Bianca Jasmine Cook

LOCATION: Huntington Beach, California

IG HANDLE: @biancajasmine

We would like to kick-off our interview series with model, actress, and new mom, Bianca Jasmine Cook. I had the pleasure of meeting Bianca back in 2014 through our husbands who were then colleagues at Ralph Lauren. In addition to this, Bianca and her husband, Bryson, were models in our book and have remained one of our favorite couple friends. Bianca and Bryson have been living abroad in Panama for the last 5 years and now split their time between Panama and Huntington Beach, California. We connected with Bianca to discuss all things modeling, motherhood and self-care.

S:

How and when did you begin your modeling career?

BJC:

I was introduced to my first agency by George Lucas when I was 17. He said it was a good way to be independent and pay for college and he was right. I haven’t worked for anyone else since then.

S:

What was your inspiration for becoming a model?

BJC:

I couldn’t wait to see the world after I graduated from USC and modeling gave me the opportunity to do that. I spent most of my life traveling up until I had my son 6 months ago.

S:

Was there anyone who inspired you to begin modeling?

BJC:

My mom was a model before she became an attorney. I loved flipping through her portfolio and watching her get dressed up as a kid. She didn’t want me to be a model because of all the racism she experienced as a dark skin WOC but I guess it didn’t work.

S:

As a model and actress how do you maintain a positive body image?

BJC:

I practice self-love and positive self-talk. That means I have a positive perception of my body shape whether I workout or not. I feel confident naked and have a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

S:

Are there / were there any challenges with being a woman of color (WOC) in the modeling industry? If so, please describe.

BJC:

Most of the challenges I encounter have nothing to do with me. The industry suffers from colorism, ageism and body distortion. Other people worry about whether my hair is too big, skin too light or dark, body too skinny or big. A major black magazine pulled my editorial spread because they said I looked too white. A major white publication called my agency saying I stole a necklace they later found. A major white designer pulled me from their primarily white runway lineup. Their insecurity has nothing to do with me. Our industry is very tight knit and I like to drop seeds wherever I can advocating for more people of color on the board as well as age, body and gender inclusivity. It feels like a win when I see some of the models I’ve introduced to my agency go on to book major shows and campaigns in New York and Paris.

S:

Are there any WOC in the industry that served as inspiration when you began your career?

BJC:

I’ve always wanted to be an actress and Regina King and Thandie Newton have always inspired me. I love watching them on and off the screen. They have this magnetic energy and ability to change in every role. And they’re absolutely beautiful. I hope to work with them one day.

S:

What is your advice for a young (black/brown) girl who is looking to start a modeling career?

BJC:

Don’t be afraid to tell your agency how you envision yourself. It’s your career so make sure you’re on the same page. How do you want to be pitched to clients? What type of clients do you want to work for? Once you get to a certain level, negotiate the rates you want. Ask your white girlfriends how much they’re getting paid.

S:

If you were not a model and actress, what would you be?

BJC:

An attorney fighting for black and brown rights, citizens and immigrants. I volunteer at my mom’s immigration law firm and as a Spanish translator in jails for immigrants. Why do I volunteer? For social justice. I want to make a positive impact on the lives of undocumented immigrants fleeing their country from persecution. I want to be the calming black face they see when they get their green card.

S:

To date, what has been your greatest achievement?

BJC:

My son, Monarch. We prayed him up into existence.

S:

You’re a new mom, do you feel like motherhood has changed you?

BJC:

I believe that being a mother is the best and most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. I tried for years to cut negative self-talk, toxic friends, and poor eating habits out of my life. But it wasn’t until I found out that I was pregnant with Monarch that I was able to break my unhealthy habits. And now that he’s here, my priorities have definitely changed. A lot of the choices I make are for him, to protect him. And now I only have so much energy and time in the day to myself, I let go of being perfect.
‘‘
Most of the challenges I encounter have nothing to do with me. The industry suffers from colorism, ageism and body distortion. Other people worry about whether my hair is too big, skin too light or dark, body too skinny or big.  
’’

S:

How do you find time to manage a career and motherhood?

