Canadian model Winnie Harlow, 21, is one of the many women Beyoncé chose to shine a light on in her new visual album, "Lemonade," which dropped on HBO this past Saturday. Harlow was discovered on YouTube in 2013 thanks to her stunning looks, (she has a skin condition called vitiligo), and made her way on to America's Next Top Model in 2014. When she got the call about working on "Lemonade," months ago, she was in Germany with Heidi Klum as a guest-judge on Germany's Next Top Model. Meeting Beyoncé, however, took her career to the next level.
Next thing, Harlow was hanging out in New Orleans with Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg, Ibeyi and Serena Williams. Plus, she talked to Beyoncé's mom, Tina Knowles. "Everyone had a very cool connection on set," says Harlow. "A powerful acknowledgement of strength and hard work." Read more to find out what it was like working with Beyoncé, how she was inspired by Blue Ivy, and why the whole experience was so empowering for everyone involved.
When were you contacted by Beyoncé and her team to work on “Lemonade?” What was your immediate reaction?
Well, I was actually contacted by their team a couple weeks prior but my agent at the time didn't get back to them because they wouldn't tell us much about the project. But a friend of a friend of mine works super closely with Beyoncé. She asked her for my number, gave me a call, and didn't really say much other than: 'Beyoncé wants you. Can you fly to New Orleans tomorrow?' Really, who can say no to that! I'm honored she contacted me because she used a lot of strong black women to show our power (as women) and for us to represent all our different walks of life as equals! The Matriarchs were like our mothers on set. So proud of us all. I met a lot of amazing girls and women who are all Bosses: Zendaya, Lisa and Naomi Ibeyi, Amandla [Stenberg], Serena [Williams]. We actually were on the other side of the wall watching her and B kill it for the video. Everyone had a very cool connection on set. A powerful acknowledgement of strength and hard work.
What was it like on set?
I flew to NoLa they day after I wrapped on set guest-judging for Germany's Next Top Model with Heidi Klum. Hair and makeup was very natural so it didn't take very long. I actually had concealer on and lip gloss... They groomed my brows and added very soft blush.. In girl world that's 'no makeup.'
Did you ever get to interact with Beyoncé? What did you say when you met her?
Meeting her was amazing. I got off my flight and the airline had lost my bags and usually I'd be very upset about something like that but hey.... Beyoncé, right? I met with my driver who took me straight to set, did wardrobe, hair, then makeup, and then I was lead to the scene that was being filmed, which was the tree scene. I think I only looked down for a split second but when I looked up B was running in my direction. At this point I'm thinking 'She's going to run past me, of course.' Nope, she stopped right in front of me, hugged me, thanked me so genuinely for coming so last minute and ran off for her wardrobe change. It was amazing to me how grateful she was for our time even though she's... Beyoncé?!
What statement is “Lemonade”about our current culture?
Amazing statements. I actually spoke to B and Miss Tina [Knowles] one-on-one when we wrapped. I wanted to thank her for acknowledging me as a strong black woman and uplifting and continuing to empower us all. That made her so happy. She said that's exactly what she wanted to do and feels even more responsible now that she has Blue. I'm so happy to be a part of her iconic story now.
How is she breaking boundaries with her videos, if any?
I feel like today, more than ever, she feels so much more freedom in speech. She doesn't do much press but it makes her music that much more powerful. She's every woman. A bad bitch, a classy woman, a wife, daughter, mother... She relates to so many walks of life, even though it seems that would be impossible, being how big she is.
What’s your favorite Beyoncé song, new or old?
Funnily enough, of course I've always thought B was amazing but I've never been like 'Beyhive status'... Until actually meeting her. I would honestly drop anything I'm doing to work for her again. Not just because of who she is. But because of my experience with her filming for two days But one thing that really stood out to me was B can talk to a five-year-old, a 21-year-old or a 56-year-old.. And have amazing, genuine conversation. She's actually so interested in what you have to say. I always liked her music but I've started listening a ton more now because of this. My favorite song would be "Yes" for old, and "Sorry" for new.