Home » Queen of the Castle: Jourdan Dunn is our Best of British cover star

Queen of the Castle: Jourdan Dunn is our Best of British cover star

Striding over the rocky beach beside the Castle of Mey, tall and willowy, her black Balenciaga cape billowing behind her, Jourdan Dunn looks elemental, as if she had sprung, goddess-like from the harshly beautiful landscape. When debating who could hold the cover of our annual Best of British issue, Dunn immediately came to mind. Her track record is undeniable: she starred in the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, has been crowned Model of the Year numerous times (including at Bazaar’s 2013 Women of the Year awards), she has walked for every notable designer, fronted campaigns for brands such as Burberry and Yves Saint Laurent, and has also been celebrated for her philanthropy and activism.

But I wondered whether she might jib at the privations of our shoot at the Queen Mother’s former castle, which entailed travelling to the far north of Britain – almost to John O’Groats – and shooting outside, with several enormous wolfhounds, on a bitterly cold day.

Richard Phibbs

Coat, socks and sandals, all Prada; earrings and rings, Van Cleef & Arpels

preview for Inside my beauty bag: Jourdan Dunn

As our pictures show, I need not have worried. “The place was so beautiful!” she says enthusiastically when we meet in Bloomsbury. “All seals, and water, and sands – it was a wonderful escape. I understand the attraction, to be so far away from everybody. My gran loved the Queen Mother – they shared the same birthday – so this would probably have been her proudest thing.” And the dogs? “I’m used to dogs,” she says. “They had such a nice energy, they came to me and they didn’t intimidate me in any way.” Altogether, when it comes to fashion shoots, despite her supermodel status, her philosophy is to “soldier it out with everybody”, she says. “I’m down for the cause, whatever it is. I love the art of it all, and the creative process. Everyone has a role, and mine is to be the muse, and to do whatever you want to create an iconic image.”

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Roksanda; ring, Van Cleef & Arpels

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Erdem; earrings, braclets and rings, Van Cleef & Arpels

It is fair to say that Dunn’s feelings about modelling have not always been so positive. After being scouted in Hammersmith’s Primark at 15, she says she had a “love/hate relationship” with the industry. “I looked at it as something that had taken me away from enjoying my teens, even though no one forced me to do it,” she says. “I guess I didn’t feel confident in myself. I had low self-esteem about my body – I was tall and lanky. Things happened quite quickly for me, but I wasn’t really able to enjoy my success.” Pregnancy at 18 also impacted her career, although her mother stepped in to take care of her son Riley while Dunn was travelling for work. “I have an amazing support system with my mum and his dad,” she says now.

richard phibbs

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Chopova Lowena; shirt, With Nothing Underneath; earrings, Van Cleef & Arpels; boots, Dear Frances

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Coat and matching scarf, Stella McCartney; earrings, Van Cleef & Arpels; boots, Dear Frances

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Jumper, Louis Vuitton; necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels

During the pandemic, Dunn began working with a life coach, which seems to have been something of a watershed for her. “It helped me to realise what my purpose is and what my passions are. I love beauty, I love art and that’s what the fashion industry does. I never used to believe I was creative, but my life coach said, ‘You’re creating all the time!’ So I’m starting to feel the love for fashion again. Now that I’m much more confident in my body and myself, I feel worthy to be there among all the other girls. I don’t want to hide in a corner away from everybody.

“Now that I’m more confident in my body and myself, I don’t want to hide in a corner”

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Richard Quinn; earrings, bracelet and rings, Van Cleef & Arpels; gloves, Paula Rowan

“Even getting this cover –” she breaks off and wipes her eyes, apologising. “I feel a bit emotional about it. Three years ago, I’d have thought, ‘Why would I get that?’ This time, that little voice did try to pipe up, and I was like: why wouldn’t I be best of British? I’ve learnt to quieten those doubts.”

Indeed, at 33, Dunn is riding high. Having made her acting debut in the 2022 ITVX drama Riches, she’s now working with a coach to perfect her American accent. “I’m starting with the alphabet and certain words to get my tongue around pronouncing things. It’s just to have another skill in my toolkit for when those roles come through.”

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Coat and matching skirt, Chanel; selection of jewellery, all Van Cleef & Arpels

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Simone Rocha; earrings and necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels; gloves, Paula Rowan

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Giorgio Armani; earrings, Van Cleef & Arpels

And then there’s her plan to start her own brand, hot on the heels of her online cookery show, Well Dunn, in which she prepared meals with fellow supers including Cara Delevingne. “I want to be the UK’s Black Martha Stewart,” she says. “That’s the next step to building an empire and creating generational wealth, and having the Dunn name live on past me.” What does she plan to sell? “Riley and I are fanatics about hot sauce, we’re always on a search to find the spiciest, so from condiments and seasonings, to cutlery and potware – that’s my next plan. I’ve got my moodboard together, now it’s about talking to people who can make it happen.” In five years’ time, she also wants to open her own gastropub. “I do like the idea of a Caribbean/British combination. I’d love to create that space for other people to come in and enjoy amazing food and a great vibe, that’s the end goal. If you have a desire, why not make it happen? I’m just going to go for it. And I want to be a good example to Riley not to limit himself. Especially because he already feels limited.”

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Jumper, skirt and loafers, all Gucci; earrings, bracelets and rings, Van Cleef & Arpels; socks, Falke

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Dress, Gabriela Hearst

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Jacket, Ralph Lauren; jumper, Brora; skirt, Graeme Bone Fashion; necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels; socks, Pantherella; brogues, Grenson

Riley suffers from sickle-cell disease, which has necessitated hospital stays and blood transfusions, and Dunn has campaigned for years to raise awareness of the condition. “He doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it with his friends or his teachers, and that makes me even more ambitious to get it to a point where it’s just the norm – it shouldn’t be that teachers aren’t aware of it,” she says.

This year, Riley will turn 15 – the same age Dunn was when she shot to fame – but, though she says she’d be supportive if he wanted to model, his ambitions lie elsewhere. (Even supermodel mothers are an embarrassment to their offspring, it seems: “If I know a meme or a certain phrase, or a dance on TikTok, he’ll be like: ‘Mum, what are you doing? Why are you saying that?'”) And would she like more children? “I’d love a big family – I’ve got three siblings and we’re all very close. Riley has siblings on his dad’s side already, but I’d also like to give him some. I know he would be excited. He was saying the other day, ‘Mum, you’re going to have to hurry up!'”

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Blazer, shirt and jeans, all Loewe; boots, Dear Frances; earrings, Van Cleef & Arpels

Meanwhile, Dunn has plenty to be going on with; indeed, after our meeting, she’s got to go home to West London to pack for another fashion shoot. “It’s so great to work with new people,” she says happily. “The teen Jourdan in me is saying: ‘Wow! We get to do this? We’re shooting a Harper’s Bazaar cover?’ I am so excited about my life right now.” The feeling’s mutual.

jourdan dunn

Richard Phibbs

Blazer, matching waistcoat, trousers and shirt, all Dior; necklace and bracelets, Van Cleef & Arpels; boots, Dear Frances

jourdan dunn best of british june issue

Richard Phibbs

Jourdan Dunn wears Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels on the June issue cover, out now

Photographs by Richard Phibbs, styling by Cathy Kasterine. The ‘Best of British’ June issue is out now.