When Rianne Van Rompaey was 17, and her agent asked her about her dreams, she didn’t hold back: a magazine cover, a Hollywood movie. “And maybe after that,” she recalls answering, “I’ll start a restaurant.” Though her response had a ring of teenage naïveté to it, the Dutch model, now 26, has checked magazine covers off her list and is working toward the Hollywood part, taking acting classes and searching for the right project.
When I meet her at her agency in Amsterdam, you’d never be able to tell, from her low-key demeanor, that she’s fresh from Chanel’s couture runway. In her home base, she’s blissfully far from the fashion industry bubble. (“Dutch people, bless them,” she quips. “I’m in my pajamas on my bike every day.”) After almost nine years in the industry, “I’ve relaxed into it,” she tells me. “I’ve realized that my body doesn’t have to look a certain way, and my face doesn’t have to look a certain way. I don’t have to be perfect. That made me enjoy it so much more.”
That wasn’t always the case. At 18, she was handpicked by Nicolas Ghesquière to walk his highly anticipated debut show for Louis Vuitton. “I went from this high school kid to being on top of the industry within one day, basically,” she recalls. “It’s an incredible and bizarre way to start your grown-up life.” After feeling somewhat out of place at first, she now adores the way she gets to stretch her acting muscles on set. “Putting on these characters is also a way to protect myself,” she says. “Because it’s a job where it always feels like you’re only ever as good as your last shoot or show.” Her dream role? Someone who is not beautiful. “As a model,” she says, “I’ve been playing the role of the pretty girl for so long. I would love to play parts where I’m falling apart, physically and emotionally.”
Having traveled the world for work, Van Rompaey recognizes her privileged position. She looks at the refugee crisis dominating the news and finds one element missing: empathy. She is working with the Dutch organization VluchtelingenWerk Nederland (Refugee Work Netherlands) to meet refugees and listen to their stories. She explains how, one story at a time, she wants to make the world a little bit kinder. Then she pauses, laughs, and jokes: “And this is how I’m going to save the world. Then I’ll open up that restaurant.”
Lead image: Top, Loewe. Slipdress, $95, bodysuit, $60, bra, $45, NKDYOU (worn throughout). Pasties (worn throughout), Neva Nude, $25. Choker (worn throughout), Isaac Manevitz for Ben-Amun.
Hair: Didier Malige at Art Partner; makeup: Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;
model: Rianne Van Rompaey at DNA Models; producer: John Nadhazi at VLM Productions.
This article appears in the October 2022 issue of ELLE.
Noëlle de Leeuw is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her work has previously been published in titles as Harper’s Bazaar Netherlands and Food52. When Noëlle isn’t writing, she can be found cooking pasta for friends or rewatching her favorite romcoms for the umpteenth time.