Slick Woods is the new face of Mercedes-Benz, which is kind of perfect when you discover that five years ago, she was an underage chauffer getting paid to drive one. “I was sixteen and didn’t have a license,” says the model. “Actually, I didn’t have much of anything—I was homeless. I met this Russian mafia guy on Sunset Boulevard, and this man was drunk. He begged me to drive him home in his giant Mercedes-Benz red truck. Anyone else would have been creeped out,” Woods shrugs, “But I’m intuitive about people, and he wasn’t scary. I knew I’d be fine. I didn’t know how to drive a car,” she laughs, “But it’s not like that stopped me from doing it.”
Five seconds with Slick Woods—born 21 years ago as Simone Thompson—and you get the sense that not much stops her from anything. She’s modeled for the holy trinity of Miu Miu, Moschino, and Marc Jacobs; she’s become Rihanna’s official muse for Fenty; and hours before heading backstage at Coachella, she’s hosting a panel for Mercedes-Benz in honor of their hybrid Concept EQ car, which boasts a hashtag manifesto called #WeWonder. And because she’s backstage at fashion shows for hours at a time, Woods has lots of time to wonder.
View this post on Instagram
Tell @SlickWoods the issues that need addressing to change the fashion industry and beyond. #WeWonder "I am happy to have a voice. I am here to make the liaison between the history of fashion and the spirit of the rebellion youth”. Set to a backdrop of Palm Springs’ iconic windmill farm, this empowering model is on a mission to galvanise the youth of today. 📷 by @Parker.Thornton __ #MBFW #MercedesBenzFashion #MBFashionTalent #MBFWLove #MercedesBenz #G-Class #SlickWoods #Slick #WindMillFarm #PalmSprings #Music #Model #Youth #Freedom #Visionary #Fashion #Style #LA #LosAngeles #ParkerThornton #WilliamFan Mercedes-AMG G65 | Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 13,1 l/100 km | CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 299 g/km | http://mb4.me/Rechtlicher_Hinweis/]
Tell @SlickWoods the issues that need addressing to change the fashion industry and beyond. #WeWonder “I am happy to have a voice. I am here to make the liaison between the history of fashion and the spirit of the rebellion youth”. Set to a backdrop of Palm Springs’ iconic windmill farm, this empowering model is on a mission to galvanise the youth of today. by @Parker.Thornton __ #MBFW #MercedesBenzFashion #MBFashionTalent #MBFWLove #MercedesBenz #G-Class #SlickWoods #Slick #WindMillFarm #PalmSprings #Music #Model #Youth #Freedom #Visionary #Fashion #Style #LA #LosAngeles #ParkerThornton #WilliamFan Mercedes-AMG G65 | Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 13,1 l/100 km | CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 299 g/km | http://mb4.me/Rechtlicher_Hinweis/]
A post shared by Mercedes-Benz Fashion | MBFW (@mercedesbenzfashion) on Apr 15, 2018 at 7:26pm PDT
“I wonder how self-driving cars will change the future,” she says. “I wonder how youth can push innovation in the world, but I also wonder if youth gets in the way of innovation sometimes. I wonder a lot what the future will be like. But then I have to remind myself: what’s important is now.”
Read on for more insights with the in-demand model, actress, designer, smoke shop connoisseur, and—we confess—major ELLE.com obsession.
You learned how to drive on a Mercedes-Benz. How’d your first full trip go?
Even just pulling out of the parking lot, I ran into another car… I used to wear those thick Mary Jane Doc Marten’s, and you can imagine that thick sole on the very responsive, very sensitive Mercedes-Benz pedals. Plus, I’m in West Hollywood going up and down the [Hollywood] Hills, which will make anyone a crazy driver. We went thump! for about five minutes before I got the hang of it. It was one of the longest nights of my life, but the guy ended up becoming my friend, and paying me to be his chauffer for a year and a half. It was from my sophomore year of high school all the way through my junior year. He made me dress up like a chauffer. I had a chauffer’s uniform, but I had no driving license.
Do you still talk to that guy?
No, we lost touch a long time ago. I’m that person who gets a new phone, and that’s it. I don’t save anybody’s number. But I’ve had the same phone number since fifth grade, so if you need me, you can always get me.
You’ve had a cell phone since fifth grade?
I used to sell Hot Cheetos out of my backpack at school. That’s how I got enough money together to buy a phone. It was like an AT&T Singular phone, one of those old ones—but I owe it all to Hot Cheetos!
Wait, are you the reason Chromat had Hot Cheetos on their Fall runway?
No, that’s because of Rihanna. You know, when Rihanna travels, she has a wall of Hot Cheetos wherever she’s staying. It’s all her. She’s the inspiration for literally everything.
Besides working with Rihanna, you’ve also been a Yeezy model—that was your first job, right? How did you show up on a Kanye West photo shoot and just kill it, even with no experience?
Ha! Have you seen a Yeezy photograph? This is what I did. [She gets up and stands still, staring straight ahead.] I did nothing. I tried to put my hand on my hip; they’re like, “Can you just stay there with your arms down and do nothing?” But it fucked me up in modeling, actually, because the next time I went to a job, they’re like, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you just standing there?” Kanye is the reason I have Instagram, though. When we first met, I step on his set and he’s like, “How do you not have Instagram? No wonder you’re not a model yet. Get Instagram. Put it on your phone now.” It was dope.
So he taught you about Instagram, but not about actual modeling…
Kanye has tunnel vision when it comes to his projects and his vision. He’s the type of person—designer, I’ve never worked with him in music—but when it comes to fashion, he’s so focused on his vision that he can completely forget that a person is in his clothes. You know? He’ll deprive models of water and make them stand outside in the sun forever, and it’s honestly not intentional. He’s just so focused on his vision, everything else falls away. And imagine being an artist with so many people in your ear, on your [social media], going, “This person is crazy.” So he’s always trying to prove he’s great because of those voices, but also, it’s like, he’s Kanye. Of course he’s great.
Do people expect you to be like Kanye or Rihanna?
Actually, I’ve had like six people on photo shoots tell me that I remind them of—well, you should guess. Who’s the whitest actress you can possibly think of?
WHAT?! How did you know that? I thought you were gonna say, like, Cameron Diaz. But yeah, people in the industry say I remind them of Reese Witherspoon. I don’t know what she was like in her past, but I guess she had a bit of a secret life.