they seem cool

The Queens-Born Model Who Loves to Paint

Meet Symone Lu.

Photo: Lia Clay Miller
Photo: Lia Clay Miller

Symone Lu is a model and painter who was born and raised in Queens. Her most recent work, a sexy, psychedelic acrylic, is of a woman sitting above the city with little flames rippling everywhere. “It’s my artistic interpretation of a woman overlooking New York during these crazy times,” she explains. Lu says her Chinese-Jamaican background has taught her to “appreciate culture and people” and fueled her passion to help others. As both an artist and a model, she’s interested in challenging beauty standards and advocating for inclusivity. The Cut spoke with her about her artwork, the Chinese zodiac, and how she’s been maintaining peace of mind.

What does “cool” mean to you?
Being cool, to me, means someone that’s energetic and goofy yet still listens and understands. There are a lot of people who worry way too much about the outside but don’t understand who they are within. But when I meet people who truly understand themselves and unapologetically live in their truth? That shit’s cool.

What was the last thing that you saw that inspired you?
The last thing I saw that inspired me were the lights alongside LIC Piers at night. Not only was the freedom of walking the park at night invigorating, but the lights dancing on the surface of the water reminded me of how all people have an energy inside them that’s yearning to be free.

What three fictional characters do you relate to most?
Buttercup from Powerpuff Girls, Jake Long from American Dragon: Jake Long, and Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

What kind of animal would you be and why?
If I could be any other animal, I would be a tiger, not only because they’re so beautiful but because it’s my Chinese zodiac sign. 

If you could master any skill (that isn’t related to your current job), what would it be and why?
I would master languages and become multilingual. If you can understand all languages, you can change the world.

Has the way you dress changed during quarantine? If so, what are you wearing now?
My dress code since quarantine has become more practical than abstract. I tend to pick pieces now that are stylish as well as protective and practical. Also, if I’m feeling good that day, I might color coordinate my mask to my outfit.

Are there any causes or organizations you are supporting right now? Throughout my career I’ve always advocated for inclusivity and breaking traditional beauty standards in fashion, but due to more recent events I’ve been more active about supporting family and friends’ small businesses. One of the main groups I advocate for is Warriors in the Garden, which leads peaceful protests while spreading political awareness. Another group that’s been consistently advocating for federal reform and the rebuilding of the black community is Libertude, which was founded by Selah Marley.

What Black-owned local businesses are you supporting?
One of the main Black-owned businesses I decided to consistently support is this smoothie spot named Juicy Mama. It’s crucial we look into where the Black-owned businesses in our communities are located. If you don’t do your research, you’ll never know how easy it is to support Black businesses.

What goals are you working toward at the moment?
After going through a lot of mental trials and tribulations during quarantine, the main goal I’m working toward is to maintain peace of mind.

What do you do for self-care?
For physical self-care, I usually go to Life Time or Shape House and spend the whole day in a sauna, but if I need self-care mentally I usually try to find some time in solitude and meditate. Meditation allows me to clear the noise of the emotions in my head and focus on the clarity of my heart.

What piece of advice has had the biggest impact on you and why?
“Trust your instincts.” If I hadn’t trusted my instincts, I don’t think I would have even considered modeling. I probably would still be trying to fill the mold of what everyone else’s idea of me is.

Photo: Lia Clay Miller
The Queens-Born Model Who Loves to Paint