Breakout model Slick Woods (born Simone Thompson) might only be 21, but she’s built quite a career in a short span of time. Best known as one of the faces of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, Woods has also appeared on the runway for brands like Yeezy, Fendi, and Marc Jacobs. The most recent addition to her résumé? A fashion collaboration with Mercedes-Benz — coincidentally the type of car on which Woods learned to drive.
The Mercedes-Benz initiative — named #WeWonder and pegged to their new hybrid car, the Concept EQ — aims to open up a discussion about how fashion can move forward. Woods is in great company. Other fashion folk involved in the project include Opening Ceremony’s Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, Solange Knowles, and art curator Kimberly Drew aka Museum Mammy. The Cut caught up with Woods at Coachella to talk about what inspires her, why youth are the answer, and what you’ll never catch her wearing.
Why partner with Mercedes-Benz? I’m sure so many brands reach out to you but you’ve clearly been picky about that.
It’s always the elephant in the room – brands will say, “Oh no, we want Slick, can you do this?” but it’s completely not my vibe. My work is more of a collaboration than someone else’s vision, which is what modeling is most of the time. I was really happy to meet with a company that allowed me to share my perspective. Mercedes-Benz was interested in what I have to say.
You’re known for speaking your mind and now you want to empower youth to do the same. Why do you think that’s important?
When you have people putting you on a pedestal for [being outspoken], it kind of scares you because this is something that you’re supposed to be able to do! It’s hard — most people are comfortable sugarcoating things. The more we fall into that [trap] the less likely we are to move forward. If less people are willing to come forward and say what they want to say, how are we going to hear new ideas? Be open? People are holding their tongues.
What has given you the confidence to be so vocal and not be so concerned with what people think?
Being a black woman and brought up as one, I found it helps you to not mind being the bad guy. Like how Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted said, “I’m playing the villain, baby, just like you want me to.” I’ve been the villain, so it’s a very comfortable place for me, just like it’s comfortable for submissive people to just hold their tongues. You almost start liking confrontation.
I love to prove people right. Don’t tell me what I’m going to do because I’m going to do it way worse than you thought it was. I don’t mind being that person because at the end of the day, it sheds light on the people around me.
How do you think you’ve been able to handle fame so fast and so young?
Growing up I really wanted to be a firefighter while you have 20 kids in the classroom dying to be a supermodel. Life is amazing, but it’s a little too amazing at times. There’s a reason why people are depressed and rich as hell. Everything makes you feel paranoid. At first, it was endearing because my followers made me feel like I finally had a family, but it’s kind of overwhelming now.
It’s not only those beautiful supporters that love you and love themselves — some people are looking for you to patch up their self-love, or mimicking your actions. That’s the opposite of my manifesto. I want people to take my inspiration as a seed and grow a new tree. I want people to see what the best them could be, because I’m getting closer to being a better version of me. I don’t want people to be like, “Oh, I want to be the best Slick I can be.”
Do you ever get tired of the fashion industry and if so what do you do to re-ignite that passion?
Of course I get tired of the fashion industry! I try to do what I would expect rapper-Slick to do. If Slick was a rapper, what would she do? Nu-uh, sis, I ain’t going to that party. Fashion today is just exaggerated streetwear — it’s not fashion anymore. It’s a hoodie with long sleeves. [Feigns being impressed] Wow.
Everything is really a reach right now and until it comes back to what fashion used to be, this is where you’ll find me.
What’s something we would never catch you wearing?
Can you imagine me in skinny jeans? Hell no. I don’t own a pair of jeans. I heard some girl sat on a plane and her circulation got cut off. They had to get her legs amputated when she landed! Trying to be cute in her 7 Jeans. They make me think of Roll Bounce.
This interview has been edited and condensed.