Jamaican model Alicia Burke had plans to become a midwife until 2016 when age 21 she won a Caribbean modelling competition; less than a year later she found herself walking the world’s most prestigious runways from Bottega Veneta to Miu Miu and Armani. With her flawless skin and almond eyes, she’s been the beauty face of many prestigious brands such as Tom Ford Beauty, Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown, so it's perhaps surprising to discover that for many years she wasn't confident in her own beauty - because of her natural 'nappy' hair, as she called it. "I would look in the mirror and wonder why I had to be born with such a nappy hair,' she says.
Now 25, she divides her time between New York and Jamaica, where she grew up raised by her grandmother in a house full of boys. “All I knew growing up was church, sports, dancing and beatboxing - all the things that the boys would do," she tells us. "I grew up with my cousins, who were all boys, so I didn’t know anything about makeup, skincare and or haircare.
Now I'm 25 and I have never felt as beautiful as I do rocking my natural look and my natural hair
"The only beauty ritual I had was when my grandma would use aloe vera to soften my hair. She would cut [the leaf] from our backyard and peel it so she could get the gel from the middle and beat it in a bowl until it was no longer solid, then she would rub it all over my hair and cover it with a plastic bag for at least 30 minutes, then wash it - she would do this twice a month to keep my hair smooth and shiny.
"I’d been relaxing my hair since I was 12 years old, but last October I decided that it was time to cut it all off and start over. I didn't appreciate my natural look when I was growing up because it was seen as ugly if your hair wasn't straight; you weren't beautiful if you didn’t have straight hair and I wanted to be beautiful.' Her hair ruined her confidence for many years. 'I wanted to feel like I was part of something and that was the reason for me relaxing my hair. Now I'm 25 and I have never felt as beautiful as I do rocking my natural look and my natural hair."
The minute she chopped it off she realised for the first time in 24 years "that I was a dope ass queen with my natural hair."
Her first foray into makeup came at school. "I first discovered makeup at 13 when a new girl entered my class at school; I used to stare at her because she was so beautiful – we became friends and she bought me my first makeup products; powder and lipgloss," she says.
Alicia has gravitated towards natural, organic products. “The more natural and organic, the better. I try to show my natural skin as much as possible even if it means that I have to go a day or two without makeup if I’m having breakouts."
“With my growth as an individual, my approach to beauty has changed drastically. I focus more on making sure that I feel the most beautiful for myself as opposed to appeasing others and trying to contort myself into beauty standards."
“I believe that the beauty industry is making great strides to be more inclusive, but we still have a long way to go. Fenty is one of the brands that is making a change in the beauty industry. Her makeup line is catering for a wide range of darker skin types, but I'd like to see more black makeup artists and hairstylists in the beauty industry as well as more people being educated on how to do girls of colour's makeup and hair."
As the face of some of the world's highest-profile brands, you might expect Alicia to have a makeup bag brimming with products, but her kit is surprisingly pared-back and functional.