Shaking off the shackles that come with the stereotypes of being a model has become something like a pastime for the 5′ 9″ Cayman Island-born Selita Ebanks.
She’s transcended racial boundaries on the catwalk, and strutted her much-coveted stuff for the most famous runway show in the world as a Victoria’s Secret Angel. She has worked for high fashion brands, has appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Vogue, and a slew of other publications. If you can dream it in the fashion realm, Selita has accomplished it, and now she’s applying that same runway-ready precision to building a future for herself and others.
In one more step towards greatness, the Fashion Model, Philanthropist & Kanye West Muse is teaming with the E-Commerce giant Shopify for the brand’s 4th Annual Build A Business competition.
The competition, which kicked off on October 1st, will give nine driven entrepreneurs in over 100 countries the opportunity to receive $50,000 to grow the business of their dreams. In addition to the financial assistance, they have the opportunity to receive advice and learn the key principles of their trade through a group of knowledgeable mentors that just happens to include the business savvy Selita Ebanks.
On the brink of the Build A Business competition, we caught up with the charismatic beauty to talk about everything from her involvement as a mentor, to her skin regimen and collaborator Kanye West’s romantic proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Check it all out below.
GlobalGrind: Let’s talk about the Build A Business Competition and how you got involved.
Selita Ebanks: One of the sharks (from the show Shark Tank), Mr. Daymond John, he’s also one of my mentors. He’s amazing. He gave me a call and told me about this great opportunity. What I love about Damon is that he’s constantly pushing me and encouraging me and empowering me to continue to focus on being a businesswoman. And this was a great opportunity for me, not to only reach out to other young small business owners, but to also learn myself.
I’ve learned so much being a part of Shopify. Everyday I get approached by small business owners or aspiring business owners that go ‘Hey, Selita I need help.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m still trying to figure out too.. I need help too.’ But it’s cool because now I actually have an answer for them.
Shopify is so good because one thing that we always tell people to focus on the product, it’s actually way more important for your product to develop and to be able to expand and to grow, as opposed to you focusing only on the logistics of the business. Just like the iPhone; Apple wouldn’t be Apple in the market if it wasn’t putting out something bigger and better. You have to realize there’s no new ideas, there’s only better executions and better timing, so you have to really focus on your business and Shopify does that for you. They provide a really great platform so you can just focus on the business. Shopify has done such a great job of promoting their small company and their website.
You’re in pretty good company. You have Ariana Huffington with you, and a whole bunch of people who are movers and shakers like yourself. Do you ever feel a bit intimidated?
Not really, I really hope to be very honest with them and give them my personal opinion on how I envision the economy, being a buyer myself and what sells and what doesn’t sell. These people probably been out there way longer than I have, not only my fellow mentors, but the actual small business owners. So I’m open to learning and I’m definitely trying to be a better business owner myself. I really look up to my fellow mentors like Daymond John. I mean he’s legendary when it comes to business, so I hold on to every syllable. I have my notepad too. It’s really awesome.
If you had the same opportunity, $50,000 to build the business of your dreams, do you have any idea what you would do?
Girl, I am constipated with crazy ideas. I got a PowerPoint for your behind. Right now, it’s hard for me to talk about them because I’m actually working on them to get executed and get put out there. But, one year I was going to do a calendar of celebrities’ pets, I mean, just crazy ideas. I was going to shoot it myself and everything. I just wanted to capture them in really artistic, different ways.
It’s OK to have all these crazy ideas, but like what I tell a lot of people who approach me is, ‘you gotta do your homework.’ You know your demographic? Is this project gonna sell in this marketplace? How are you going to promote this? What’s going to be your angle? There’s a lot of different questions. It’s great to have ideas, but to execute it is harder. Listen, at end of the day, we gotta make some money.
So you actually transitioned now to acting on The Real Husbands Of Hollywood. How is that experience?
Oh my goodness, man. Like I said, I’m a sponge. I’m just trying to learn. I started acting when I was 17 years old and studied with probably every school you could ever think of. But comedy? I consider myself a pretty humorous person, but my hat goes off to all the comedic actors. You know, the timing – comedy timing is everything. And to be able to be on set with all these legendary, amazing comedic actors, like Chris Rock…his timing is just impeccable.
The first week I ruined a lot of takes, I’m not going to lie. I was a bit confused; because they’re just so damn funny and then Kevin Hart’s telling me, ‘Stop laughing Selita!’ And I’m like, ‘Shut the f*ck up! Stop making me laugh!’ It was a mess, but eventually you get the hang of it. It was Acting 101 by the best of the best. It was a very humbling experience and also very therapeutic to be able to let my hair down and step outside of my model, whatever – I don’t know what to call it – you think that I am. I’m just warning you that later in the season, I get a little crazy. My disclaimer is, this is a fake reality people! It’s going to be a lot, a lot of something. I’m telling you it’s going to be crazy, but it was awesome.
Your most intense role in acting thus far was your role in Kanye West’s “Runaway” video. When he told you about the script and what your role was going to be, did you understand right off the bat? Were you like, ‘OK, I know how to do this?’
Not necessarily, because I think the way Kanye works, he has a vision and it’s always from the artist standpoint. The vision was more visual, I guess if that makes any sense. I understand how he wanted me to look. Kanye was there for the whole process, so it made it a little easier for me, but I was just trying to capture what it was that he was seeing. The first time I heard about it, I was like, ‘Oh I see…so I am bird that flies…’ But it’s poetry. It definitely came together beautifully and I tried my hardest to portray the character the way he explained it to me and he was there as well, so it was a little easier and that’s him being the director. But it was a very amazing experience.
That makeup in the video was elaborate! To get into that costume everyday, how long did that take?
It was. Let’s just say I was up before Kanye. It was a lot of makeup every single day. The feathers had to be singularly pried, one by one. And I was extremely insecure about my body, like ‘Why did I agree to do this? What am I wearing?’ At the end of the day, I’m still a woman, you know. As the days went on it got colder and colder, so you know feathers coming off and I’m like ‘Oh my god.’ But it was really magical.
I know you heard about his elaborate proposal to Kim Kardashian. From working with him, did you imagine Kanye to be such a romantic?
He’s an artist. There have to be different characters within him for him to make such amazing music. So I definitely, yeah of course, definitely Kanye West appropriate.
Your skin is always flawless, always glowing, what’s one move that you won’t give up on, something you use or do everyday?
I try not to do too much to my skin. I definitely wash it every morning, I try to use anything that’s organic and oil free and that has vitamins in it, just because I am not a girl to use toner and all that stuff. But I get pimples and I get breakouts. I just tend to try and spot treat them just like a stain, because I have combination skin, so if I put something on my face it’ll work on one half and the other half I look crazy, like Scarface or something. I’m very old school. If I have a pimple, I’ll put Noxzema on it overnight or even toothpaste. People say I am crazy, but it does dry it out. I’ve been in the most deserted and isolated places in the world, when they don’t have other products, I gotta do what I gotta do and toothpaste almost always works.
Tell us about anything that’s coming up, or anything that you would like our readers to know.
I wish I could talk about it, it’s so much. Let’s just say December/January is gonna be a crazy two months for me, and I’m so excited. I’ve been working on this project, killing myself on it, but it’s definitely worth it. And yeah, it’s gonna be good.
To find out more about Shopify and The Huffington Post’s Build a Business, click here.