The Californian-born Angel reflects on how her career has taken flight.
“The nerves definitely don’t go away. [They] get worse and worse every year, because you know what to expect, how many cameras are there, how many people are going to be watching,” explains American model Jasmine Tookes over the phone to Vogue. “Then when it’s over, you’re so sad like, ‘Oh no! I want to do it again!’”
The wing-tipped Victoria’s Secret Angel, who was also the first woman of colour to sport the Fantasy Bra in 2016, realised her dream of walking for the lingerie giant after casting three times, but not before getting her start in the world of high fashion—where she walked for every designer under the sun from Prada to Louis Vuitton.
“When I did my first season, I walked for Calvin Klein and that took my career to a whole new level because then I did London, Milan and Paris fashion week and that really catapulted me into the fashion world,” Tookes explains of her crossover into the realm of Victoria’s Secret. “Walking for high-end designers is something that’s very important in every model’s career,” she continues, “they’re both fun, they’re both different. I have really enjoyed walking for both.”
For Tookes, these formative experiences as a teenager (she was scouted at 16) solidified her status as a legitimate fashion model, but it would be remiss to ignore the changes in inclusivity and diversity that have swept the industry since Tookes’s entrée into modeling. “I remember when I was doing the high fashion runway shows, I would normally be the only girl of colour on the runway—there would be just one—and it would always be me,” she reflects, “and then the following season, it would be another girl, where it was just that one girl.”
Which is why for models like Tookes, platforms like Victoria’s Secret—the show is aired to a multi-million strong global audience—have become necessary to increase representation, emphasise diversity and appeal to a universal audience. “I think it’s amazing that the industry is becoming more inclusive,” she reflects. This has a knock-on effect that, as Tookes illuminates, doesn’t end but rather begins with her own career milestones. “I feel like [my experiences] also open the door for people who are following in my footsteps, which I felt like Naomi Campbell did for me and Tyra Banks as well.”
According to Tookes, the importance of visibility makes all the difference. “It’s very special and I think it’s a great moment now that every race is being represented on the runway. I think it’s great that I can help young girls become confident and see that they can do it too and be on these runways as well.”
In the same breath, she’s all too aware of her responsibility to lead by example, which is why maintaining a positive social media presence is key. “I always try to put my best foot forward… I keep my Instagram very lighthearted and very friendly and happy. I promote health and wellness and being happy within yourself,” she says.
Tookes applies this same approach to her preparations in the lead up to the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, which intensify two months prior. Besides switching up her workouts—“I’ll do a pilates workout, another time I’ll do weight training”—Tookes is focussing her energies on yoga this year, recognising the need to “keep my mind sane and calm; I just try to take it easy and be happy.”
That she gets to work with fellow Angels she now calls friends also alleviates a lot of the pressure, and has allowed Tookes access to a network, or a sisterhood as she identifies it, of strong women raising each other up. “Victoria’s Secret does an amazing job at picking really sweet, down to earth girls, so we’ve all become really close over the years… It’s almost like you get an automatic group of sisters that you never had, so it’s really fun.”
“If someone’s going through something, we’re super-supportive and I think that’s really hard to find in the industry—really true friends—so I feel very fortunate that I have all these girls to call on and they can call on me,” the model adds. This reciprocity extends even to newly announced Angels Barbara Palvin, Alexina Graham and Leomie Anderson, who have been initiated into the models’ official group chat.
“The new Angels are awesome… I remember when I first came into the Victoria’s Secret world, I was a little bit nervous because there was Adriana Lima there and Candice Swanepoel… but they’re all super, super sweet, really nice.”
This appreciation for the successful women that came before her underlines Tookes’s whole outlook on modelling—she recognises the value of including everyone in the fold, just like the Naomis and Imans did for her. “I try to be the same way to a new girl coming in and just be as welcoming as I can be.”