After taking the plunge into her passion for creativity, BRAINA LAVIENA emerges ready and waiting for what the world has to offer beyond the horizon.
What made you want to model?
I was sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car on the way to school, and there was this billboard on a store building of a model in lingerie, but this was back in the late nineties and it was so simple and not overtly sexualized, it was her deadpan stare that caught my eye and I could not look away. I wondered who she was, I wanted to know everything about her, more than just look at her. I realized that someday I wanted to be able do that, to have that power of pulling people in with just a powerful look, but having people want to go beyond that look.
That model, Ann La Place, started her own agency years after that. When I started college, I went, met her, and joined the agency. That was something that came full circle since the first person who inspired me to model was the one who coached me for years.
You’re very passionate about creative processes, whether it’s fashion-related or creating art for yourself. Did you grow up in an environment that influenced this?
When I was a kid, my mother had an arts and crafts store, and she would let me get very involved in everything. I was always wanting to create random things, I remember using her sewing machine, once I ripped apart this pair of jeans and made all these accessories out of them, a purse, a belt, a bracelet, a little crop top, etc.
Then, when I was a bit older my dad taught me how to work with power tools, electrical wiring, being able to build anything I wanted. So yeah, I’ve always had that need of creating things for myself. While in college I also worked as a junior designer for a jewelry designer and it got me even more into that aspect of fashion, of seeing things being made from nothing to basically works of art and I absolutely loved learning and then being able to make pieces for myself and all that.
You moved from Puerto Rico to LA to pursue your career. What’s the biggest difference after the move, and what’s remained the same?
It’s strange because everything is so similar yet so different. Obviously I don’t have my family, I am lucky to say I’ve made some great friends here but all my long-life friends are back home. Although I was working in something so different before I moved, I feel like what has remained the same is the passion I put into my work, my drive, which can sometimes falls into stubbornness. The jobs are so different here, but my approach to work in general has remained the same, and I think that’s a good thing.
How would you describe your personal style?
Coming from an island where its summer all year long, I’ve never paid attention to seasons so I don’t really follow trends. I like wearing really basic pieces, clothes that I just feel comfortable in. The one thing I’ve learnt is the importance of a small wardrobe to ease travel. I choose comfort and emotion over style–whatever I’m feeling that day will show in my outfit, but if I had to choose a uniform it would be an oversized white button down, comfy shorts and boots.
What was it like walking for Kanye West × adidas at New York Fashion Week?
I was able to work in some fittings before the show and seeing Kanye in action was really amazing. It’s great to see just how involved he is with every single piece, how much of a perfectionist and a hard worker he is, even when he has so many things going on at the same time. As I said before, I’ve always thought it’s important to challenge yourself constantly and get involved in different creative processes that might not be what you’re trained in, but if you’re truly passionate about it, nothing should stop you from doing it. Kanye is that thought incarnate, he’s not afraid to get involved, he’s not afraid of what people will say, he’s passionate about creating something, so he creates it and I really admire that.
How do you think a model stands out from everyone else? What do you think makes you different?
When I think about myself, I don’t usually think “I’m a model.” It’s strange. Obviously, “traditional” models will stand out from everyone else because of their physical attributes, being tall, thin, etc. What makes a model nowadays stand out from other models? Personality and passion. Being a model, people always assume or expect that you have to be in a great mood, all smiles, all the time, the life of the party. That’s not what “personality” means to me, and that’s not me.
What’s your favorite emoji?
Moon face, all the way. It’s my actual face when I’m being socially awkward and I’m unsure of how to portray an emotion.
By Ida Aldana
Photographed by Yana Bardadim, Adam Reyna, Robin Black, and Ben Tsui
For the full story, check out STATUS Magazine’s August 2015 Youth Issue here.