Sessilee Lopez, 20, is one determined girl. After being bitten by the modeling bug as a Florida tween, the exotic beauty went to as many casting calls as she could before being signed in 2004. “Once I set my focus on something, I usually achieve it,” she says. Since then, Lopez has walked in some of fashion’s most coveted shows including Marc Jacobs fall 2009 and Fendi spring 2009. Additionally, she starred in our December 2008 American Dreamin’ portfolio shot by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin—paired with an oversized pickle and bag of chips, no less. Still, Lopez isn’t satisfied with just her red-hot modeling career; she wants to do it all.
You just got back from vacation. Where were you?
I was in the Virgin Islands with my boyfriend, [model] Wendell Lissimore. We did a lot of water sports, which is pretty odd for us because we’re both city people who only like to stay dry or hang out in the pool. But we went kayaking and parasailing quite a lot.
Lopez in American Dreamin'.
What else have you been up to this summer?
I live uptown in Harlem, so I go to the Met with my sister to see as many exhibitions as I can. But there’s a good chance you’ll find me at Six Flags on the weekends. I love roller coasters – anything that gets my heart racing. That’s my therapy.
What else do you do to unwind?
I cook. I just made a pepper steak, rice and beans for Wendell the other night. I grew up watching my grandmother cook and she can make anything taste good. So I try to apply what she does. I’m also getting into baking, but I think that might be dangerous for my career.
From left: Lopez in Marc Jacobs's fall 2009 runway show; Carolina Herrera resort 2010.
Of the shows you’ve walked, which has been your favorite?
Karl Lagerfeld fall 09. I love Karl; he has a special place in my heart. He let me keep the shoes from this past season. It was a pair of ankle boots with an X on the back, and all the girls were going crazy over them. But I was the only one who got to keep them.
What’s your dream show?
Chanel! I would just die. The clothes are so classic, and it’s every girl’s dream. I also really like Balenciaga because it’s more my style and edgy. The pieces are very detailed; it’s like walking art. I would be ecstatic to do those shows this
season, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
Your career highlight so far?
The Black Issue for Italian Vogue. When I was at Pier 59 shooting with Steven [Meisel], I had no idea what it was for. Once I saw all the other girls, I was like, “Holy cow! I can’t believe I’m going to be a part of this.” It still amazes me that he put me on the cover. A lot of people just saw me as the new Grace Jones, but Steven’s story was 30 pages of different characters, so that helped me show my versatility. My career exploded.
Who is your model inspiration?
Definitely Tyra [Banks]; I would love to benchmark myself after her. She went from being a pretty face to a mogul. It would be great to follow in her footsteps.
Lopez in the Spring 2009 Gap campaign (fourth from right).
Tell us about the Kanye West “Flashing Lights” video you starred in.
It was a really cool and creepy video because we filmed in an abandoned Nazi military camp in Berlin. There was no electricity and heat, and the shoot lasted for hours, but I loved doing it.
What was Kanye like?
He had a lot of input in every decision. During the fitting he hated everything, so later on that night I got a call at my hotel saying, “Hey, Kanye’s downstairs. You guys are going shopping right now.” So we went out and got a lot of dark, flowy dresses and crazy tall shoes. He’s definitely hands-on.
After that experience, did you consider acting?
I’m taking lessons right now with Susan Batson who’s worked with everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Nicole Kidman. It’s really exciting. I don’t want to jump into anything, because I want to do it by the book. But it’s definitely in my future.