Model, writer, actress - and, why not mention it, astrology expert, master of the art of packing, proud holder of the title of best-dressed girl in high school - there's nothing Precious Lee can't do. In a cheerful conversation with Vogue Portugal, the winner of GQ Portugal's International Female Model of the Year trophy talked about her projects, her inspirations... and how important it is to realize that there are signs that will never be compatible with us.
“It’s kind of inaccurate to cut someone off just because of their star sign, like I said it takes so much, but for you, a Sagittarius, I would never suggest a Taurus. Because Taurus is like the bull, they’re like grounded, with their horns in the ground. In order to move a bull you have to literally get something to pick it up and move it. A bull isn’t gonna move unless a bull wants to move. And you always want to move as a Sagittarius, you’re the explorer. So you may feel attracted by how grounded they feel, an opposites attract situation, but it’s not sustainable if that person is not open up to the Sagittarius energy, which is about being an explorer, about exploring different philosophies and stuff. And your philosophy. So if you have this philosophy and you love to travel Taurus wants to sit at home and do exactly what they wanna do… I don’t know how that will work. But they also probably really hot because Taurus comes from Venus, which is the planet of beauty and love.” When we finally start the interview, scheduled for after the shoot that would result in one of the covers of this issue, Precious Lee has been working for over ten hours. The day started quite early, with the ritual that begins any photo shoot - hair and make-up, followed by the exhausting process of "dressing and undressing" -, so it was risky to leave the conversation (sometimes "the boring part") until the end, when tiredness already reigns and the mood is already low. But while the cameras and microphones are set up, Lee amuses herself by touching up her makeup, adds some jewelry to her modern, youthful look (she will eventually confess that she doesn't go anywhere without her earrings), and finally ends up asking us what will be the first topic we will cover. "Astrology," we reply. She sketches a complicit smile. And so began, almost instinctively, a "chat" that, perhaps, time will turn into friendship.
It might have been my first, and risky, provocation ("Can you guess my sign?") after thirty seconds of dialogue, that started a debate that would guess neither the time nor exhaustion: she eventually got it right (Sagittarius), not shying away from advice on what not to do about signs that I recurrently bring into my love life. Where does this interest in astrology come from? “I grew up with this, my mum I just related how she was able to identify certain people, she would be on the phone and she would be “wait, a Libra, that’s how they act!” so it’s something that I heard since I was really young and I was able to pick up star signs based on personality traits. […] I have been obsessed with galactic things, astrology and astronomy since I was a kid. In 5th grade I was awarded a county award for making a perfect score in science. It was the year we had to make a galaxy, and I made it with bubble gum, melted down lollipops and make these structures of the planetary system… But it’s something that is so natural to me now and I can barely have a conversation with someone without me guessing their sign. It’s so relevant and it makes so much sense. I think that it’s cool that more people are excited about it now. Everybody’s like “what time were you born?” and you can just plug it in. And I just think it’s really cool because there is a lot of self-discovery.”
But Precious' visit to Lisbon had another purpose: to receive an award from GQ Portugal and photograph an editorial/cover for Vogue Portugal. If the accounts do not fail her, this will be her seventh Vogue cover. “Wait… is this lucky number seven? One of my numbers…” Her path in fashion began (apparently) by chance, when as a teenager she decided to accompany a friend to an open call of a modeling agency in Atlanta, her hometown. It was she who ended up staying. “I was going for support and it was just so wow how it ended up happening. When they offered me a contract I was like ‘We’re like skipping class to be here, we have to go’, and my friend said, ‘Sit down, wait’, and the rest is history.” An history full of achievements and victories. Little over a decade after that unexpected encounter, Lee is one of the most sought-after models in the industry. In addition to several Vogue editions, to whose pages she returns again and again, her extensive CV includes titles such as Harper's Bazaar, CR Fashion Book, Perfect Magazine and W. On the catwalks, she has already walked for names such as Balmain, Fendi, Moschino or Michael Kors, and has lent her face (and wonderful body) in campaigns for Versace (one of her childhood dreams), Miu Miu, Calvin Klein, Fenty Beauty, Jimmy Choo and Marc Jacobs. Recently she was one of the models chosen to star in the prestigious Pirelli Calendar 2023, photographed by Emma Summerton. The party for her official presentation, in Milan, had happened days before the shooting with Vogue Portugal. “I was the storyteller.And it’s so interesting because I believe I only talked about it maybe once or twice in an interview, about writing a script, and it’s so interesting that’s what’s she’s [the photographer] so intrigued about. I just think the way she captured the women in the calendar was really special and whimsical and magical, and I just love the evolution of the calendar, from where it started to where it is now. It’s just really special to be a part of what I think it’s one of the most different perspectives from the way it’s usually shot. It’s empowering.”
