Model and lawyer Lanu Faletau. Image by JR Laulala.
Lanu Faletau is a woman of many talents, she’s obtained three degrees to date including a LLB, BA and Masters in Law, and is also a model represented by Red Eleven. She debuted at New Zealand Fashion Week 2018 in Twenty Seven Names’s beautiful show and this year walked the runway for several designers in the Resene Designer Runway show. Lanu is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and supporting other Polynesians to succeed. When she’s not busy reading lots of books she can be found sharing her favourite plant-based food on Instagram or volunteering on local community projects.
We caught up with Lanu to find out what she loves about modeling, how she balances her very busy life and how she feels about diversity in the fashion industry?
How did you first get into modeling?
I was at Countdown with my Mum and my sister and was approached by a makeup artist who asked if I’d be interested, she gave me a few contacts and encouraged me to pursue to it.
How has your upbringing, culture and identity shaped how you view and have handled the fashion industry and how do you keep it in perspective?
My culture is deeply conservative, so it can be difficult to balance cultural expectations with the expectations of the fashion industry. I have actually turned down work in the past because of the fear of judgement, but now I’m much more fearless in the pursuit of what makes me happy. Building this resilience has helped me deal with a lot of the judgement you get in this industry and life in general and now I feel a lot more confident in my decisions.
My upbringing has equipped me with the tools of support I need whenever I am down for whatever reason, whether it be missing out on a job or feeling self-conscious – I know I always have my family and amazing partner there to support me through it all.
You’re a lawyer as well as a model, how do you balance each of those roles and what skills complement each other from each job?
I actually struggle to balance the two; on the one hand I have my profession and on the other hand I have my passion. I am equally invested in both and try to make both work. There are times where I do have to compromise, and I have unfortunately missed out on a lot of amazing modeling opportunities because of time constraints or scheduling conflicts. For a long time, I struggled to strike a balance between the two; but thankfully I have found that there is always some leverage and now I try to make both work even when I do have scheduling conflicts. I almost had to pull out of NZFW because my work schedule was so hectic. It was still incredibly stressful because I was literally running into hair and makeup straight from Court but I am thankful it all worked out.
Lanu on the NZFW 2019 runway wearing Hailwood (left). Image by Getty Images. Lanu modeling in a white gown (right). Image by JR Laulala.
You walked in the Resene Designer Runway show this year, what was your NZFW 2019 like and what did you most enjoy about the experience?
It was so much fun and amazing to see the work that goes on behind the curtains for a show the size of Resene Designer Runway. The co-ordination that is required is an art in itself and I was really proud to be part of the show this year. I actually got to walk in the 2018 Twenty Seven Names show at NZFW and that was an amazing experience but on a much smaller scale. I would say the most enjoyable part of NZFW 2019 for me was getting to meet so many dope people and watching them work or listening to their hustle. Another highlight would also have to be getting the opportunity to wear different designers for one show.
What do you enjoy most about modeling and what has been your favourite job so far?
I enjoy the ability to express my creative side and getting to meet new people. It really has become like an ‘outlet’ for me which I think is important because my job as a lawyer is very analytical, so I enjoy the creativity that comes with modeling. My favourite job so far would have to be working with Twenty Seven Names, because I got to shoot with James Lowe and other amazing models; and shooting for Woman’s Day, because the shoot was out of my comfort zone and based on body positivity, so that was really cool.
You’re an active social media user and like to keep things real on your feed, discussing body positivity and promoting other talented Polynesians, how do you find the response on social and what are the interactions with your followers like?
I love interacting on social media but I really try not take it too seriously because it can deflect from reality. I think that in terms of the the response to my social media – it has been amazing and the interactions with my followers has been humbling. I find that so many of my followers seek confidence from me or confide in me because they feel they can relate to what I say on Instagram. I think that this is such a privilege and I always try my best to reciprocate the love. I don’t take any of the amazing messages for granted.
Diversity is definitely a buzzword in fashion but actual change has been a bit slow, what are your thoughts on it and how do you see fashion changing to be more inclusive?
I definitely agree that change is slow, but I do think that contextually and comparatively speaking, some regions are slower than others, but I am optimistic that the future is not only diverse but also inclusive. I look at the Savage X Fenty show and just feel proud and inspired to see people who not only look like me but also look like my sister, my cousin, my friends, my neighbors, the person on the bus, on the street and so on. THAT is diversity and that is beautiful. I hope that with education and understanding why diversity is important, more brands/influential people will realize that representation for everyone is integral in representing the reality of the societies we live in.
Lanu modeling. Images by JR Laulala.
Who do you look to for positive inspiration in terms of modeling and in general?
In terms of modeling, I would say that I find inspiration from so many people. My Mum is definitely my fashion icon. My aunty Kerry Mataele was also in Miss World with Halle Berry and she and my Mum would often do mini photoshoots together and I loved the looks and concepts they would come up with. In the modeling world I do think that Ashley Graham really paved the way in terms of greater representation and I just love the way she holds herself, I’ve been a fan for so long and its amazing to see how far she has come.
In general, I would say that my Mum and Dad are two of the most inspiring people I will ever know. They have taught me what unconditional love and support looks like and really instilled in me life lessons that have helped me get to where I am today. My Grandma Colleen Cowley is another positive inspiration in my life, she is basically like a second Mum and seeing her work ethic inspires me to keep working hard.
Who are your favourite local designers and brands?
I have SO many but to name a few; Trelise Cooper, WORLD, Kate Sylvester, Twenty Seven Names, Zambesi.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m definitely chilled in terms of what I wear daily, but I am also fearless, I’m not afraid to wear what I want depending on the mood I’m in.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to get into the fashion industry?
Work hard, be consistent and be patient. This industry can sometimes feel like it hands out more rejections than approvals but as long as you know and feel that this is what sets your soul on fire, then do not give up!
Looking ahead, how far ahead do you plan and what makes your excited for the future?
I am definitely a person who prefers structure but if there is one thing that this industry has taught me, its that I need to ‘go with the flow’… For the future I am excited for more opportunities to collaborate and work with incredible artists and more importantly I am excited to see the amazing strides towards plus size and Polynesian representation in the fashion industry. In terms of the imminent future, I have some amazing news coming up in December that I cannot wait to share with everyone!!!
Lanu (left) with models in Twenty Seven Names at NZFW 2018. Image by James K Lowe.