Text and Interview: Monica Uszerowicz
Photo: Roy Beeson
Makeup: Aya Kudo
Hair: Dennis Devoy
Model Lulu Bonfils has a face that’s simultaneously delicate and tough, as suited to a pout as it is to a wild sneer. This is probably because she’s sixteen–and, despite her rising-star status in a world that sometimes demands an oxymoronic, womanly babyface unachievable for most civilians, she looks like a kid (and it’s a good thing). Lulu’s already modeled for Diesel and Gucci and walked in New York Fashion Week– but, having just finished her junior year of high school, she’s equally focused on her art practice, a lifelong love that’s informed both her modeling career and her passion for music, too. She’s a wise budding polymath with a range of weirdly specific interests, and we were excited to talk to her about it all. See below.
How and when did you start modeling? It seems like your career has taken off quickly.
Modeling was something I definitely never thought I’d do, which is what I’m sure many models say, but growing up I never thought it’d be possible for a woman my size to be given the opportunities that I’ve had. My first shoot I ever did was when I was 15 with my good friends, Julia Baylis and Mayan Toledano for their brand Me and You. Julia actually spotted me at their brand opening party a while back and asked me to shoot with them. I’d never experienced anything like it, so it was definitely the first look into modeling I’d ever gotten. Ever since signing with Wilhelmina in January my career has gone great! I’ve made friends with so many creative, beautiful, like-minded people, and the experience has been so eye-opening. I definitely wouldn’t be doing a fraction of the things I’m doing without the help of my amazing friends, Julia and Mayan, and the curve team at Wilhelmina. It’s been such a cool, crazy, experience so far and I’m definitely ready for more.
Tell me about NYFW and what that experience was like for you. It’s amazing to do it so early on.
NYFW was so much fun! I never expected myself to be involved at such an early moment for me, but I’m so grateful for the participation I got to have in such a beautiful and interesting presentation. The brand I modeled for was Phlemuns, and all the pieces were created by James Flemons, a designer that I’ve been inspired by long before the show. The pieces were absolutely amazing and it was a fascinating moment to be surrounded by such interesting clothing, being able to show them to a group of genuinely involved and excited people–and not to mention the amazing array of super cool models that I got to share the experience with. Fashion Week was definitely a unique moment that I hope to be involved in again.
Art is definitely something I’ve been able to mold and make my own throughout my life.
You grew up with a family interested in the arts—your mom in particular. Can you tell me about your own creative interests? Did you make art as a child?
My interest in arts has always been present ever since I was a kid. Art was something that I naturally drifted to early on in life. It was an extremely comforting safety blanket for me when I was going through things and is responsible for developing a large part of who I am today. It’s a definite misconception that because my mother is an artist that I was pushed into the arts, but my sister and I were never pressured into being involved in the arts. I’ve spent a large amount of my life exploring and building skills in visual arts, like drawing and painting; however, since high school I’ve focused more on expanding my knowledge of the arts and trying to involve myself in all aspects of it. Photography, film, sculpture, performance, and theater are all different forms I’ve come to heavily appreciate over the years. Art is definitely something I’ve been able to mold and make my own throughout my life, and I’m forever grateful for how it’s helped developed me into the person I am today.
How do you balance your current modeling endeavors with school and your growing art practice? Do they all intersect?
Balance is something I’ve definitely struggled with, especially in high school. In my freshman year, I was faced with a lot of different personal issues including my anxiety and focus problems, which caused me to drop out of public school. After a month or so of trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with my interests, I enrolled in an alternative school for kids who were struggling the same way I was. My school is a completely stress-free environment that helps people finish high school while doing it in a therapeutic and balanced way and giving me a super flexible schedule. My schedule allows me to focus on modeling and art as well as getting a good education. My school is actually ten blocks away from the agency, which helps me out a lot!
You like Cy Twombly and Egon Schiele. Which other artists, writers, and filmmakers inspire you?
This is definitely a big question for me, considering most of my free time is aimed at going to different art openings, listening to new music, or watching my favorite films. I’d say some definite favorites of mine in the film area have to be Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton; the visuals in their films drive me insane. For contemporary artists, I’ve been inspired by Julia and Mayan’s work as well as Petra Collins’ art for a long while now. A lot of my work is based off of femininity and female life as a whole, so I definitely think their feminist clothing and photography has rubbed off on me quite a bit. I’m a huge fashion fanatic as well, and I’m totally in love with the new movement of trans fashion, specifically work by New York City designer Gogo Graham that includes so many different trans women and gender non-conforming people of all shapes and sizes. Performance art is also something that is so captivating to me. Alexandra Marzella’s work has been showcased numerous times and has brought an unseen part of the art world to recognition. There are so many amazing, beautiful minds around me that I’m constantly inspired by, it’s difficult to name just a few!
You might be sick of hearing this, but what are you hoping to learn in school to further develop your own practice?
There are so many things I’m looking to learn as I finish up high school. I’d say outside of my artistic endeavors, my biggest interests are in English and writing as well as anatomy. I’ve been a super avid writer ever since freshman year and literature is something that’s very important to me. The culture of sharing language through art is so interesting to me and even after high school I plan to read plenty of books, essays, short stories, and poetry. Anatomy has also been an interest for me for a long time now. My family usually catches me watching live surgeries or dissections; gore doesn’t really bother me! Music is another great love of mine. I play drums in a band with my two close friends. I also tend to randomly pick up a lot of different instruments; however, I did play the cello for a long time in an orchestra and it definitely has a soft spot in my heart.