I was a little on edge the day of our September cover shoot. Clouds of fragrant smoke were billowing off the barbecue that sat on the sidewalk just outside the front door of Raps, a Jamaican restaurant on Eglinton West in Toronto. Standing next to this smouldering metal grill? Our cover stars, model Winnie Harlow and actor Stephan James, wearing head-to-toe ripped-from-the-runway Valentino. Getting the shot had become an exercise in patience. A crowd had gathered, alternately walking through the frame and chatting on their phones in the background of the set, waving to Winnie and taking pictures that were likely to be leaked on the internet. Outwardly, I was smiling; inwardly, I was calculating the dry-cleaning costs that would be necessary to get the aroma of spicy jerk chicken out of the Valentino.
Stephan was feeling the heat—not from the pressure of the occasion (although he is the first man to appear on an ELLE Canada cover) but because it was 32ºC and he’d been standing in the laser-hot sun for hours wearing first a fully lined coat and then a three-piece wool suit. His core temperature must have been approaching broil status, but he looked so calm you’d never have known it. He really is a world-class actor.
As for Winnie? I’d summoned a trailer load of Gatorade, but she waved it off with a smile. Like a queen basking in the heat, she danced with the kids from the Toronto Revellers mas band, who had joined us, taking a few moments to dote on each of them. She has, after all, delivered on photo shoots in literal deserts and oceans, so a hot city block was all in a day’s work for her.
The rest of us were tripping, though—we were shooting our cover a week after the Raptors parade, when Toronto was still vibrating from the historic NBA Finals win, when outsiders had accomplished the impossible. Today, I see Winnie and Stephan, two Jamaican- Canadians with very humble beginnings, in much the same way: Their careers began when they pulled off wins against the odds. In their respective fields of fashion and film, they are the new royalty—the queen and king of self-made success representing Canada on an international scale. Life has taken them across the globe, but, as the saying goes, there’s no place like home.
I hope you’ll join me in giving them a warm hometown welcome to the pages of ELLE Canada.
Vanessa Craft, Editor-in-Chief
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