Lorena Durán, 29, from Seville, is not a regular model. Unlike some of her colleagues, she likes to be punctual. “I don’t like to keep people waiting. I’m very square and I like to be at least five minutes early,” she says, arriving before 9am in a studio in Brooklyn ahead of the stylists and other members of the team, despite not considering herself a morning person.
So, is Durán hailing the end of the diva era in fashion? “We are changing... but you get all sorts,” says the Victoria’s Secret angel and face of Abercrombie. “Not long ago, a more diva-like model came along. Because I’m very normal and behave the way I am at home, I could feel her being a bit derogatory towards me. She was like: ‘Come on, girl, make this a cool day at work.’ Everyone was affected by her energy, and it’s not nice.”
As well as punctual, Lorena is anti-labels, particularly those used by the media to describe her, such as curvy, plus size, body positive. “Why do we have to make up a word that is less blunt? If I am fat, I am fat, and I won’t take it badly.”
Durán didn’t always look like this. As a three year old, she wore her mother’s heels and shoulder pads and dreamed of being a mainstream model, but at 15 she was diagnosed with an ovarian condition that required surgery and changed her body. Due to medication and hormones, she went from a size 36 to a 44 in a matter of months. However, she decided to keep persisting despite all the rejections, not to mention her mother’s insistence she should study to become a laboratory technician, a job she actually did.
“So, there was nothing lucky about it,” she says to anyone who thinks she is jumping on the bandwagon of inclusive fashion. “I’ve been told, ‘you’re fat. Your size is not right’ a thousand times. If girls like me hadn’t pushed for this to happen, nothing would have changed.” She also stresses that larger models “take care of themselves like any other model, that not everything goes.” A size 38 now, she herself is hardly in the Ashley Graham league. But while she is highly disciplined, she does believe in showing cellulite and stretch marks and her diet allows for the occasional hamburger. “Women tend to have bodies that change, they lose and gain weight very easily,” she says. “I’ve heard a lot of both ‘slim down, slim down’ and ‘eat, eat, eat.’ I’m never going to be skinny because that’s not my build, but I’m not a beef cow either. I’m who you’re looking at right now. If you like it, good. Just don’t ask me to change to suit your taste.”
Her bid to be in fashion meant her leaving her native Seville. “One day a local representative appeared and told me that diversity had arrived, but that I had to leave here,” she says. And the rest, as they say, is history. At 19, she was in London, and from there, she went to Italy, France and Germany, until finally landing in the United States, where she was invited to the audition of her dreams. “When I got the email telling me I had a casting call for Victoria’s Secret, I said, ‘oh, you must have made a mistake! It must be for someone else!’” But there was no mistake and they even let her audition in Spanish. “There were about eight other people who were all American and I thought it was disrespectful to speak to them in Spanish,” she says. “I got my strength and my English together as best I could and, drawing on my personality, I managed with grace and attitude and everyone was like, ‘wow!’”
Lorena Durán’s meteoric rise in the US was such that news finally reached Spain that a “chubby” model from Seville was working for L’Oréal and Intimissimi: “I’m ashamed that our country does not make the most of what it has,” she says. “We have to go abroad and then, after a while, come back to be appreciated, after first being appreciated elsewhere. The United States marked a before and after for me. Everything is freer and easier now, but then I wouldn’t change my country for anything in the world. I miss the food and my people. But everything has its time and right now, for me, that means squeezing the most out of my career.” Since the pandemic, however, she lives between Spain and New York and enjoys the best of both worlds.
Durán has got to her thirties with the feeling of finally being at the top of her game, though that doesn’t stop her from saying, “oh, my God, it seems like no time since I was in my early twenties!” She is still on the payroll of Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie, has shimmied down the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week, in Barcelona’s 080, in Pronovias and is now the face of the Parisian lingerie brand, Etam. She still dreams that haute couture will one day find a niche for her and mentions Chanel, and she would love to work for Savage X Fenty, Rihanna’s fashion line known for its diversity. She is also, slowly but surely, coming up with her own clothing line. “It will be something free, something unisex, a whoever, whenever, however I want kind of thing,” she explains. “Something very soft, very comfortable and very versatile. For traveling, for the sofa or for going out. And, of course, in small to very large sizes,” she adds.
But she wants to make it clear that success didn’t fall into her lap. In fact, she still nurses the scars from her battles to carve her own niche. “I think it’s important to talk about mental health,” she says. “I don’t hide the fact that I have a remote psychologist and that the anxiety I had in the past still comes back at times. That I am alone all the time because of my work, even if I am seen in the Caribbean posing in a bikini. Sometimes I’m not well and I think it’s important to talk about it. We owe it to the girls who are coming up behind.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition