Raelia Lewis: Exclusive Interview with the Model, Author, Entrepreneur
Exclusive interview with former America's Next Top Model (ANTM) contestant turned model, author, and entrepreneur, Raelia Lewis.
Raelia Lewis first got her start on the ever-popular reality show America's Next Top Model, Season 21, where she placed seventh. Although her elimination was shocking to fans, she has not let that stopped her from becoming a successful model and more.
Since the show, she has gone on to do incredible things in her career such as modeling for NYFW, Pepsi, Calvin Klein, Miami Swim, Bare Minerals and so much more. Not only that, but Raelia is an author and entrepreneur. She recently came out with her book Trust Your Journey - a story of love, hope and second chances. (Get your copy here!) As if that isn't enough, Lewis recently started a luxury resort wear line, Waves Swim.
We caught up with the successful model and entrepreneur to get her thoughts on ANTM, modeling during the pandemic, and more about what she has going on now. Check it out below.
It seems like you are everywhere and do it all: Model, author, commercials. How do you manage to do it all?
"I like to stay busy and I enjoy doing so many different things. Because I work for myself, I get to control when I ship orders and I make time to shoot and study my crafts. We’ve all had more time on our hands since covid and I just took advantage of the downtime. When I’m not on set, I’m working for myself and I’m starting to prioritize that because it’s really fulfilling. I enjoy not having to wait for someone to choose me all the time and I enjoy making money in my sleep."
A lot of your fans have been following you since your career started on America’s Next Top Model, Season 21, back in 2014. What was your overall experience like on the show? Do you think it helped or hurt your modeling career?
"That experience was a mixture of joy and pain lol. It really effected me mentally, especially after the show, but I also had so much fun with the cast, and of course I enjoyed seeing myself on tv! It didn’t help my modeling career nor did it hurt it. I spent years building a brand outside of the show and it hasn’t been easy but I refused to give up. Post show was something I wasn’t prepared for but I got through it."
Your elimination on the show was one of the most shocking of your season. Fans absolutely loved you and thought you had some of the greatest potential and were acing the competition. Were you surprised by your elimination?
"Yes I was devastated that I got eliminated. I definitely should have made it further. It’s something I’m over so it no longer phases me but I think I definitely proved that they made a huge mistake by letting me go so soon."
You had a great relationship with some of the other contestants on the show, like runner-up Will Jardell. Are you still friends / do you stay in contact with anyone from your season?
"I’m no longer in contact with anyone from the show but I wish them all love and happiness. Keith checks in on me here and there and I love seeing Will do incredible things on IG. Those two were my favorites on the show and I definitely think they deserved to be top 2!"
Chantelle Young (now known to the public as Winnie Harlow) has achieved incredible success as a model post-show, but was a very controversial personality due to her attitude that rubbed contestants the wrong way. Fans are curious -- was she really as bad as it seemed or was it mostly editing that made her look so bad? Do you still talk to her today or have you reconciled after the show?
"I have nothing to say about Chantelle. She looks great, she’s killing it and I wish her the best."
As you may have seen recently, Tyra Banks and producers of the show have come under fire for poor treatment, inappropriate comments, and exploiting contestants’ childhood trauma. Did you experience any of this on your season? What are your thoughts on Tyra Banks, and the backlash she is facing because of this?
"I’m grateful that I got to be apart of the show. I don’t know her on a personal level and I can agree that the show was triggering and challenging for me as well but I’m not interested in joining a hate campaign or fueling any fire. I got to be apart of an incredible franchise and my life has been rewarding regardless of what happened on that show."
Since the show you have gone on to do incredible gigs modeling for: Pepsi, NYFW, Miami Swim Week, Bare Minerals, Calvin Klein, Dunkin, Essence Magazine… we could go on forever! Do you have any favorite brands/designers/campaigns you have worked with?
"lol awwww thanks! I appreciate and cherish every opportunity. I was super hype about Bare Minerals and stunned when I got a direct booking for Pepsi! God has his hands on me lol. There were times when I thought things like this wouldn’t happen but I kept pushing and I’m so glad I did."
How has the modeling industry changed since the pandemic, and are things getting back to “normal”?
"Everything has changed due to the pandemic. Modeling has morphed into smaller sets, less opportunities and zoom castings but there’s still work out there. I think it’s beginning to go back to normal but we can only take it day by day."
Not only do you model, but you’re also an author and entrepreneur! We love the idea of your book Trust Your Journey, which is a story of love, hope and second chances. What inspired you to want to write a book?
"Thank you! A friend of mine encouraged me to write it and I’m forever grateful that I listened. I’ve always loved literature and writing really came natural to me. I was able to inspire so many people just by being transparent and writing down my experiences."
As if all of that isn’t enough, you’re the CEO of several businesses: Shop Accessorized, Waves Swim, and Waves Marketing Firm. What drives you to start your own businesses, and what do you want fans to know about them?
"I sold jewelry on and off for years and in 2017 I decided to take it serious. Modeling took up a ton of my time during that time period, so it took me another 2 years to focus and stay consistent. My resort wear line is something I’ve sat on for over 8 years due to financial difficulties and modeling of course. When the pandemic hit I decided to just do everything I’ve always wanted to do that I kept putting off.
My marketing firm kind of happened during the process of me marketing and promoting my other brands. I learned to do everything for my businesses. I can shoot, edit, design, light, and build websites. My brother gave me the idea to turn it into another business and the rest is history. I’m always busy doing something for one of my babies lol. It’s so much fun!"
Raelia really does it all - and does it all well! Stay up-to-date with Raelia on social media and support her small businesses below.