Dominican and Portuguese model Sessilee Lopez, 20, graces the March cover of Latina. Inside, she opens up to contributing writer Michael A. Gonzales about her rocky journey into the predominately white fashion inner-circle. She also addresses the rumors linking her to rapper Kanye West and the skin condition that almost kept her from modeling. Take a look at Lopez's stunning fashion spread in Latina, and read more of her insights on life as one of the beautiful people.
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"Years ago, I used to be self-conscious," says Lopez. "But that doesn't work in this industry."
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"Growing up in Philly, I was such a tomboy," says Lopez. "The city can be a little hard-core, so my eldest sister was always trying to toughen me up. Even back then, I got along better with boys. That way, there's less animosity."
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Sports boosted Lopez's self-esteem, which, when she was 12, suffered due to eczema—a skin disorder that causes dryness, discolorations and scarring. "I was called every name in the book. So modeling wasn't even a thought."
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"Fashion is very black and white. It doesn't pay attention to heritage much. They don't see me as a Dominican girl. They just see the color of my skin. It can be hard, because it's your heritage and you want to be appreciated for it, but it's just modeling, so I don't let it get to me."
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Lopez reveals she's had her share of drama with other models. "I was once shoved onto the runway in one of my early shows; another time, an older model had the photographer fire me from a shoot just because I spoke to her...Sometimes we do have beefs to the point of sabotage."
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"Me and Kanye [West] are just friends," Lopez says, for the record. "He's a great guy. I'm attracted to the way he thinks. It's a great quality to be creative and not afraid to voice that."
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Lopez wasn't always so confident in front of the camera. "I was still green," she says of her early days. "I didn't realize I was supposed to have a personality, so I came off like a robot. Nobody wants to work with a robot."
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Although her "rice and beans are official," Lopez says her family didn't speak Spanish in the home. "Mom might have spoken it when we were in trouble or when something really big happened, but that's it."
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"I've never been to the Dominican Republic...but I hope Oscar de la Renta invites me to one of his cribs one day."