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Show Me The Way

Jul 9, 2020

"I walk into diamond bourses around the world. I’m the only black person. I’m the only black woman.
People expect me to fail.
Yes I’m a small fish in this big pond full of sharks but I don't care.
Things have to change. We will try to fix it because it’s our own people."

Vania Leles, founder VANLELES DIAMONDS

Vania Leles is the first African woman to own a fine jewellery store on London’s Bond Street. That’s pretty remarkable in itself but her journey to this point is even more so.

Vania Leles is shortlisted for Veuve Clicquot BOLD woman award 2020


Vania was born in Guinea-Bissau - a small country on West Africa’s Atlantic coast and moved to Lisbon to be educated when she was six. 

She saved all her money to do an English course at SOAS, working in restaurants to pay her bills and eventually took a job as a social worker in Camden but then got scouted by Select Models and landed a massive Diesel campaign.

That campaign would pay her four times what she would have made in a year so she decided to become a model full-time and moved to New York.
She came up with the idea for her business Vanleles Diamonds when on a photo shoot in New York.

It was whilst on a photo shoot on New York that she started to release that although 75-80% of the gems that exist in fine jewellery comes from the continent but as she says "it’s absurd that we don't have representation on this side of the industry - more African fine jewellery brands, more African diamond dealers across the bourses of this world." Because as she says, "how come countries do not produce an ounce of diamonds and they trade all the diamonds in the world....We have to be human enough to realise that is unfair."

Recommendation for Emmeline's bookshelf: I Can Be Anything. Don't Tell me I Can't by Diane Dillon