Model, Writer & Painter Leila Rahimi Talks Persian Traditions & The Power Of Nature
Stop and smell the roses.
Iranian-American model and artist Leila Rahimi describes her vibe as "runaway Persian princess child bride" — a rare mix of freedom, tradition and innocence that echoes throughout her writing and her art. We caught up with the true romantic in LA recently to talk about finding peace in nature and the evolution of the modelling industry. Get a dose of her delightful personality below.
Lucy Jones: Where did you grow up and where are you living now?
Leila Rahimi: I was grown in Malibu and am living in Santa Monica.
How did those places shape you and/or your work?
Malibu has the most scenic nature. The birds, bugs and blossoms were always there for me. I guess I always felt like a loner and the loneliness felt like a strength when I was in nature. Painting flowers and fruits just kind of happened organically. The physical act of slashing a pastel or brush felt cathartic; my common subject of a thriving garden transformed the violent gesture into something peaceful. LA always provided a backdrop for my paintings as well as my writings. I have a practice of journaling everyday.
What were you like in high school?
I actually wrote in my diary most days in high school as well! I was a bit of a freak, both rebellious and academic. I built strong relationships with my professors and I had the greatest group of friends. We were really close; we still are. It's weird to think that my first year of high school was ten years ago.
In what ways have you changed since then?
Not too much has changed. I still experience the "What am I doing? What's the point?". On the other hand, I'm still fascinated and seduced by the microcosms around me. Spending an hour picking fruit in Malibu in my mum's backyard would be the exact prognosis to get me through a bad day — then and now. I'm a romantic through and through, always and forever.
What kind of values/beliefs did your parents install in you?
My mother taught me to be generous and warm. Her favourite thing to do is to make dinner for me, my brother and all my cousins, then have a huge sleepover on the living room floor in a fort of blankets giggling all through the night. My father is a zen master. He's never not busy and should be rattled with anxiety and stress, but is totally hakuna matata. Beyond that, my father loves to create things and always helped me manifest my ideas into realities. My parents both taught me that happiness and health are all that one should wish for.
What characteristics/beliefs do you think define your generation?
Woof. Instant gratification.
What are the best and worst things about growing up "on the internet"?
I love the internet. I think it's the greatest invention. There's duality to everything. The best thing is the access to information. The worst thing I guess would be the lack of fact checking, and thus all the misinformation we're fed.
What causes or issues are important to you?
I care about children very, very much and the protection of innocence in general.
Are you a spiritual person?
Yes but in a deeply personal way. I actually minored in sciences before dropping out of university. Studying Einstein's relativity and quantum theories as well as studying AI in another course only brought more wonder and questions. There are so many chaotically harmonious mysteries in this known universe and its absolutely fascinating.
What's your idea of utopia?
A place where the weather is 72 F° and all my friends and all my pets are there and we are sitting outside with margaritas and crayons and drawing and playing a game all at once!
Do you identify as a feminist? Please explain.
Absolutely. I believe women and all genders should be given equal opportunity and pay.
What traditions are important to you?
Persian New Year. My favourite holiday is Sizdabedar, or the 13th day of the Persian new year. My family gathers and holds a feast filled with delicious symbolic foods like jewelled noodle rice, which is sprinkled with dried fruits for a sweet life and noodles for longevity. After, we jump over fire pits while reciting a saying wishes for good health. Its an old Zoroastrian holiday, which is basically the folk religion of Iran.
How do you imagine the future?
I imagine we will all be cyborgs and the singularity has been achieved.
How did you get discovered?
I had a friend who worked at Wilhelmina.
How would you describe your personal style?
Runaway Persian Princess Child Bride.
How have you seen the fashion industry and the idea of who and what a model is change in the past few years?
Physical boundaries in the industry have been evaporating — models come in all colours, shapes and sizes. I think differences are seen as strengths more than ever in this industry; charisma and a good sense of personal style are key to bagging a job nowadays.
If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be and why?
MORE BROWN GIRLS!
What are your thoughts on the current political/economic climate?
PLAGUE OF PARADOXES.
What do we need more/less of tomorrow?
We need deeper thinking and more questioning. We need to read full length books more often and literally, STOP and smell the roses, and the rosemary, and the lavender. Trust me they smell really good!