The faces are endlessly familiar as the industry's most notable figures float in and out of frame modeling the Moschino fall-winter 2021 collection: Hailey Bieber, Lily Aldridge, Winnie Harlow, Miranda Kerr, Joan Smalls, Dita Von Teese, Karen Elson, Amber Valletta and Maye Musk. And that's just a few of the recognizable names, including one more you should absolutely know: Precious Lee.
It's hard not to notice the Atlanta native as she struts down the aisle of a faux theater set, glimmering in a metallic fringed gown and waving a glove-shaped stole around. With a blond curled bob and hot pink lipstick completing the ultra glamorous ensemble, Lee is instantly reminiscent of a 1930s screen siren reborn in 2021.
In a way, it seems like the industry is in the process of a rebirth, too—because it's finally not only focusing its spotlight on her, but also giving her the space to shine. Lee is no stranger to a photo shoot or fashion show—she's been in the modeling world for nearly a decade now.
In that time, she rose up as a star for Lane Bryant, her curves splashed onto billboards promoting the plus-size womenswear company and strutting in its bold 2015 commercial. In fact, it was because of the brand's #PlusIsEqual campaign and a subsequent ad in the 2015 September issue of Vogue that Lee became the first Black curve model to ever appear in the American version of the fashion bible. On the runway, she became a recurring model for size-inclusive Christian Siriano, walking every season from September 2016 through February 2020.
The big moments have continued to crescendo for Lee as she's been spotted on the catwalk for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Etam, starred in campaigns for Khloe Kardashian's Good American and Kim Kardashian's SKIMS, was cast in Rihanna's most recent star-studded Savage x Fenty show-film hybrid in the fall and posed for Area in January. On newsstands, she appeared on one of the September 2020 covers of Vogue Italia—her first ever.
"This cover gives me hope for the future of fashion and media because the change isn't a fantasy anymore. It's here and I couldn't possibly be more grateful to contribute to this transformation in imagery," she triumphantly wrote on Instagram. "Celebrating blackness isn't a fad and to be apart of @vogueitalia July/August cover story and NOW my own September cover My hope is that this cover inspires someone to see the power in holding your own vision, not the one of naysayers. And don't let anyone tell you that your protest isn't valid when it is literally always time to do what's right."
When it came time for Versace's September 2020 fashion show, there was Lee, a groundbreaker as one of only three curve models to ever walk for the world-famous luxury brand. The monumental cherry on top? She was also cast in Versace's spring-summer 2021 campaign, appearing along with Kendall Jenner, Mona Tougaard and Hailey Bieber.
As this wave of change continues to wash over the industry, E! News caught up with Lee in the middle of her very busy fashion month. Taking a break from her sartorial commitments, she walked us through her industry-shifting achievements and which celebrity she hopes to hear from next.
E! News: In October 2011, you shared one of your first posts on Instagram—a throwback photo of Donatella Versace with Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. How does it feel now a decade later to not only have walked the Versace runway, but also to be a face of the spring-summer 2021 campaign?
Precious Lee: Oh my god! Y'all saw that?! That was literally in week one of having Instagram! UH-mazing! Well, I've always adored those women! What's funny is I was the first curve model Queen Beyoncé used for her Ivy Park x Adidas collection in November. I also wrote a song for Mariah Carey when I was in high school I wanted her to sing—yes and I still have it—and I've always loved how fab Donatella is and the House of Versace glamour. So, honestly just waiting on Mariah to call me any moment now. I feel so incredibly blessed and full of gratitude. To shoot with Mert and Marcus for the Versace campaign after doing the show was a full-blown dream. I have to go back and stare at the shot and runway often and literally scream like once a week. I truly dreamt it. Manifestation on a trillion!
E!: What's something about the fashion industry you wish someone had told you when you first started?
PL: Remember that you are your business and technically nobody could run it better than you.
E!: What are some of your favorite brands to shop?
PL: I wear all types of brands. I'm also a big advocate for buy what you like simply because you like it. I can make a beauty supply store scarf cool—it's about how you wear it.
E!: After all these years modeling clothes and being on set, what are your go-to tips and tricks for putting together an outfit and making sure clothes work best for your body?
PL: Find what you like the most about your body in clothes and start buying more things that have that same silhouette,￼ but try different colors, textures, etc. You don't have to follow every trend and, honestly, if you aren't comfortable, tweak the look! But do your best to step out of your comfort zone. You may like something new better than the tried and true.
E!: With fashion month upon us once again, what are essential parts of your routine that you need to make it through in one piece?
PL: Water, sleep, prayer, meditation, laughter, exercise.
E!: What's next on your career bucket list?
PL: Doing more firsts in fashion and movies and television.
E!: Looking back at your career so far, what is the moment or achievement that you're most proud of today? Which milestone do you think 18-year-old Precious would be most excited to hear about?
PL: Versace and a mega-moment I'll be able to discuss coming soon.
E!: Name a brand you think people should pay more attention to. Why?
E!: What's one item you think people should have in their closet for 2021?
PL: A mask! And color! 2020 was intense. More joy. More love.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)