The Beatles. Princess Diana. Queen Mum. The Clash.
What do these have in common with 20-year-old, Portia Freno…? Nothing much. But this London born-and-raised beauty is phenomenon all unto herself. Ms. Freno has done modeling since she was in diapers. Literally, in diapers… doing baby modeling, appearing in baby catalogs, baby hair lotions and on the packaging covers of children toys.
Having never been really interested in becoming a model, Ms. Portia Freno, was more into sports. The boys certainly noticed when she brought her toned body to the yard. But at home, the half-Sicilian, half-English and Guyanese seductress left home at the tender age of 13.
After moving around, the bombshell settled down and cultivated her status as an independent beauty. Having begun studying Crime and Child Psychology, this beauty has the brains and the brawn to make moves. One of those moves was a recent trip to California in November of 2006. The trip was rewarding. Now back on the other side of the big pond, Ms. Portia Freno talks with HHDX about her California love, how life was no longer living with mum, and why Capone-N-Noreaga is the best music to have sex to.
HHDX: For such a young and beautiful lady, you left home at the age of 13. What made you want to go the independent route?
PF: I was being a typical moody teenager. I thought I knew it all and wanted to do things my way. I knew that, as long as I was under my mother’s roof, I was going to have to abide by certain rules and I didn't want adhere to that. I started to be away from home a lot and then it was like that consistently from the age of 13. By 15, I had my own place and was living the independent life.
HHDX: It’s good to know that you still have a good relationship with you mother. But while you left – what were the ups and downs to being independent?
PF: I would say that I can see the disadvantages of leaving so early more now than I did when I was younger. Already, I am tired of paying rent, cooking everyday and household chores and I’m only 20. Most people my age are only just starting to be obliged to do those things. These days I only cook if I have to and want to, because I feel like, “Forget this, I've been doing this since I turned a teenager and I need a break!” Another disadvantage would be the time lost between my mother and I. I will always regret that the way I felt may have upset her as a young girl. But on the flip side, I’ve learned how to look after myself and I learned how to be happy by myself. I learned a real independence… the hard way.
HHDX: Through all of what transpired in you life from the time you left at 13 to being 20 – what has been the one of the most inspirational events that has happened?
PF: The fact that I left at such a young age was my choice. I put that extra strain on myself by doing that. So, when I heard about young people that didn't have the choice and had no family or had a horrible or abusive childhood and still made it to the top – it inspired me to work harder. It still does. I couldn't tell you one event that has inspired me the most; there is a collection that has all had their effect on me in different ways.
HHDX: Even though you are very athletic, you never kept up your extracurricular activities. From dance school to karate to gymnastics – what keeps you going to continue a career in the modeling industry?
PF: Good question! I can lack motivation… but to be honest with you that is only when I am truly not 100% into something. Plus I used to let a lot of small things get in the way of what I wanted to do. I am working on that and I am trying to not let that happen anymore. It is only recently that I have been taking modeling more seriously and that is because I am seeing many opportunities coming my way. Really, psychology is a much bigger interest to me. It is much more important to me to keep that up and work hard at that.
HHDX: Us men, we’re a fan of beauty. But in the States, we seem to be more aggressive with what we want. Is that the same in the UK?
PF: I would definitely say that women from the States take a more aggressive approach. I think they have had to because the industry is so competitive there. But it is getting more aggressive in the UK too! I know I have a lot to take on when I am in the States. There are some women who want this so badly they would do anything. I am not one of those girls who would do that, when it comes to modeling. I think all women do or have used their sexuality to get what they want. But looks can only get you so far. There are millions of beautiful girls out there, so I'd rather use my brain. I would never use my looks to do something evil! But it can sometimes be fun intimidating a man...
PF: When I was in Los Angeles, I found that the men were much more up-front about why they were trying to talk to you. They'd be like, “Wassup mami! Wow, your body is tight. I'd love to take you home and do some freaky things to that body.” They loved my accent. They would constantly talk about “showing me what a real man was made of”. I would be just speechless! They would be so blunt that it was more funny than rude. But the men were definitely more persistent that the guys here in the UK. They would follow you all through the mall explaining what they were going to do to you if they got you home. Whereas, here at home, after the first rejection most guys would just be like, “Fuck it! You think you're too nice,” and start to act immature. American guys were definitely more persistent. But also more polite and complimenting! Sorry UK!
