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How model Licett Morillo went from a plastics factory to the Prada runway

Meeting the new face – and Dazed cover star – you’re going to see everywhere in 2019

There are few modelling jobs that come close to the coveted gig of opening or closing a Prada show. And, up until recently – a marker of fashion’s necessary and ongoing conversation surrounding diverse representation on the runway – there had only been one of these slots filled by a model of colour (Naomi Campbell, who opened for the Italian fashion house in 1997). Earlier this year, Dazed cover star Anok Yai followed suit for Prada’s AW18 collection, becoming the second woman of colour to open for the Italian house. This season, there was a new face closing the SS19 show, and the first WOC to do so. Her name is Licett Morillo.

Morillo stands at 5ft10 inches tall, with a short afro and features that might be described as gamine, if she didn’t have such a powerful look. One of ten siblings, she was born and raised in Santo Domingo, a small and vibrant district of the Carribean’s Dominican Republic. Noted for its music and performing arts, it is also the birthplace of fellow model Lineisy Montero, who walked with Morillo in the SS19 Prada show and similarly made her own catwalk debut for the brand back in 2015. “I am so happy to call it my home, it’s full of energy,” Morillo says of the city, where life prior to modelling was largely filled with family. A typical morning routine consisting of helping her mother with the day-to-day housework, whilst evenings were spent reading crime thriller novels. “I would also spend my afternoons in English class before heading to the beach,” she adds.

In fact, Morillo had only recently enrolled in her studies after being made redundant from a job making carrier bags in a plastics factory, when she was scouted by a modelling agent during the walk to school. It was a fortuitous moment that would ultimately take her from polyethene to Prada. “A lady called Nileny Dippton came over to me and asked, ‘Are you a model?’ and of course, I responded ‘no way!’ I was so late for class, I had to rush off, but Nileny gave me her business card and I got in touch.” Soon after, Dippton sent some polaroids of Morillo to Luis Domingo, IMG Models’ associate director of scouting, and Morillo was optioned to travel to Milan for her first ever show. This would be her first time leaving the Dominican Republic, as well as flying on a plane. “Planes are crazy, lots of turbulence,” she says. “But I made it in one piece, luckily!”

As a young girl, Morillo would watch fashion-related TV shows and read Mexican fashion magazines on the internet, but otherwise had little interest in becoming a part of the industry, besides playing occasional dress up. “I would take clothes from my mothers and sisters and create outfits for myself and copy the looks from the magazines I saw online,” she says. Likewise, she never dreamed of becoming a model, feeling unrepresented by mainstream beauty standards both at home and abroad. “In the Dominican Republic, women who are considered beautiful look very different to me and models I saw in magazines looked very different to me. So honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind.”

Today, the story is very different, and Morillo is hotly tipped as the breakout face of SS19. Having signed with IMG, she was also booked in Paris for several other blockbuster shows including Hedi Slimane’s debut at CelineValentino and Saint Laurent, where she literally walked on water. “Saint Laurent was the first show I walked in Paris,” she recalls. “I went for the fitting and saw the shoes, they were so high! I was freaking out, I didn’t have much experience walking in high heels and at Prada, I had just worn flat platform shoes. I went to the rehearsal before the show and nearly had a heart attack! The runway was covered in water, how would I walk on water in those high heels?! But the set was so beautiful, and the sunset right before the show. It was magical.” At Celine, she was encouraged to be herself – and, thankfully, she was more comfortable with the footwear. “Hedi wanted us to walk how we wanted, wherever we wanted, there weren’t strict directions on the runway. I loved my outfit – I’m a bit of a tomboy, so the suit was perfect. And the flat shoes!”

“Hedi wanted us to walk how we wanted, wherever we wanted, there weren’t strict directions on the runway. I loved my outfit – I’m a bit of a tomboy, so the suit was perfect. And the flat shoes!” – Licett Morillo

Recently Morillo shot for the Winter 2018 issue of Dazed, photographed by Ben Toms and styled by Robbie Spencer – her first cover story. “After seeing Licett walk in the SS19 shows I knew she was perfect for a Dazed cover this season,” says Spencer. The shoot took place in the abandoned landscape of Dungeness beach by Derek Jarman’s cottage, the images capturing the model throughout the day’s changing sunlight. “In every show she walked she was instantly striking, a new face we all remembered. When runway castings so often lack diversity and uniqueness, that’s not always the case – Licett represents a change that’s taking place, her androgynous and effortless beauty feels really right for now. We knew she was the perfect subject for our end of year cover, to champion a new face who is going to have a huge moment in 2019.”

As for Morillo, although she certainly is looking towards a bright future in the fashion industry, for her, family will always come first. “I hadn’t seen one of my sisters who lives in Switzerland for four years,” she explains. “I was able to go and spend some time with her. If I was still back home, this wouldn’t have ever been possible, so for that, I’m thankful. I want to take all the great opportunities that come my way. I want to help my family. My family is my world and they give me the drive to be successful.”

Buy the latest issue of Dazed here