Who’s that Girl? Meet Model Leila Thomas + an Exclusive Behind the Scenes Video

Meet Free People’s newest surf and swim model, Hawaiian-born beauty Leila Thomas. 

I think it’s safe to say that Leila Thomas was born of the vibrant colors of the rainbow. The Hawaiian stunner, au natural with bright brown eyes and a megawatt smile, harbors the same energy as the prismatic phenomenon. Leila is an anomaly — she unselfishly, and all the while unknowingly, lights up those around her. She effortlessly cracks jokes with the guys and dances to disco with the girls. She throws her head back and laughs ferociously. She furrows her brows and listens intently. Her care for the people around her is palpable, real. Leila is a rare occurrence in the world, like the glow after a rain. And then the arched colors of the rainbow makes everyone smile.

Where are you from? How has that shaped who you are today?

I grew up floating between Hawaii and California, and this may be a little biased, but I seriously am so grateful because they are both such wonderful places to call “home.” My parents are water people, so my brother and I were thrown into the ocean when we were just little babies. I definitely feel more comfortable as a guppy in the ocean than I do on dry land.

What kind of kid were you?

I had a lot of fun. I was always on the move. Definitely a little geeky. I had terribly crooked teeth so I went through six years of braces and two years of headgear. The dentist told me I only had to wear the head brace at night, but for a pretty good amount of time I chose to wear it to school. No clue why I subjected myself to such embarrassment. I also wore knee-length board shorts through high school and joined the chess club for a short stint, but was asked to denounce my membership because I wasn’t “competition material.”



What is something you miss most about your childhood?

Being close to my family. I’m based in LA now…my parents are in Hawaii and my brother is in Bali. We only get to be together once or twice a year if we’re lucky. I’m so very fortunate to have such a wonderful family, but I wish I could see them more. I also miss our little pug Nikki. She was a rockstar. (Rest in peace little nugget, we love you.)

How long have you been modeling? What was your first paid gig and how did it go?!

For three or four years… My first gig was with Reef. I had no clue what I was doing and did not know how to “move” my body!

Where do you live now?

I was floating around for the past nine months. With the amount of traveling I was doing for work, I decided to get a small storage locker and sell everything else. It took some getting used to, but it was the most freeing experience, not feeling tied to a place or things. Now I’m on the opposite side of the scale and just bought a little cabin in Topanga Canyon. You guys will have to come hang out!

Yes, of course! What are some of your favorite neighborhood gems?

I actually don’t know Topanga at all. I’m excited to explore. But I’m not one for routine. If I’m working in LA, I try to get out of town every weekend, out to the mountains or up the coast just for a change of scenery. You always have to be a tourist in your own environment.

…Favorite place to eat in LA?

Cafe Gratitude. Their pancakes are divine and the waiters and waitresses all look like goddesses, it’s mental. But my friend Kelia aka “Sister” is the ultimate chef. She is a wizard in the kitchen. Everything she makes is gold.




What does a typical day off look like for you?

It totally varies! I try to strike a balance between work and my own time. On work days I have to end the day watching the sunset or attending a little yoga class. On days off I’m spreading my wings and getting out of the city.

First thing you do when you wake up?

Water with a little dash of lemon. It’s such a good start.

Last thing you do before you go to bed?

Water with a big dash of lemon. Everyone needs a little zest in their life. Oh, I also drench myself in coconut oil.

Your Instagram account is beautiful! What is your social media outlet of choice?

By default, it’s Instagram. I don’t have any others (I lost the password to my Facebook). I went on Tinder once in London and got catfished. He was actually a really great human and we had a good drink and laugh.

Favorite Instagram accounts?

My gal pals or @bestviideo

What’s playing on your record player right now?

I wish I was cool enough to own records. I’m listening to Aerosmith and “What the World Needs Now” by Dionne Warwick.

How do you stay so fit? Any secrets you can share with us?

Eating good food is key. Being outside and (staying) busy helps, too. I also love yoga.



How would you describe yourself in three sentences?

I love my friends and family. I love nature. And I love just living.

What’s next for you? Any cool projects or vacations planned?

Yeah! I’m going to New Zealand at the end of the month! Never been and I can’t wait to meet the hobbits!

Thank you for sharing Leila! We’ll catch up with you over the rainbow! Music by Jesus Sons, check them out!

+Shop all new FP Movement Surf looks here!

Follow Leila on Instagram. Photos by Anthony Nocella. Photo Assistant: Ryan Treitel. Polaroid photos by Melodi Meadows. Hair by Tony Vin. Makeup by Kristee Liu.

Follow Joanna on Instagram.

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5 years ago

Wow she’s beautiful. Love her tropical look.