Grounded In Gotham

As she acclimatises to life under lockdown in her adopted city, model Victoria Lee reflects on fear, family and the fortitude of New Yorkers.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Top, Dion Lee

My Reading Room

Top, Dion Lee. Jeans, Nobody Denim 

The city that never sleeps is on pause. Shops are closed, streets are empty and shopfronts are boarded up. From our windows in Brooklyn, my boyfriend, Matt, and I can see that traffic on Williamsburg Bridge is all but non-existent. Cars on FDR Drive have large gaps between them and the number of people going on their daily walks, runs or bike rides at East River Park has dwindled. It is quiet.

These subtle changes are both a relief and an unsettling reminder of the time we are living in. On one hand, people are respecting the new lockdown rules. On the other, it is a visual representation of the disruption to daily life we are all experiencing. There is undoubtedly fear, concern and uncertainty. With the news delivering constant updates on heartbreaking realities, it’s a very peculiar feeling to be comfortably sitting at home while all this is going on so close by. There’s a feeling of idleness that just doesn’t feel right, even though staying inside and respecting social distancing rules is the one thing we can do to help flatten the curve and protect the most vulnerable.

My job has me travelling more often than not, so for me, staying at home is a luxury. Obviously, I wish it is under very different circumstances and I’m aware that the position I’m in during this time of isolation is very fortunate. I am safe, with access to essentials and communication with my family. I am not a parent figuring out how to homeschool my children or wondering how I will feed my family. My heart and thoughts go out to those men and women in hospitals in unimaginable circumstances, fighting a daily battle with dwindling supplies and personal protection equipment. Simultaneously, there is the unwavering sense of strength, community and resilience among New Yorkers, a community that I am so proud to be a part of. At 7pm, a roar of applause, car horns, shouts and cheers rises up over the city—heartfelt support, gratitude and love being sent out to medical staff and essential workers. The Empire State Building lights up every night in honour of those on the frontlines. It is immediately uplifting; a heart-warming reminder of the fact that we’re all going through this unprecedented experience together and will make it through. 

My Reading Room

Jumper, Viktoria & Woods. Jeans, Nobody Denim. Shoes, Lee’s own 

When the foundations of our daily life shift in such a monumental way, our sense of self can shift also. Personally, I feel a lack of motivation that surprises me. I find comfort in organisation, anchored by routine. After the days of rest and recuperation wear off, I find myself at a loss. How to make a plan? Easy. To follow it through and complete tasks? Not so much. I find I’m struggling to find purpose as the world goes through such enormous upheaval, chaos and heartache.

Using this time to slow down, both physically and mentally, I’m reminded of the importance of our relationships with our family and friends, and with ourselves. How fragile our world is, the structure we have created for ourselves. Our economy. In times of crisis, the non-essential falls away and we are left with what truly matters. Making sure my loved ones are safe and well is my main concern. I realise I need to give myself time to process, to sit and acknowledge what’s going on around me and then move forward, no matter how slow or what that looks like from day to day. Making sure to maintain my normal sleeping patterns, move my body, take care of my house plants; journalling and keeping a sense of normality when it comes to my job. I am proud to be part of the fashion industry and am aware that it, along with every other industry, will experience major change. I believe this collective experience is one we can use to unify and support one another, something I think is so humbling and encouraging to see happening already.

My hope for the future is that we use this as a catalyst for positive change. I hope we cultivate greater compassion for ourselves and for one another, and a greater appreciation and respect for our environment and our natural world, for the simple things we once took for granted. 

My Reading Room

Sweater, ZARA. Briefs, Sir

My Reading Room

Vintage shirt; trousers, Lee’s own

My Reading Room

Briefs, Sir. Vintage jumper, Lee’s own

Model: Victoria Lee/Priscillas Model Management

Photographed by Darren McDonald