HHDX: Now, recently, you took a trip to the States, ended up going to California, right? How did it go and what was the vacation for?
PF: Vacation! Aww, Kevin, that's soooo cute [laughs]. In the UK, we call that a holiday… or a break. Anyway, it was a break/business trip. I had a couple shoots for some of your magazines (I can't tell you what ones until they are out, but you will see me soon). Plus I attended some casting calls. Business-wise, it was good. Holiday-wise, it was okay. But I think I came there during the wrong season. I know that Los Angeles is supposed to be “the place to be” during the summer. We went there in November. I went with my close friend who is more like a sister to me. You guys [Americans] are so much fun though! Everyone there was constantly getting us to say stuff just so they could laugh at our accents! I love how it is still warm during the day even in your winters!
HHDX: What was one misconception of California that was reinforced by your trip?
PF: I thought everyone was going to be fake and that everyone would have plastic surgery! It’s probably because I’ve seen too many American films [laughs]. But it wasn’t that bad. But I also imagined everyone to be laid back and friendly and they were. I've read one or two books that are based in California. One was an autobiography called, “Monster”, it was written by an ex-gang member. So, I remember thinking that some of the streets were gonna be crazy and really dangerous. But I think a lot of the areas have calmed down quite a bit from how they used to be.
HHDX: What was your most memorable experience while being there?
PF: Man, THE SMOOTHIES!!!! They were the best! I went all the way to the Foxhill Mall almost everyday just to get these banana, strawberry and carrot smoothies. I'm sure there was somewhere closer to me that maybe had even better ones, but hey… I was a foreigner… what was I to know? It’s just that when I really like something, I'll keep going back for more and more. Oh! Snoop [Dogg] had a little album launch party and that was lots of fun. But you guys parties finish real early. 2am? That's crazy. You know I’m not going to an after party! Here in London some of our parties don't finish until 6am! You need to come and party down here!
HHDX: Are you going to pay for my trip to come out there and party with you?
PF: Baby… it'll be nothing as soon as I am big! Bring your friends [laughs]!
HHDX: How is hip-hop different in the UK than in the States? Who are some influences from both sides of the pond?
PF: America has always dominated the whole rap scene... period. UK rap has only recently started to get better. I listen to quite a bit of underground rap because I prefer it more that what’s considered mainstream. Every artist, I like, is from the States.
PF: I think I love it because it is real. People are talking about real shit, about real experiences. A tune always touches you more when there is passion behind it and truth. Commercial rap these days sometimes does my head in. It's cool in a club… but there is less depth and I never really find myself listening to it out of choice. I think American rappers have easier access to the industry. It is easier for them to get a tune out than for UK artists.
HHDX: But across the water, UK to whatever – they praise their artists more so than we do in the States…
PF: But they're struggling out here! So, they are being forced to rap a load of shit about what they think might sell rather than what they want to rap about. It’s because they haven't got the freedom to anymore. No one wants to hear it! These days a rapper just talks about his bling and his bitches for 3 to 4 minutes… and it's a hit.
HHDX: So, who do you like?
PF: I like CNN [Capone-N-Noreaga], Big L, Wu-Tang Clan, Cormega. Plus, I think Nas and Jay-Z are very talented. I can listen to CNN all day and all night. There's something about their beats! Their music is so appropriate for any situation! Seriously, it's the best shit to drive to, the best shit to have sex to, to dirty dance to, to rave to, to chill to, the list goes on and on. For all I know, all these underground artists could be talking bullshit, but I am more than sure that they are living these lives and went through most of the stuff they say they did. That, to me, gives the tunes more meaning.
HHDX: So, how has that influenced your life?
PF: I wouldn't say that any rap artists really influenced me or my life, but after hearing about a lot of the stuff some of them went through makes me feel fortunate to be who I am and live in a, slightly, safer environment. But I can't stand artists that put themselves in bad situations and try to be thugs and think that it is cool to kill and have ambitions of being a well known gang member. That makes them losers.
PF: Because they chose to do nothing better for themselves.
