Riley Montana on Life in Detroit

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Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, S/S14 CampaignPhotography by Mert and Marcus, Creative Direction by Riccardo Tisci

We discuss waterfights, Givenchy and her Detroit upbringing with one of fashion's favourite faces

Born and raised in Detroit, model Riley Montana has spent the past year travelling the world, as detailed on her Instagram. After debuting alongside Erykah Badu as the face of Givenchy in Spring 2014 ("It was surreal," she explains, "I grew up listening to Erykah Badu and every girl wants to be a Givenchy girl!"), she walked runways for Gareth Pugh, Balmain and Marc Jacobs and has a fiercely determined approach to her career. In honour of our series spotlighting her hometown, we spoke to Riley about her childhood in the city, and what is in store for her future.

On Detroit...
"I grew up on the west side of Detroit, and I loved it. I loved the little things, things like walking to the penny candy stores and the block parties in the summer where people would open the fire hydrants and just have a huge water fight in the streets. I used to hang around everywhere on the west side; I was always the kid that had no hood to claim and it was all I knew, so it was great. At one point, I was living in Southfield with my grandmother right next to the neighbourhood playground. I'd run there every chance that I got, until she'd yell at me from the porch to come back. I miss the innocence of being able to freely play at the park with my friends; nowadays, kids don't play outside, they play inside on some type of technology."

On growing up...
"My brother and grandmother helped raise me and they were super strict so school was my escape. I loved it, because it was a place for me to go to be crazy and silly with all my friends. Plus, my uncle worked there, so I got away with murder! Growing up, I always knew I'd be an entertainer, but because I never had the luxury of going shopping I wasn't your typical girly girl. I ended up getting into nursing because I listened to what others wanted me to do. I love helping people but I don't like blood or needles so I don't see that being my profession anymore – I won't be singing, dancing or modeling down any emergency halls."

On her ambitions...
"One of my goals is to start a non-profit for foster kids; I can't wait for it to all fall into place. My sister and I were both in foster care at some point during our childhoods and, although we had an amazing family, we never really had someone to show us what our possibilities were. So, I think it would be great to show other kids that they have a chance, that they don't just have to be a statistic."

On diversity in the industry...
"I feel that diversity is slowly but surely becoming a priority, and I'm excited to see and be a part of it. I don't think that there should just be competition between the 'ethnic' models; I'm going for everybody! Every girl should have the ambition to be the next best, not just limit yourself and categorise your talent."

This article is part of a series celebrating Detroit, in partnership with Shinola