Most people know Jessica White for her stunning beauty. The supermodel has graced eight Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and the Victoria Secret runway. But with the creation of her charity, Angel Wings Foundation, Jessica proves she is a celestial being on and off the catwalk.
The Angel Wings Foundation focuses on women and girls who have been sexually abused or have been in domestic-violence relationships. In a video she made for Young and Powerful for Obama, Jessica states, “I’m a survivor of abuse of all kinds and I have taken it as my own personal journey in life to empower women who don’t necessarily have a voice of their own or who are afraid to come forth.”
Jessica is committed to her passion for giving back to society. She draws inspiration from a line in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “It will be fatal for our nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” “For me that rings very loud and that is why I continue to fight to break the chains of sexual abuse,” Jessica says.
Jessica’s career as a model began at thirteen when she was discovered in her hometown of Buffalo. Soon after, she moved to New York City and was signed with IMG, the world’s number one international model-management firm. Within two years, she inked a contract with CoverGirl, starred in a spring/summer Chloé ad campaign, and was photographed by Patrick Demarchelier in St Barts for Harper’s Bazaar.
Jessica later moved to Paris, where she charmed the runway houses of Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger, among others. Her big break came in 2003 when she was chosen to appear in the coveted Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She was photographed lounging across the bow of a yacht on Boracay Island and emerging from Grenada’s turquoise sea in a bikini drawn in body paint.
Currently, in the ninth year of her beauty contract with Maybelline, and has two separate cosmetic campaigns, Maybelline and CoverGirl. She has been referred to as “the model of her generation.”
Adding versatility to her resume, Jessica appeared in Big Momma’s House 2, and in 2009 was featured as a guest judge on America’s Next Top Model. She was also featured in numerous music videos including Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes” and Trey Songz’s “Neighbors Know My Name.” Up-and-coming projects include recording her first music album and shooting a reality show on the Style Network, scheduled to premiere later this year. The series will follow Jessica’s career as a supermodel and go behind the scenes for her commercial shoots and ad campaigns.
Alongside her busy career, Jessica’s charity remains a constant. Social Life recently caught up with the super model about the Angel Wings Memorial Day weekend event in the Hamptons and her advice for success.
Q: Was modeling something you wanted to do when you were growing up, and are you happy you took this path? Is there any advice you can give our readers who would like to be a model or have daughters who would like to go into the field?
A: I always knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, I just didn’t know as what exactly. I grew up dancing, everything from ballet to tap to contemporary, and I was in youth choir. Everything to do with performing and living in the moment made me happy. My advice, which is applicable to everything in life, not just in the fashion industry, is no matter how many times you get told “no,” never give up. You have to keep pushing and pushing until you get the “yes” that will change everything for you.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career?
A: I’m incredibly blessed to be the first African-American woman to hold two beauty contracts: CoverGirl and Maybelline.
Q: What has been one of the most challenging aspects of your chosen path?
A: The sacrificing of my personal life especially during my youth for my professional career. You have to think about longevity, where you are going to be in ten or twenty years. I have worked hard and have been rewarded with success, so now it’s a matter of staying successful.
Q: For the past several years you have hosted The Angel Wings Foundation Memorial Day weekend event. Can you tell us about the foundation that you founded and more about the event?
A: I founded The Angel Wings Foundation four years ago, and our mission is to rescue women and young girls from the pain of sexual abuse and domestic violence by providing shelter, counseling, and support.
This is something very close to my heart and reflects my childhood. We hold a dinner at Georgica in the Hamptons every Memorial Day weekend to raise awareness and funds.
While support for issues affecting young women is my top priority, this year I have renewed my mission to spread the foundation’s “wings” and help shine a spotlight on the wide range of other causes that I feel passionate about. This year I’m partnering with DKMS to Delete Blood Cancer, the world’s largest bone marrow center, a charity I have worked with a lot in the past. Cancer is a disease that affects every family and is something I am dealing with in my own family, so it seemed appropriate to team up with DKMS this year. Every day DKMS works with patients, families, communities and organizations to recruit more donors and provide patients with a second chance at life.
Q: It’s extremely brave to share your experiences and your past. What inspired you to come forward?
A: People tend to not talk about difficult situations like sexual abuse or domestic violence. I use my voice to help others open up, and let them know that it’s okay to ask and receive much-needed help!
Q: Will there be any new or different features in this year’s event?
A: There will be a surprise performance. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you. I guess everyone will have to wait and see!
Q: Where do you see your career going, and what is your ideal path for the next five years?
A: I believe if you work hard, good results will come. I’m so much stronger than I was five years ago, so I hope for the same over the next five years. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe and support you. I’ve started to explore my other talents that God gifted me with, like music, so I guess we will have to wait and see where that takes me.
Q: Can you talk about your reality show? If so, please tell us what inspired you to open your life up to the world?
A: I’m really excited to be working with a great team of producers and with the Style Network. I believe it’s a great way to show the world the real Jessica Angel White, as opposed to supermodel Jessica White. As a model I am always being told what to do, where to be, what to wear, what to say. Now that I’m so much more comfortable with who I am and where I’m going, people will begin to learn about the real me.
Q: What is your biggest concern about this project?
A: It’s always scary because you never know how the producers will spin something around. I’m not going to let them take the easy way out and compromise my image and values. I’m aware that I’m a role model, and that young girls who will watch the show will be looking at me for insight into the modeling industry. I hope that the show will leave viewers with a positive message about life.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell our readers about yourself?
A: That I am actually pretty silly and play the clown role with my friends and family. I don’t take everything seriously. I’m not afraid to look silly if in exchange I get to see others laughing and smiling. It’s the best feeling when you are surrounded by your loved ones and everyone is just so blissfully happy.