photography by LEON FERNANDO
styling by GLORIA JOHNSON
hair by DANIEL ROLDAN
makeup by JUDY CHUNG
nails by NORIKO YAMANAKA
press agent RHIYEN SHARP
photography assistant PABLO MOSQUERA
retouching by ADRIANA GOMEZ
location CONTRA STUDIOS
interview by JILLIAN KORKOSZ
Meet Elizabeth Wheeland, an aspiring actress, model, and supporter of the arts based in Chicago. The model is distinguishable for her striking beauty and wild mane, earning her a spot as a finalist in Love Magazine’s #loveme17 talent search at just 16 years old. Thrust into the spotlight and drawing the eye of many within the industry, she was subsequently photographed by Kendall Jenner, an honor few can say they’ve had. This initial acknowledgement from the industry has allowed Wheeland to become an increasingly sought after model in shoots by some of the most talented photographers around the world. Drawing inspiration from the local arts scene in Chicago, Wheeland is now dipping her toes into film, transforming her role from audience to actor.
For such a young woman, she has accomplished more than most and is one her way to continuing the trend far into her future. Unafraid to source inspiration and take risks, Wheeland continues to make strides in her career at exponential speeds. We sat down to interview her to gain insight into the depth of her persona.
How would you describe your sense of style?
I love the mix of a 1980’s rocker chick like Debbie Harry, and a 1960’s actress like Brigitte Bardot. I like the balance between Brigitte’s un-done hair and simple style, with the edge and attitude of Debbie’s looks. You never know who you’re going to meet or what’s going to happen, so I always try to dress my best.
What inspired you to become a model?
I began my career in the art industry with theatre acting and I saw modeling as another way to express myself artistically. It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve been able to collaborate with many amazing photographers and have made some of my closest friends through it. Modeling gave me a platform and an understanding of who I am.
Why do you want to pursue an acting career?
Acting has longevity and range. I love the challenge of portraying a character completely different than myself. Acting gives you an opportunity to explore different emotions and mindsets of other people.
You’ve said that you could uproot and move out to LA on your own as a teenager if that meant furthering your career. What motivates you to be so driven?
Not getting too hung up on specific dreams. Just letting things fall into place. I love reading biographies of performers. I’m inspired by reading about the ups and downs of legendary stars.
What’s your take on Instagram as a platform for models?
Instagram gives models the chance to connect with fans worldwide. It’s great for networking and showing your personality. I think it is important to keep things a little mysterious, but fans do love to see your day-to-day life. With any social media, I truly believe in showing your genuine self. Don’t try to follow trends. Be innovative and not a copycat.
Your hair has become an extension of yourself, how do you maintain your textured locks?
My hair has a mind of it’s own, that’s for sure. It has a drier texture to it, so putting a lot of oils in it is key. Coconut oil and castor oil are my favorites. I also use a curling cream and mousse to bring out my curls and give it some more volume. I always sleep with it in a bun, too.
Few can say they’ve been shot by Kendall Jenner, could you tell us about that experience and how it came to be?
LOVE Magazine in London was looking for new faces for an opportunity to shoot with Kendall Jenner in California. So I submitted my photos and one day I woke up to a message that LOVE Magazine and Katie Grand had chosen me for the photoshoot. Unbelievable! Kendall was very kind and sweet when I met her. We went to the dreamlike setting of the Mojave Desert. I wore a Burberry lace shirt, a skirt and tights, and Doc Marten boots. Kendall took some pictures on film and then I changed into a Miu Miu two-piece swimsuit and jumped into the cold swimming pool for more photos. I can’t really put into words what a phenomenal experience this was.
You’ve previously performed in small theatres around Chicago, how different is acting in front of a camera instead of an audience?
I’m naturally loud and talk with my hands a lot. So getting the hang of on-camera acting has been fun yet challenging. It’s about being relaxed, natural and very subtle. I study everything actors do in movies and TV. You can really see how little they are doing, how every move they make has purpose and integrity. In theatre, you have to be animated and speak loud to project your voice. Theatre calls for a grand and extravagant performance. I love both forms of acting.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Coffee. And my studded black heel boots.
You’re an advocate of supporting the arts, why is this important?
Our world has to make something beautiful out of the ugly. Artists are the interpreters and documenters of culture. The history we are living right now will be memorialized by artists. I’m hungry for culture. I go to a lot of plays, independent films and art museums. Surrounding yourself with the arts helps you appreciate the simplest things in all walks of life. Art encourages you to think outside the box.
Favorite spot in Chicago?
Petterino’s, an amazing Italian restaurant in Chicago. It has a 1950’s feel to it with red booths and celebrity caricatures on the walls. They also have gluten free pasta!
What defines you?
My hair, my voice and my very loud and distinct laugh.
What moves you?
I love to make people laugh. Positive energy is contagious. I love to be around people who are lighthearted about life.
Jacket with ruffled belt & Dress WeAnnaBe
What’s one cause you really care about?
HALO Trust, which is the charity Princess Diana supported. Areas of our world where war once raged still have communities littered with landmines. Children can’t play safely outdoors, crops can’t be grown, people can’t travel roads to get to markets to buy or sell. Children, mothers and fathers are being killed or severely injured just trying to get back to normal lives.
HALO trains people to de-mine their communities so they can live without fear. HALO has an initiative called LANDMINE FREE by 2025 and I’m working with them to promote this cause.
Vintage or new?
Vintage! It’s always a hunt to find one-of-a-kind pieces.
Where do you source inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration I get from films. Movies embody everything I love. I find myself the styling of the characters themselves. Cat-woman will always be my favorite character to emulate, that’s why black leather jackets and leather pants are a key part of my wardrobe.
The cinematography of movies gives me inspiration for photographs I’d like to take. I binge watch my favorite films because you always catch something you didn’t notice before. Some of my favorites are Lost in Translation, La Dolce Vita, Taxi Driver, Blood Simple and The Professional.
If you were to win an Oscar, who would be the first person you thank in your acceptance speech?
Probably the director, hopefully the Coen brothers.
What are some noteworthy childhood memories pertaining to your introduction to fashion? Likewise, to modeling and acting?
As a kid, I loved super heroes. Star Wars, Spiderman and Batman. I had a little pair of skinny jeans and graphic tees and a mini biker jacket. I wrote my own skits and performed them for my family. My first theater audition strengthened my love for acting. I feel at home on a stage. When the opportunity to model came about I found confidence in being photographed. The skills you develop in modeling help you in acting.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
I was part of a Forever 21 campaign featuring young artists and appeared on their Times Square billboard! So many people from all over the world go through Times Square every day and that’s a pretty crazy thought.
What is your hope for the future?
I want to travel. I’d love to return to London and I’d like to visit France and Italy. I want to keep meeting inspiring people through acting and modeling. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? The world is full of experiences just waiting to be explored.