Delving Into Details With Renae Juanita Ellis

The 645: Where did you grow up?
Renae: Between Jamaica, Shanghai, and Dubai.

The 645: What was your first job and where was it?

Renae: My first job was in Jamaica, I worked in a small shop, in Jamaica we say haberdashery, which is a shop that sells everything. I was around 11 years old and it was my first full-time job, so I’d go to work every day after school.

The 645: What job are you doing now?
Renae: Currently, I’m working as a model, and I do business development for a luxury fashion brand.

The 645: How did you get into fashion modelling?

Renae: Oh, that was by accident. I was shopping with my mum in Kingston and one of Jamaica’s, at the time, biggest model bookers stopped us in the street and asked my mum permission to participate in this modelling competition, so that’s how I got in.

The 645: What was the competition?

Renae: The competition was for the face of Dubai, they’d send you abroad, it was really different. Oh, and I was around 12 years of age.

The 645: When did you realise you wanted to be a model?

Renae: (Laughs) Ever since I was able to talk.

I’ve always wanted to be a model but I was too shy. You know living in the country area of Jamaica and up in the mountains, it seemed impossible. (Laughs) But it worked out.

The 645: So, this was a blessing in disguise?

Renae: Pretty much I was very happy, I was saying mum say yes, please.

The 645: Why model in Dubai?

Renae: Well, Dubai’s market is growing in terms of fashion and modelling.

They are becoming more open and almost in league with Paris or New York, so in a few years, Dubai will be very big competition.
It’s a good stomping ground for anyone starting out.

The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law
The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law

The 645: What’s your best experience so far in modelling?

Renae: My best experience would be when I was personally selected by Roberto Cavalli, the day of his fashion show. I met him briefly and he said I want you to walk my runway. That was pretty cool.

The 645: What’s your worst experience so far in the modelling industry?

Renae: That would be my first big fashion show. I couldn’t walk in heels very well, I was young, had never worn heels before and they gave me the highest heels they could find with the smallest top they could find. My top fell off. (Laughs) Yeah on TV it was embarrassing.

The 645: Did you keep walking?

Renae: Yeah, they just told me to keep going, and I was thinking oh my god half of the country just saw my very small chest. (Laughs)

The 645: Who do you aspire to?

Renae: Oh wow, in terms of fashion, let’s see. Well for me, that person is not a celebrity but rather my strength, my mum.

Simply because she was able to raise 5 kids, by herself. She was always ready to provide for us, we were never starving, we never had issues with a place to sleep, we never missed a day of school. She did this all by herself as a young mum.

She also survived abuse, both mental and physical. So for that my mum is everything to me, I still look up to her to this day.
My mum is my best friend, my sister, my enemy, my everything. (Laughs)

The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law

The 645: You’re training to be a lawyer, tell us about that?

Renae: For me, it’s currently transpiring, there are certain stages I have to fulfil before I get there. But I would like to focus on criminal justice law.

In Jamaica, we have an issue, with a lot of things, unfortunately, because we can’t afford so much. Jamaicans typically can’t afford proper health care or support from the government, maybe we just don’t know how to approach the right people to assist us, we get stuck in this very bad bubble.

I want to be able to support and help and do what I can, for instance, my father got ill with a heart condition, and the doctors made it clear we will not operate until you pay in full. That’s wrong. I had to advert to court and sue them, just for my father to survive. So that’s something I want to one day be able to fix through criminal law.

The 645: And you’re soon studying at Yale?

Renae: I dream of that, let’s see how it goes.

The 645: Favourite travel destination?

Renae: I have a few. Ok don’t laugh but in my heart, I think I am Japanese-Chinese, a cross between the two, so for sure I would love to go to Japan Kyoto.
Just travel all over China. I love Asia.

The 645: What’s your least favourite travel destination?

Renae: I don’t have one, no bad experiences so far. I’m very adventurous so even if it doesn’t go as planned I try to figure it out and make the best of it.

The 645: What are you currently reading?

Renae: Oh. Ok, I’m currently reading The Vortex for the 50th time. I love it, I’m not really a novel lover I prefer to read more history or biographies, astrology, and documentaries. I read a mix of everything.

The 645: What is The Vortex about?

Renae: (Laughs) It’s a step above Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is one of my favourite things to study.

It’s a 21-day training program, basically, it teaches you how to navigate through every situation, or to read body language. It shows you how to handle any circumstance you’re in. It’s helped me a lot.

The 645: First Album you’ve ever purchased?

Renae: I never purchased any albums. Little Jamaican girls don’t go around buying albums, sorry guys.

The 645: Tell me about your favourite music.

Renae: Everything, I’m pretty weird so I love everything. It depends on my mood at that particular time, could be Jamaican music, R&B, Western music and weirdly enough I love Japanese and Chinese music, I actually know the words to some of the songs.

The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law
The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law

The 645: How about a favourite movie?

Renae: I have a few. If you asked me to choose between movies and anime, it’s anime.

The 645: So, anime over feature films?

Renae: I’m an anime nerd. (Laughs)

Oh wow. Okay, so I have a few, Inuyasha for sure is one of my favourites, Rurouni Kenshin I love so much, and Devils Line, it’s a bit more action though, so it depends, I watch everything.

The 645: What’s your favourite food?

Renae: Jamaican all the way.

The 645: How about your least favourite food?

Renae: Insects. (Laughs)

Insects, frogs legs, any reptiles, I just can’t do it.

The 645: Your greatest fear?

Renae: Being stuck in a room with any reptile. (Laughs)

A frog will be the death of me.

The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law
The story of Jamaican born model Renae Juanita Ellis in the world of fashion and law

The 645: What advice would you give to a model starting out?

Renae: Be confident and have fun, you know. Just know that whatever you don’t know you can learn later. You might be bullied because it comes with the territory, unfortunately. But always focus on what builds you as a person and your character.

That’s it, don’t be jealous, if something is not for you it will never be for you.

When the time is right and it’s your turn, then it’s your turn, seize it. 

The 645: Tell us something we didn’t know.

Renae: It’s about a photoshoot for a contact lens brand and the makeup artist, who I’m not sure where she bought her products from. All I know is that when I started to go blurry-eyed, I went to a specialist to find out what was going on. Maybe it was something I did, they informed me that I had a ridiculous amount of car petrol in my system. (Laughs) Like Gasoline.

The 645: Actual Gasoline?

Renae: Yeah, I had gasoline in my system and I was like how the heck, I’m sure they were assuming maybe I tried to commit suicide, but it didn’t work out. (Laughs)

I’m thinking how do you get car petrol in your system?

Anyways so they told me that in the first treatment, they would have to temporarily blind me, which is what they did, so I was blind for almost a month.

Then they gave me different treatments to absorb petrol from my system.

Now I’m clear and taking different medications to get my vision back.

This was all due to poor cosmetics.


Words: Tatyana Chmaissani
Photo: Ioannis Koussertari