Surfer-turned-model Leila Dee Thomas was in Portugal when her agent, David Todd of DT Model Management, e-mailed her that she had been selected for Ralph Lauren’s new fragrance campaign, Deep Blue.
“I remember having to read the email a couple of times before the words sunk in,” she explains. “I was so excited. It’s still a dream! I recently saw the commercial on TV for the first time and I screamed.”
Josh Olins photographed Leila in Tahiti for the campaign that depicts her on a sailboat, enjoying an oceanic adventure with male models Simon Nessman, Corey Wilson, and two-time world surfing champion, Gabriel Medina.
“Everyone on the shoot had some sort of relationship with the water,” Leila continues. “Corey, Gabriel and I knew each other through the world of surfing. I think it was important to Ralph Lauren Fragrances and L’Oréal to work with people who have an authentic connection with the ocean. It made the trip truly feel like a surf adventure with friends.”
We spoke with Leila from the LA home she shares with her husband, pro surfer Kiron Jabour.
How do you manage the balance of being a wife and model?
Finding balance between home life and the workplace is something I think we all constantly work at. As any mother or wife knows between school, activities, and work, self-care can take a back seat. Kiron knows that I have a tendency to put family needs before my own. Sometimes I can’t find the time to work out for a week. Sometimes even two. For most models this kind of relaxed regime is unheard of because it’s easy to get caught up feeling you always have to be at your most fit with your best skin and best hair. But, in all honesty, I know I look the best when I feel the best. I’ve learned I feel the best when I don’t put pressure on myself.
You have shot with Ralph Lauren several times before. What is it like to shoot with such an iconic fashion brand?
Working with Ralph Lauren has been the highlight of my career. It’s an opportunity I never thought I would have. With an Asian/Pacific Islander mom and an English/Welsh dad, I was always told my look is too ethnically ambiguous for any high fashion brand. So, when I first started working with Ralph in 2018, I could hardly believe I was there. I still pinch myself every time I work with the Ralph Lauren team. From walking in their 50th anniversary NYFW runway, to the POLO Deep Blue fragrance, it’s been experiences that I’ll always be grateful for.
This latest shoot in Tahiti had to be fun!
Beyond fun! All the boys were so easy to talk to. Shooting around the islands in Tahiti, there were very early mornings and a lot of travel time. Everyone — the talent, creatives, producers and crew — bonded so naturally. I honestly can’t imagine that I’ll ever have another shoot filled with so many laughs, hearty talks and good vibes.
How does your hubby feel about your spending time on the waves with his surfing competitors?
The surf world is small. All the boys are pretty good friends. Kiron was actually excited to know I’d be working with people he knows. Lucky for me, I found a partner who is supportive and trusting.
Let’s talk about your beauty regimen: What is your daily morning routine?
My beauty regimen is very simple. Almost disappointingly simple, I’m sorry to say. I wake up and splash water on my face. In Hawaii, I don’t need a moisturizer under sunscreen but when I’m in Europe or somewhere less humid I’ll put on AIMHI face oil. My aunt makes it from all-natural oil extracts and it smells amazing! If I’m in the sun, I’ll wear a good SPF face sunscreen. If not, I let my skin be free. At night I do a light sugar face scrub, again from AIMHI, and then the face oil again.
How do you keep your hair and skin healthy?
I like taking biotin for my hair. And a couple times a week if I’ve been in the ocean a lot, I’ll use the AESOP hair and scalp masque. I use a shampoo and conditioner that’s locally made on the island and I feel a huge difference using a product with less ingredients and no bad chemicals. For my skin, I always use coconut oil on my body and exfoliate. If I’m having a bad skin month, triggered by stress or diet, then I’ll treat myself to a facial. But the best beauty treatments are free. Sleep, water and staying stress free.
What fashion trends are you in love with this spring?
I am overjoyed we’re seeing some nostalgia for Edwardian and Regency style fashions. My favorite author since childhood is Jane Austen. I’ve always had visions of wearing these country chic dresses with little pouf sleeves and refined necklines with a modest cut. I like women who dress modestly and with a voice.
Aside from Ralph Lauren, who are your favorite designers?
Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Vera Wang, and Coco Chanel.
You grew up in Hawaii. Where are your favorite places to go on the island?
The north shore for its beautiful sandy beaches, Kualoa Ranch, and the sandbar on the east side of Oahu.
Do you and Kiron find time to hit the waves together?
My parents always taught me a family that surfs together, stays together. And it’s true, there’s something so therapeutic about surfing with your partner. Kiron and I surf together at least once a week. I like small waves and he likes big waves. We leave for Europe later today, so yesterday, we went out and enjoyed one last time in the clear, warm water.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I’m a proud mother! So, so, so, proud. Technically a stepmother, but the love is all the same. I’m lucky to have been in their lives since they were just little one-year-olds. They’re twin girls going on six and I couldn’t feel more lucky to be a part of their lives. Kiron and I have chosen to be private about our family life on social media because it’s what we feel like is right for the girls. Sometimes it’s a difficult choice because they’re my whole life and I just want to shout how much I love them from the mountains. But, then again, I appreciate the privacy we’ve created for them and that they have a childhood free from iPhone influence. It also places a limit on how much time Kiron and I go on our networking sites; an added bonus. But yes, I’m a proud stepmom and it’s the most rewarding job in the world. “Secret” out.
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