Arlenis Sosa Exclusive: Black Models Need to Stick Together

The name is Arlenis Sosa. Like Gisele or Tyra, this 20-year-old Dominican beauty is on a first-name basis with everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Anna Wintour. But don’t mistake her meteoric rise in fashion for luck. Sosa was born to do this—even if she still gets homesick. Latina contributing editor Damarys Ocaña spoke to the stunning model about the meeting that launched her career, her friendship with fellow Dominican Sessilee Lopez and why black models have to stick together.

Sosa describes her career-launching meeting with legendary Vogue Editor Anna Wintour:
The exchange, in which Wintour basically led Sosa to the door of superstardom, went something like this:

Sosa: “Hi, I’m Arlenis.”
 
Wintour: “I know. Come here. Do you know you’re going to one of the most important and beautiful parties in the world [the Met Gala, which Wintour cochairs]? You’re wearing a dress by Oscar de la Renta, and you’re going with his son, Moises. Tomorrow you’re coming back to do a fitting for the party, but you’re also doing some photos for the magazine. Till tomorrow.”

“I didn’t understand half of what she said,” Sosa admits, “but I knew enough English to make sure to tell her that Oscar de la Renta was like a king in my country and that I was a big fan, and to thank her for everything. Then it was over.”
 
Regarding her friendship with fellow Dominican model Sessilee Lopez:
“I always joke that she’s una dominicana guillada, that people only started calling her Dominican after I came along, así es que deja el show! We rib each other like that. She’s sweet and has a big heart, but she smokes, so whenever I’m around I tell her, ‘Don’t even think about smoking.’ She says I’m like a mom.”
 
“Models need to stick together, especially black models, whom people are always accusing of being too competitive,” says Sosa, who along with Lopez is godmother to top model Jourdan Dunn’s new son. “I never think about things in terms of someone taking a job away from me or me taking it away from them. If you get it, I’m happy. If I get it, I’m happy. The important thing is that black models are doing it big now.”

On her rapid rise in the industry:
I’ve heard about some people who have said, ‘I’ve been doing this for seven years, and she just got here and look what she’s got!’ ” Sosa says. “Excuse me, but why shouldn’t I be happy about that? It’s too big a blessing.”

Why Sosa thought it was important to build her family a new, safer home on their property in the Dominican Republic:

“When I got the Lancôme contract, the newspapers at home were talking about it like it was a $20 million baseball deal, as if any model makes that kind of money,” Sosa says. “But people believed the reports, so I wanted my family to be safe.” Sosa regularly places calls home from her computer so her mom can point a webcam at the construction site. “I get to see exactly the progress they’re making,” Sosa says. “It’s really exciting for me.”

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