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Whitney Peak is ushering in a new dawn for Coco Mademoiselle

Congratulations on being the new face of COCO MADEMOISELLE. This is a big deal and a huge moment for you. Entering a new dawn of COCO MADEMOISELLE after Keira Knightley, what does this role mean to you?

It’s hard to put how I feel into words! It’s fantastic, so huge that I can’t really wrap my head around it. I feel grateful and extremely lucky to be here and to be in this position. It’s a huge deal, and I’m nervous, excited and anxious all at the same time. CHANEL is a loved brand, and COCO MADEMOISELLE is a beautiful perfume. To be chosen as its new face...

I feel very proud and empowered!

The young Gabrielle Chanel is known for shifting the narrative on what it meant to be a woman then, and people respect her for being an innovator and icon who changed the world of fashion and beauty. How do you relate to the woman she was then, and what does it mean to be a woman in 2023?

The times are very different; however, I can relate to her morals and values. She was more fashion-driven, an innovator and hyper-focused on individuality, and I’m more of an entertainer. Despite those differences, our values and goals align.

As the face of COCO MADEMOISELLE, a fragrance so many women worldwide cherish and have passed on from generation to generation, care to share any special memories you associate with the scent?

Before I started working with the CHANEL brand, I was shopping for a gift for my mom, and I went to this department store where they had everything under the sun. In the perfume section, I smelled COCO MADEMOISELLE. The packaging was so cute, and I wanted the perfume for myself. I got it for my mom because I wanted to be able to use it too. I figured that if she had it, it’d be a gift for me. That was my first encounter with COCO MADEMOISELLE, and years later, here we are.

Photography by Cass Bird

At 20 years old, you’ve achieved so much in the competitive world of showbiz. What drives you when it comes to your career and goals?

My family drives me. I receive so much gratitude, love and respect from my family, and I appreciate everything they’ve done to get me where I am today. My priority is ensuring they’re taken care of, whatever that means. I’ve been lucky to get this far in my career, so all I can do is push myself and work harder to continue and, hopefully, do this for as long as I can with my family as my motivator.

Success like yours can come with unwanted attention and bullying, particularly online. How do you manage success and fame?

You must have a certain degree of empathy and rationale to be in this industry. You must take everything at face value and understand why people say things online. It’s not always ill-intended – it can also be a naive or thoughtless opinion. Understand that it’s not really about you, that there’s always something going on, something else is in the air, or it could just be someone else’s opinion. You don’t have to respond or let it affect you unless you give it the power to do so. I’ve learned a lot from high school and not to take everything too seriously. Words are people, let’s not get that twisted, but you can choose how to react to certain things and how much power they have over you, particularly on social media.

You relocated from Uganda to Canada at a young age. How much of your life as a young girl living in Kampala do you remember? And what cultural influences, if any, do you incorporate into your life now?

I grew up with a very, very strict idea of discipline and what respect means, which carried into my life. With my siblings, also raised in Uganda, I share a mutual understanding of morals and respecting your elders. We learned to be nice to people, be disciplined and independent, look after ourselves, and to put our family first. I miss Ugandan food.

I recently visited Senegal and ate everything they put in front of me... the passion fruit was so fresh and juicy.

How would you describe your style, and what excites you about the fashion world?

More than anything, I’m excited about trying diff erent things. When I first started in the industry, doing interviews, I’d describe my style as “sort of tomboyish”. And that’s who I was at the time. I wore baggy jeans, and Aaliyah was my style icon. Now, I feel the way I dress is more of a balance between traditionally masculine and feminine: big ’80s shoulder pads and New York school teacher vibes. I love colour, and I’m obsessed with brooches and having fun with silhouettes... There’s so much to try out here if you let yourself go and allow yourself to make fashion mistakes.

You must get a lot of requests from brands and businesses wanting to collaborate or partner with you. How do you decide on the brands with whom you want to partner?

In the beginning, when CHANEL was one of the fi rst brands to reach out to me, we did the first year of ambassadorship, and I didn’t know it’d go further at the time. I fell in love with the CHANEL community when I met them in New York and Paris. They have a strong sense of community and family, which has always been important to me. We all take care of each other, and everyone’s so kind, and we have fun together... There’s always time to work and play. Plus, I get to go to Paris!

They say the younger generation, or Gen Z, are driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and independence. How do you balance work and life?

I definitely put work fi rst, and I really love working. When I have free time, I feel lost, don’t know what to do with myself and get bored.It’s just as important to maximise your alone time and do everything you need to be prepared and ready for whatever comes your way. And learn how to say no and that it’s OK to say no. You don’t always have to be outside or outgoing or put yourself in situations where you feel indebted to others because you’ll go home and deal with everything you’re trying to push down or ignore. It’s also vital to do the work, but take time for yourself and remember that using fun as a distraction is never a good idea.

You’ve achieved so much at the tender age of 20, including being the face of COCO MADEMOISELLE. What advice would you give young women inspired by your outlook on business, life and self-worth?

Pressure is a very big thing! Looking back at how I started and fell into acting, it all feels like one thing happened, and everything started to flow. At the time, I was attending school and thought I’d be a lawyer. I thought acting was a fun thing I could do on the side, but then I really learned to love it and just let everything happen. Whatever you’re doing, ensure you’re

feeding all parts of your soul and mind, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. To quote Maya Angelou: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”

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