The placid window of a nondescript storefront in downtown Brooklyn reflects the day: Silhouettes of bony tree branches strain toward a blue, cloudless sky while pedestrians hurry past wearing hats and gloves, clutching steaming Styrofoam cups. The city and its locals ache for spring, no one more so than Selita Ebanks, who—dressed in silvery hotpants and a bra—is pressing her bare legs against the icy shop window.
“If I would have known I’d be humping a window I would have brought a bodyguard!” Ebanks says, laughing. But she isn’t flustered: Ten years into her career, during which she has graced the pages of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition, been named one of People’s Most Beautiful People and landed a gig as a Victoria’s Secret Angel—to say nothing of a childhood spent growing up with seven brothers in the Cayman Islands—she is unflappable.
“I had to earn my wings,” she says later, between bites of cheesecake at well-known Brooklyn diner Junior’s. “As the only black Angel, I learned to become a brand. It’s unfortunate that there’s only ever been one black girl at a time, but it means I have to represent something bigger than myself.”
This year, Ebanks announced that she would not renew her contract with the lingerie empire, opting instead to participate in the current season of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. She was unphased to compete against Rod Blagojevich, the corrupt former governor of Illinois, and notorious ball-buster Sharon Osbourne. “There were people I’ve worked with as a model who made you want to choke a bitch and throw her down the stairs,” Ebanks says. “I never let them get to me. I let people step in their own shit.”
The Donald, however, did get under Ebanks’ perfect skin. “It took a lot to keep me from jumping over the table and ripping out his little hairs at some points,” she says. “I had to remind myself that it was just a TV show, but I had bruises from the competitions and bags under my eyes.” And if there’s one truth Ebanks has learned from her life in fashion, it’s this: “I can’t be wearing Balmain with bags under my eyes.”
For video from the BlackBook photoshoot with Ebanks, click here.
Photography by Blair Getz Mezibov. Styling by Chrisopher Campbell.