Gen V: Malika Louback

Gen V: Malika Louback

GEN V

Gen V: Malika Louback

Brains and beauty are an understatement when it comes to the Djiboutian model and engineer whose sights are set on success

Brains and beauty are an understatement when it comes to the Djiboutian model and engineer whose sights are set on success

Photography: Richard Burbridge

Styling: Davey Sutton

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Dania Curvy

This cover story appears in V137, The Gen V Issue: available to order now!

Brains and beauty are an understatement when it comes to the 27-year-old Djiboutian model, Malika Louback. Settling into her increasingly busy three-year modeling tenure and with six years of engineer training under her belt, the atypical career compound makes perfect sense to Louback. “I have tried many times to visualize a more linear life without all the facets and complexities of my career choices,” says Louback. “As a model, [I would miss] the access to all the beautiful and creative personalities and all the cultural mix that creates super enriching interactions. As an engineer, I would be missing all the scientific knowledge and work methodologies. It allows me to understand and adapt myself to this constantly evolving world.”

Malika wears Valentino

Though her dual careers account for equal major parts of Louback’s identity, her mission is far greater. “Every day my origins are omnipresent in my expressions, my way of being or behaving,” emphasizes Louback on Djibouti representation. Born in Djibouti, a small country located on the Horn of Africa, Louback currently resides in Paris, and as she embarks on this chapter of her life, it is not without challenges. “I have already been confronted with several challenging situations as a Black woman, as a Black woman engineer, and a Black model but all these events have finally had a very positive impact on me,” she explains. “I have turned all these criticisms and challenges into fuel for my engine.”

Below, discover an extended Q+A with Malika Louback!

VMAGAZINE: When you first set out to start your career path to be an engineer, what were your goal projects, and since taking on modeling as well, have those goals shifted?

MALIKA LOUBACK: Even as a child, my goal was already to be an engineer. I was really fascinated by the knowledge on all types of subjects that my father, an engineer himself, shared with me. I was in admiration of his ability to understand any living or man-made subject. Afterward, I chose to do a general degree in materials science engineering to have access to a larger scope of activity. Currently, my goal is to develop my own business in Djibouti to enhance the bond I have with my country and participate in its development. Thanks to the universe, even if my modeling career takes me a lot of time, it also allows me to concretize my project more rapidly. Nothing has shifted, I think everything has simply evolved. In the fashion industry, I have access to infinite creative worlds and I can create new connections. These are also very important for my personal and professional goals.

V: An engineer-turned-model is a unique dual-occupation. We have seen the trajectory of your modeling career unfold before the public, are there any projects in the realm of engineering you are currently working on?

ML: When I started modeling, everything was really new and fascinating for me. That's why I devoted a lot of my time and attention to it. I call this period “ the full immersion ”. Today I have managed to find a balance in both careers. Whenever I have time between jobs I work on a project that I would like to develop in Djibouti. For the moment, I prefer to remain discreet about my ideas. I like to talk about my projects once they are finished. I aspire to offer a concept that is new and very natural in the Djiboutian landscape.

V: You said in an interview that you submitted your modeling application shortly after you graduated. Why was it important that you finished your degree first?

ML: During my studies, I had to understand many notions from mechanics, electrochemistry, and thermodynamics. I was interested in everything, some classes more than others of course, but I wanted to be focused on what I was doing. I always worked by setting priorities. When I left Djibouti, my priority was to be an engineer in a specialty that I was passionate about and in which I projected myself. That is why I absolutely wanted to finish my studies before starting anything else.

V: You’ve spoken about the synergy between engineering and modeling, as a compound that makes you complete. How do you think your outlook, mindset, or life would differ if you had solely chosen either career path over the other. What would be missing?

ML: I have tried many times to visualize a more linear life without all the facets and complexities of my career choices. Honestly, it's a situation I've never been able to project myself into. My choices and my state of mind have always led me to navigate different horizons. After 3 years in modeling and 6 years of training to be an engineer I think what I would miss is: As a model, the access to all the beautiful and creative personalities. All the cultural mix creates super enriching interactions. As an engineer, all the scientific knowledge and work methodologies. It allows me to understand and adapt myself to this constantly evolving world.

V: By walking some of the biggest shows for upcoming seasonal trends, what are you most excited about for Fall 2022?

ML: Absolutely everything! Seeing my favorite designers, previewing the collections but especially wearing them. Celebrating months of work in a shot of adrenaline and 15 minutes of a fashion show. Having laughs of joy or fatigue with the other models. I am excited to live all these moments and share them.

Malika wears jewelry Chanel, On eyes Make Up For Ever Artist Color Eye Shadow in M-853, On skin Fenty Beauty Body Lava Body Luminizer in Who Needs Clothes?!, On hair Maui Moisture Heal & Hydrate + Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioning Mist

V: Can you describe your personal style?