BJC:

My husband and I are both in the industry and our schedules are pretty unpredictable. We arrange our work schedules almost on a daily basis and make sure Monarch is covered no matter what potholes come up. Since quarantine, we’ve had a little bit more control over our work lives by using our in-home studio.

S:

What has been the best advice that you have received since becoming a mom?

BJC:

It’s actually something I read from Miriam Amina. She wrote, “Trusting and treating children as elders feels like radical unschooling for my mind.” That hit me from deep within. I’ve learned so much from Monarch in the short time he’s been here on this planet.

S:

What’s your morning routine during pandemic?

BJC:

I like to wake early in the morning and make jasmine or matcha green tea, eat my homemade chia seed pudding, draw a bubble bath and spend at least 15 minutes writing in my spiritual journal.

S:

Do you have a self-care routine? If so, what is included?

BJC:

I love laughter, yoga with my baby and hubby, making slow-cooked meals, virtual fitness classes and enjoying steaming, hot baths with milky bath bombs.

S:

The (clean) beauty product I can’t live without (and why?)

BJC:

Any product by Sumbody. I love their Goat Milk Cleanser and I’m hooked on their delicious Milky Rich Whipped Salt Scrubs.

S:

When I want to de-stress

BJC:

Cuddles from my husband and son are my medicine. My hubby also gives the best deep tissue massages.

S:

Right now, I am reading

BJC:

A children’s books to my son. We love the Little People, BIG DREAMS series.

S:

I show love for myself by

BJC:

Connecting with positive people, spending time on our rooftop and creating lens-based art like photography and acting.

S:

The best wellness / self-care advice I received from an elder (mother, grandmother, etc.) was

BJC:

“If you’re going to be bad, be bad all the way. Enjoy the wine and decadent cookies.”

S:

For movement / exercise, I enjoy

BJC:

Hot yoga but because we can’t do that, virtual fitness classes have been hitting the spot.

S:

When no one is watching, I dance to

BJC:

Megan Thee Stallion, Beyoncé or Princess Nokia.

S:

Favorite home remedy

BJC:

My husband’s lemon juice, cayenne, apple cider vinegar with honey concoction. It boosts my immune system and gets rid of flu-like symptoms.

S:

Favorite smoothie ingredients

BJC:

I love my avocado, banana and coconut water smoothie. It’s so tasty and great for skin.

S:

Supplements I take

BJC:

I took prenatal vitamins for two years. Now I’m looking at new vitamins like [the brand] Ritual to replace them.

S:

Where is your favorite place to relax?

BJC:

Under a palm tree, in the shade, preferably in Panamá. Right now I’m getting Vitamin D from our rooftop at home.

S:

I laugh every time I watch the movie

BJC:

“Little,” with Marsai Martin, Regina Hall and Issa Rae.

S:

The sound of _____________ soothes me

BJC:

My baby cooing always

S:

Either in your home or elsewhere, where is your Sanctuaire (sanctuary) for peace and well-being?

BJC:

Right now during quarantine, it’s with our baby sandwiched between my husband and I. I can’t wait to do the same thing with them on a beach soon.

S:

The best part of quarantine has been

BJC:

Seeing my baby grow up. Right before shelter-in-place, I was gearing up to film a Disney tv pilot but quarantine forced us all to go inside and concentrate on our well-being. It gave me the maternity leave I never had and I was able to see Monarch grow from being a newborn baby into an infant.

S:

The toughest part of quarantine has been

BJC:

not seeing our other family members and friends.

S:

What has proven to be a source of joy during this pandemic?

BJC:

Seeing the shift in people’s consciousness. Essential workers and medical professionals are finally being recognized as the real heroes. I’ve also made a conscious decision to shop small and local [businesses].

S:

Have you recognized any silver linings during this time?

BJC:

Staying in has allowed us the time and space to create art. We’ve finished more projects and zoom acting classes than we ever had living in New York.

S:

Have you learned anything about yourself while in quarantine? If so, what?

BJC:

I love to cook and share recipes. I didn’t realize how much I was cheating myself pre-COVID 19 by always ordering out.

S:

What are you most grateful for?

BJC:

The simple things. My family and our health.

Our Self-Care Selects