Precious Lee is no longer just a successful model - she is a star, with appearances on a multitude of red carpets (her debut at the Met Gala in Area Couture is noteworthy), appearances on programs like Good Morning America or The Daily Show, and a wide audience that sees in her a role model. Can you define the highlight of your career? “It’s hard to say that because I feel like I am so blessed and my career is flourishing in such an amazing way that the highlights just keep coming. Things are highlighted for different reasons: you have your catwalk highlight, you have your editorial highlight, your cover highlight, or your cover highlight, contracts… And there’s so many things that I have to be grateful for, now… I look at my whole career as a highlight. I’s something that I don’t have to pick apart because I’ve been doing such amazing things that I feel like it’s something that it’s continuously progressing.” In the space of a decade, Lee has proven that it is possible to succeed in a competitive and challenging environment like fashion - not in spite of her curves, but because of her curves, for it is her curves and her luminous personality that make her unique. The achievements are piling up. A few weeks ago, she were announced as a "new entry" to the coveted Business of Fashion's BoF 500 list, which every year chooses the personalities who have a relevant weight in the industry. What is the most interesting, or exciting, part about being a model today, now? “What’s exciting for me, and has always been exciting for me, is the advocacy that comes along with me being a model. That’s what kept me here. That’s what really made me commit to it. Besides my love for fashion, it was something that I felt like I was able to do - connect with people on a larger platform, by doing something creative and something that I love. So to be in a time when we are expanding socially right now, and people are becoming more conscious, and to be at the forefront of the movement, it feels really amazing. I’m so grateful that I can inspire people. One of my mottos was always ‘I aspire to inspire’ and I think that is one of the coolest things right now about being a model.”
Yes, Precious Lee was destined for stardom. Her name inspired great things, and she knew it. “I used to make my parents sit and watch me perform. I would pick up an outfit and I’m like ‘Tonight we’re in Vegas and I wanna to do a live show’ and my mum would let me put one her fancy shoes. My mum is so fashionable, she walks around the house in her fury mules, chiffon gowns, so I just had to throw some of her stuff really quick. I was kind of a delusional kid (laughs) I had no idea that it was as ridiculous as I was. I’m so grateful for that because I really do believe that it allowed me to reimagine what fashion was to me. It was up to me to allow fashion to tell me who I was. I’m so grateful I was able to explore that as a kid. […] I always loved dressing up. […] I got voted “best-dressed” three times, growing up. […] I grew up thinking that I needed to think about what I am wearing, have an idea in mind, a perspective.”We want to know if she was a dreamer. “Yes. Well, I didn’t even know I was actually dreaming. I was planning. I was like “This is what’s gonna happen, and this is gonna happen like this.” Now I know it was dreaming but I was very serious about it.” Childhood antics (and dreams) have paid off. In 2021 Precious made her acting debut in the series Run the World, but her connection to entertainment is here to last. Both in front of and behind the camera, where most of her future projects are. “I grew up writing short stories. My mum still has a lot of my journals and diaries, I love to write. I was always writing when I was a kid. [I was always] making up stories and I would write songs for my favorite singers like ‘This song is for Whitney Houston.’ It’s something that came so naturally. My sister wanted to be a rapper, and being her little sister, I was always intrigued with how she would be writing — she would walk around with her pen and pad and just make up lyrics and so it’s something that always been embedded. […] As an actress, starting to receive scripts and stuff, I would be like ‘I want to put this here’, ‘She doesn’t say this’ or ‘This isn’t even the same person’ and I’m like: ‘You’re picking apart this people work, why don’t you just write your own script?’ And it was like an haha moment. So it’s something that comes from wanting to bring different narratives to the forefront and I think that the transformation in fashion that I’ve been blessed to be at the forefront of is similar I want to create that space in TV and film.” Does this mean that there is news? That Hollywood is on the horizon?“I’m writing a script and… I don’t want to say two shows because one of them might end up being a film… a screenplay… But I’m working on something right now actually really diligently and I am really excited about it.”
We can't help but ask her those mundane questions that all models are bombarded with in interviews. What's your trick for a red-carpet event? “It depends on what the event is. I’m not a safe girl when it comes to dressing so I usually pick something and be like “Oh I’m gonna wear this and be like chill” and the next thing you know…” We want to know which piece or accessory she buys every season. “I was a bag girl earlier. […] Now, at the beginning of the season I buy my coat, boots, and then I build my wardrobe on that.” It is here, it should be stressed, that she tells us that if there was a competition to judge the fastest person to pack, she would win. Even though she "hates" packing. Does she have a favorite color? “My favorite color isn’t really considered a color, but gold… and iridescent.” To finish, we ask her about her big inspiration. She said in an interview that her mother is the most glamorous person she knows. What does the word glamour mean to her? “I think glamour is way deeper than your outfit. There is a glamour essence in her. It doesn’t matter what’s happening, what glamour is, for me, is the energy around the way you’re presenting yourself and how you’re committed to it. It’s unapologetic. It can be extra, it can be not, but you still maintain the sense of confidence and self-assurance in what you’re doing. Wearing furry mules helps as well. Even if she was going to the grocery store she was wearing sunglasses and she would put like a red lip on and go. But everything about it was just an extra layer of fab, I guess you can say it.” Like mother, like daughter.
Translated from the original on "The Velvet Touch" issue of Vogue Portugal, published december 2022.
Full stories and credits on the print issue.