HHDX: One of the perks of being a model would be the trips abroad. Your first show was in Africa. How was it?
PF: It was amazing. I was going to go again for the Christmas, but that just passed. But I was with my family instead. I had a fashion show for Baby Phat in Accra. Africa is such a beautiful country. The beaches were wonderful. I love the sea. The clubs were banging most definitely [laughs]! The people were really cool, too. The food was wonderful! I have to have some good food. It was a really nice change for me, to be able to have a hot and sunny Christmas. I felt really privileged that my first modeling job was to be such a big one.
HHDX: Would you say that the opportunities in modeling are better abroad than in the States?
PF: Hmm… It's mad, because everyone in the States is trying to make it in the UK. And all of the UK models are trying to sell themselves in the States. I think that it is most definitely more competitive in the States. But I also believe that it's all about having the contacts. A lot of influential people live in the States and that can help out a person’s career.
HHDX: You’re starting to go for your degree. What made you want to study crime and child psychology?
PF: I've always been interested in how people think. I am always asking questions. How? Why? I've always had a way with children and have always been interested in their development. I can communicate well with children and know how important their early years are. I think that studying Crime Psychology will be mad interesting. To me it’s like, “Why the fuck people do the things they do?” “What possessed them to act like that? I want to talk to the sick freaks to see what they have to say for themselves. I want to see how past events and experiences affects them and causes them to be the way they are now. I want them to think about how they can truly justify their actions.
HHDX: Aside from pursuing your career in the States, what are a few interests that you have that people wouldn't know about you?
PF: Apart from Psychology, I am quite into Advertising and the Media. I would like to take a course in Public Relations, too. I am also a bookworm. I sometimes, just sometimes, get accused of being boring because I will be curled up in a corner of a friends house reading anything that I can get my hands on.
HHDX: A friend’s house?! No, man, huh? [Laughs] Why are you single? Waiting for T.I. to be your man? Or are you just devoted to your career?
PF: Why T.I.? Is he asking [laughs]? You will never see me waiting for anyone to be my man! Right now, I am just trying to be devoted to myself. You should only really have a man when you don't need one. If he fucks up, it'll be that much easier to walk away. Besides, you can never be truly happy with someone else until you can be 100% happy alone.
HHDX: What has or hasn’t a man done to show you that they’re the right person for you?
PF: I have been very fortunate to have had extremely good boyfriends. I recently split up with my ex, but I feel that he’ll always be there for me. I think people sometimes mistake sex and lust for love, but my ex showed me that before all that… he was my best friend. I think that when you know that someone will always be your friend first, show understanding and consideration, and always be there for you no matter what the situation is… then they are the right one for you.
HHDX: What has been the nicest thing a photographer has ever said during a shoot?
PF: It is always flattering when you can tell that a photographer is really enjoying shooting you. At almost every shoot I am told that I have a “different” look. I worked with a really big photographer recently and he was saying how stunning I was and that he would love to shoot me again very soon! That was nice because he is very busy and works with some of the biggest names in the industry. He said he sees me doing big things. I know what you’re thinking though… all photographers say that to make the model feel comfortable, but seriously… I was listening to every time he shot another model. He didn’t say it again to anyone else… I made sure [laughs]! I actually got a call earlier today from a magazine. They want to shoot my lips for a front cover! I always get complimented on my lips, though. Even I think they’re sexy.
HHDX: As we get deeper into 2007, what do you have up next for you? When do you plan on making the States your permanent home?
PF: I am about to host my own radio show. There are also talks of me being a columnist for a UK magazine. I'll be juggling my degree with trips back and forth to the States for modeling. I want to get a singing and acting coach. I want to be able to say that I am available to do anything. I want to have the choice to take many alternate routes. It is going to be hard but I know that out of it all… my degree is most important. So, if I feel like it is becoming too much, then I will just concentrate only on that. This month is quite quiet for me though. It's not until the end of the month that it's going to start getting a little crazy! There are also talks of me buying my first home in the States. One of the perks to that is that the houses are cheaper and I will be closer to a lot of the places I need to be at. But I am not sure just yet! As much as London drives me mad it is my home and I am not sure that I could be so far from my family just yet.