Rebecca Longendyke chose not to fly to Europe for the shows this season. “I walked three shows in New York,” she says. “My agent said it was fine to take a break, so I went upstate instead.” A certain level of success affords you that luxury, and at the ripe age of 26, the freckled-faced model has already seemingly achieved it. As one of the most coveted and stunning women in the industry—both domestically and internationally—Longendyke has appeared on over 16 glossy magazine covers (including this one) and served as the face of 40-plus ad campaigns, including Chanel, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.
A career in modeling wasn’t originally part of Longendyke’s plan. Born in Hurley, New York, a small town east of the Hudson Valley, she was discovered over Facebook, after being pressed to consider modeling for over five years. “It is true,” she confirms. “My agency, Model Partner, sent me a message via Facebook. The owners asked if I thought about modeling and linked me to their website, as this was before Instagram. I talked it over with my parents, and we agreed to meet at a diner in my hometown. That was when I was a shy 15-year-old and the whole thing seemed a bit daunting. We stayed in touch over many years and eventually I decided to give it a try.”
It was one hell of a try. Longendyke’s foray into the fashion world catapulted her to top model status in less time than it takes to earn a PhD. Breaking a common misconception about fashion’s obsession with youth, Longendyke started her career “late” at 21 years old. “Most people assume you have to start modeling very young—as a teenager—to be successful,” she says. But she didn’t have much exposure to the modeling industry growing up “other than what I saw on America’s Next Top Model or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.” She adds: “Based on that, I never saw myself fitting the image of what a model was or looked like, so it wasn’t a career that I put much consideration into.”
Instead, Longendyke focused on her education, earning her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Binghamton University. “I wouldn’t say my degree has been too applicable to everyday life,” she admits. “But I think time management was a skill I gained in college that’s served me well.”
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After our interview, Longendyke is heading to Morocco to shoot a campaign that she can’t reveal quite yet. Chalk it up to the advent of social media, but her small town upbringing has armed her with an air of humbleness that’s rarely seen in others from her generation. “I never feel like it’s all about me. There are so many people working to make this project or that show or whatever happen,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’m in touch with the reality of what’s going on. If you take anyone and have them get professional hair and makeup and wear these amazing clothes, it’s going to make you look good. It’s not real. It’s supposed to be aspirational and dreamy.”
As a middle child, Longendyke confesses that she happily flies under the radar. “The older sibling commands a lot of attention and then obviously the baby gets a lot of attention because they’re the young one and need help, blah, blah, blah,” she postulates about middle child syndrome. But what if you’re a bona fide cover girl? Longendyke retorts: “My mom doesn’t even follow me on Instagram.” Friends and family will share her work, but her mom “isn’t too impressed,” she says with a laugh. Still, the model is close with her family, calling her parents “relaxed,” and maintains that she is close friends with her two sisters and cousins. But due to her demanding schedule, she doesn’t have a ton of friends. “It’s hard to maintain a lot of friendships, just because I don’t see a lot of people.” Social media doesn’t count for her. “You can feel like you’re in touch and that you can see them, but it’s really not even the same.”
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It seems as if Longendyke has already reached career milestones that most models dream of completing, all before entering her thirties. In regards to what’s next, she prefers to focus on the present: “I’ve turned into this person who doesn’t commit to extended plans just because of how my schedule is,” she says. “I find it really hard to figure out what I’m gonna do next. I’m just going day by day.”
There is one thing Longendyke has her sights on, though: starting a family. In fact, she recently bought a house of her own upstate, where she spends a lot of time when she’s not at gigs in New York City or traveling for work. As for now, she’s focused on her career and enjoying the hard-earned aspects of it. Below, more from Longendyke on the secrets to her model-esque skin, her signature pose, and how modeling prompted her to accept her freckles.
Your complexion is so radiant and healthy. Have you always had good skin? What’s your routine?
Thank you! Aside from being on the dry side, my skin has always been pretty low-maintenance—but most of that is genetic. Recently I started getting some eczema, so I’ve had to adjust my routine around that a bit. Normally I cleanse once a day with an oil-based cleanser. If I have makeup on from work, I will remove it with a melting balm or some face oil. I like to rehydrate with face mist or toner. I also love various vitamin serums, and hyaluronic acid for hydration. The moisturizer I use is amazing [Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream]; if I were to recommend something for dry skin, it would be that. Also, shout-out to Aquaphor for super-dry skin, lips, or even as makeup remover. To take care of my skin, I drink a lot of water, and take an Algae omega-3 supplement (similar to fish oil but vegetarian), and yes, I wear SPF from innisfree [Daily UV Defense Invisible Broad Spectrum SPF 36 Sunscreen].
I love your freckles, too. In recent years, the fashion industry has come to embrace more idiosyncratic beauty traits. Do you think they are accepted?
Strangely, the fashion industry made me like my freckles more than before I was working as a model. When I was a teenager, I really wanted to have clear skin like they show in beauty ads for foundation. But now I have no use for foundation and wouldn’t ever cover my freckles by choice. They help camouflage any spots or pimples I might have, too.
What is your off-duty makeup look?
I do skin care, curl my lashes, and brush my eyebrows. If I feel like it, I’ll keep my brows in order with some clear brow gel. If I’m going to go somewhere, I like to use a lipstick on both my lips and cheeks. I love wearing lip gloss, too. Sorry if that’s boring; when I’m “off-duty” I prefer to give my skin a bit of a break.
What advice would you give to young models trying to break into the industry?
Find an agent you can connect with personally and professionally, and who believes in your potential.
Who is your dream collaborator?
I’ve watched the Alexander McQueen documentary a lot. The work he was creating back then and the shows he was putting together were all so exciting and unique. I would’ve loved to have been a part of it. As for now, I, like every other model, would love to have a beauty contract. That’s the ultimate goal.
What is a typical day like for you when it’s not fashion month?
I have a variety of typical days at this time in my life. One might be a travel day, where I am heading somewhere for work. One might be a general work day, like a shoot or a fitting. If I have a long period of time off, I like to go upstate. There are off days in various cities or locations where I find myself for work as well. I never really know my schedule, but that is one consistency for me. I live a few blocks from the Angelika Film Center in New York, and I like to go there whenever they’re showing something that catches my eye. My boyfriend and I saw Aftersun there a few months ago, and we both left completely destroyed. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to watch more movies. I feel like I have so much to catch up on.
Hair by Ward Stegerhoek for Home Agency; makeup by Fulvia Farolfi; manicure by Aki Hirayama, both for Chanel; model: Rebecca Longendyke at Elite; produced by 1972 Agency.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Danielle James is the Digital Beauty Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was the Fashion and Beauty Director of HelloBeautiful.com and MadameNoire.com. She’s bylined for The Cut, InStyle, Allure, Business of Fashion, Nylon, Essence, Good Housekeeping, The Grio, and Huffington Post. Danielle enjoys sailing, thrifting, Japanese whiskey, Naomi Campbell’s runway walk, and Rihanna in the comment section.