ML: I have such changing styles that I can't pick one in particular. I like beautiful materials with timeless cuts. I usually keep my outfits simple with details directly related to my mood and always a few drops of perfume to stimulate another sense.

V: What are some of your most treasured pieces? Why?

ML: My favorite jacket is a Yves Saint Laurent man that my grandfather has given me. He must have worn it in the ‘80s. It is very large on me but I love everything about this jacket and feel divine inside. My second favorite piece is a gold necklace made from all my childhood jewelry. It has a very thin pendant with my name written in Arabic. I wear it every day and I love how it shows off my neck. And finally, my must-have pair of classic converse. No comment.

V: You’ve spoken about the significance to represent your hometown country Djibouti within the industry of fashion as it pertains to diversity. Do you think diversity– since you’ve entered the scene– has shifted in any way?

ML: This industry has been around for decades, it's been almost 3 years since I started this adventure and covid arrived only one year after. It was very difficult for me to see a change in an industry that had to adapt to new ways of working and functioning because of a pandemic. If we go back in time, we can see that throughout history the industry has evolved for the better and in an inclusive way. However, even today we have to face ignorance and profound human stupidity. To answer your question, I don't think diversity has shifted but there is a very slow positive evolution.

V: As a Black model and engineer, what do you hope for as it pertains to inclusion in both the fashion industry and in all sectors of business for women of color? Have there been any challenges you’ve had to face in particular?

ML: I have already been confronted with several challenging situations as a black woman, as a black woman engineer, or a black model but all these events have finally had a very positive impact on me. As an engineer, I worked in a very male-dominated field. I was always asked to prove more in my work or not to disturb my male colleagues just by my presence which is ludicrous. I have turned all these criticisms and challenges into fuel for my engine. I like to make unhealthy situations turn into a healthy evolution for me. Finally, I surpass myself, I am proud of the person I am becoming, and I accept that these opinions do not define me.

V: Residing in Paris, by way of Djibouti, how do you incorporate your roots into your Parisian lifestyle?

ML: I adapt my cultural roots to the Parisian lifestyle. Every day, my origins are omnipresent in my expressions, my way of being or behaving. Sometimes I wear traditional Djiboutian attire. It's funny to see that pajamas in my country can be considered an elegant dress in Europe. The human kindness and the presence that my elders have transmitted to me are in my lifestyle.

V: As someone who has mastered the art of successfully chasing their dreams; what advice would you give to someone who chose a specific path, and yet still yearns to also be involved in a completely different industry?

ML: My advice would be: Go for it with your whole being! We are our own limits. Dreams are easy to make but hard to achieve. If you feel that you can be happy and successful in different industries, manifest it, visualize it, and educate yourself on it. Work on yourself for yourself, and you will create your path to achieve these dreams. With my experience, I’ve learned that work always pays. Also if you feel you have to force things sometimes you have to adjust the trajectory of your dreams. That’s life.

V: Self-love and authenticity are something you’ve emphasized to be of utmost importance. What did the journey look like to be able to get to that point?

ML: I'm still on this journey, it's something you have to cultivate every day. At a very young age, I felt atypical. The world around me, and especially [other] children, did not understand or accept it too much. I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving home with parents who always made me understand and accept my differences. Afterward, I evolved into telling myself that I was my best ally, that I had to accept and love myself in all stages of my life. Over the years, this has become not just a state of mind but my philosophy of life. Love brought me to this beautiful planet, I am filled with it and I only wish to share it around me. Today, I grow in my life by staying true to myself and at peace with my environment.

This cover story appears in V137, available to order now

Credits:
Fashion Direction Nicola Formichetti and  Hunter Clem, Hair (Iris, Kid, Malika) Nikki Nelms (Jess Moloney MGMT) for Maui Moisture, Hair (Shygirl, Sky) Nikki Nelms (Jess Moloney MGMT) for RED by Kiss, Hair (Charli, Eartheater, Rina) Nikki Nelms (Jess Moloney MGMT) for Goody Hair, Hair (Evan) Ashley Stewart, Makeup Raisa Flowers (EDMA), Manicure (Iris, Shygirl, Evan, Sky) Leanne Woodley, Manicure (Charli, Kid, Malika, Rina, Eartheater) Jin Soon Choi (Home Agency), Digital technician Nick Barr, Photo assistants Peter Siskos, Jesse Allan, Stylist Assistant Emma V. Oleck, Makeup assistant Eunice Kristen, Hair assistants Ashley Stewart, Trisha Johnson

UP NEXT

Gen V: Iris Law
Get to know the it-girl of the moment as she discusses fashion, acting in FX's Pistol, and zodiac signs.