Zuri Tibby is living the American dream. Discovered at a mall in Florida, the 20-year-old — who turns 21 on Sept. 1 — is the new face of Victoria’s Secret Pink. The West Palm Beach native will join fellow model Rachel Hilbert in upcoming Victoria’s Secret Pink campaigns and at future events for the brand, Yahoo Style has exclusively learned. The two women are in good company. Previous VS Pink superstars Alessandra Ambrosio, Behati Prinsloo, and Elsa Hosk have since earned their wings as VS Angels.
“It’s an honor — especially to be following in the footsteps of such amazing women,” says Tibby. “I’ve always looked up to them. They’re beautiful women who do great things. To be in that same category feels amazing.” And Tibby, who already has more than 18,000 Instagram followers, is ready for the spotlight and is still pinching herself over the news. “I’m still in shock and in awe. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away,” she says. “It means a lot to me. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m representing a brand that’s really cool.”
We caught up with the 5-foot-10 beauty, who told us what it was like being discovered while shopping, why Jonah Hill is her celeb crush, and what it was like working with Rihanna on her Stance campaign.
Yahoo Style: Congratulations on being the new face of VS Pink. How did you learn the news?
Zuri Tibby: I learned the news through my agent. He called me in. I had no idea about it. He told me very casually. I didn’t know if it was a joke or what. It was so surreal because I’ve been wanting it for such a long time. As soon as I found out, I FaceTimed my mom. That was the first thing I did. She freaked out. She was screaming. She was at work. We were all so happy. It’s one of my favorite memories to date.
What did your friends say when they found out?
I have a lot of friends who are models, and they’re super-excited. And some of my friends from back home are obviously so excited as well. Everyone is happy for me. I keep in contact with a lot of people from my high school. It’s really fun.
Does this mean you’ll be walking in the Victoria’s Secret show in November? Are you ready to wear wings?
That’s always been a really big dream of mine. But we’ll see. Stay tuned. As soon as I find out, you’ll find out too.
How did you become a model?
I was discovered when I was really young. I was 15. I was walking around the mall after work and [someone from my now] agency came up to me. They were kinda following me around a little bit. I was a little scared and shy when they came up to me and gave me their card. I’d never been approached and asked to model before, so it was a shock. They gave me their card, and we set up a meeting. Everything happened from there.
What was your mom’s initial reaction when you told her you were approached?
She was, of course, a skeptical parent, trying to look out for me. But she was super-supportive, and she still is now. I’m thankful for that.
You mentioned you’d just left work. What were you doing before you were discovered?
I was working at a kids’ playground. The place that I worked at also had food and stuff. They had a little café. But the rules were you had to wear socks [inside the café], so my funniest memory of it is chasing people, making sure they were wearing socks at all times. I would chase them with socks in my hands — trying to give socks to people. I worked there for probably two months during the summer.
I’m assuming you haven’t looked back since. Did you always have modeling aspirations? Or is the whole thing a fluke?
I had dreamed of being a model, but I wasn’t expecting it at that time because I was still in school. That wasn’t really the first thing on my mind, but when it happened, I was super for it.
What was your first major modeling job?
My first job was for Teen Vogue, and I was super-nervous. My mom actually came with me to set and to New York. It was a good experience. I’d never experienced anything like that before — the whole production and hair and makeup. I loved it from that first shoot.
How did your life change from that moment on?
I would fly back and forth from Florida, where I’m from, to New York. I would go to castings and I would learn more and more about the business in developing as a model. I started to grow into it and learn more about it. I’m still learning.
Who are some icons you admire?
In the modeling industry? I really, really look up to Naomi Campbell — of course. She’s, like, amazing. I also look up to Jasmine Tookes. She’s been one of my favorite, favorite girls forever. She’s so nice. I worked with her back in 2012, and she’s still my favorite Angel. Beyond modeling, I love Rihanna — her style, everything about her.
Speaking of, you modeled in a series of promotional campaign images for Rihanna’s Stance line. What was that like?
She is the coolest person I have ever met. She lights up a room. She’s totally down-to-earth. She’s funny. She’s professional. She was on time. She had the coolest personality ever. She was taking selfies. She was dancing. I love Rihanna.
As a model who often wears bathing suits and/or lingerie, what kind of pressure do you feel to stay in shape? Is it nerve-racking to pose in so little?
Working with the same team for such a long time has definitely helped. I think that [it’s a matter of] staying balanced. I’ve always been very active and fit. That helps. I used to run track back in middle school.
What does your routine consist of these days?
I Rollerblade a lot. I’m always looking for classes to do. I like barre class. Anything that has to do with getting my heart going, I love it.
I understand you enjoy cooking. What’s your specialty?
I was always around my grandmother, and she’s an amazing cook. I watched her and I started making what she would make, but I would tweak [her recipes] a little bit and made them my own. I really like cooking vegan recipes. I don’t know why, but I think it’s awesome to make things without a lot of ingredients. My favorite thing to make is this two-ingredient pancake. It’s banana and almond milk. It’s the yummiest thing ever.
Are you actually vegan yourself?
I’m not vegan. I try to maybe have like one or two meals that are. But I think it’s interesting to cook without certain things that people think you need.
What’s something else people would be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know that I actually never sleep. I am always up by 7 or 7:30. By choice. I never take naps. I think sleeping is a waste of time. I’d rather be out doing something. If I take a nap, I’ll wake up and feel so confused. I rarely take naps. Maybe twice a year. I try to get six [hours of sleep a night], but I’m always up by 7 or 7:30. No matter what. I don’t even have to set alarms for work anymore. I’m up, have a cup of coffee. I’ll maybe work out. Or maybe I’ll watch [TV]. I like to watch cartoons in the morning, and that’s the only time that they’re on.
VS models seem to always meet the coolest people. Who is your celebrity crush?
My celebrity crush is definitely Jonah Hill. I think when I first saw him in Superbad, that was when I was like, “Oh my gosh. I love him.” I know it’s funny, but it’s true.
If you met, would you get starstruck? Do you ever get starstruck?
I do get starstruck. When I first saw Rihanna, I was incredibly starstruck, but I try not to be.
What’s the biggest misconception people seem to have about models?
I think the biggest misconception people have about models is that … we’re all very lucky to be able to do this job. But people don’t realize the work that goes into it. It is a job. It is hard. It is tough. Just like any other job — there are hard days, there are good days, there are bad days. It’s not just one big party. There’s a lot of hard work, and there’s a team behind it. I have a lot of hardworking people behind me — my agent and a lot of other people at my agency, my family. It’s something that you have to put work into every day.
You’ve clearly got a great gig. But what would be your ultimate goal from here?
I would love to maybe start a cosmetics line because I’m so into makeup. I have a YouTube channel. I do makeup tutorials. I love makeup — anything with that.
One of the Victoria Secret Pink photos that you posed for features you wearing a tank top that says “American Dream.” In what way are you living the American dream yourself?
I feel like I’m living the American dream because I am able to live in one of the best cities — New York City. It’s my favorite city. I’m able to do a dream job. I love getting up in the morning and saying I love what I do. That’s my version of the American dream.