiance. I’m an engaged woman! What are you trying to do?
French fries. Pizza. Pasta. And guacamole! If I see it, it’s gone. I can’t resist guacamole.
Dress with sequin top and contrast embroidered fringes, $11,000, Gucci, Design District.
Photography by: RIOCAM; Styled by Faye Power Vande Vrede; Hair by Louis Angelo at Judy Casey Makeup by Fredy Anaya at Utopia; Shot on Location at the Paul Rudolph Modulightor building.