Evanston, Illinois, native Laura Harrier’s journey from being a fashion darling to playing Liz Allan in the latest film in Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise began as an accident. “I moved to New York to go to New York University and modeling was this weird thing that I could do to make money,” the 27-year-old says over coffee in her current Brooklyn neighborhood. Her doe eyes, reminiscent of a Disney character, light up as she recalls her first derailed life plan.

“I deferred for one year because I was traveling and working so much and then I tried to defer again and NYU said no. Then I realized that I wanted to act and should just go to school for that.”

On a break from modeling gigs, Harrier attended The William Esper Studio in Manhattan. She began her acting career on One Life to Live and an HBO pilot for director Steve -McQueen. Although the latter project wasn’t picked up, she treasures the time spent working with the “really fun and funny” Oscar winner for
12 Years a Slave. While she kept modeling, she often felt like an object. These days brands such as Calvin Klein and Kenzo are calling but the optics have changed. “I like fashion a lot but it’s very different coming into it as an actress. I’m allowed to have an opinion now,” she says. That includes being “so stoked” to highlight several Black designers in her ESSENCE shoot because “we need more Black voices in fashion.”

Harrier’s bringing that activist vibe to Liz, Spidey’s love interest in Spider-Man: Homecoming by simply being. How? Liz wasn’t originally drawn as a Black woman. “Marvel was smart enough to cast based on the right person for the role and not just looking like the comics and keeping it the same as it has been since the 1960’s,” she says. Here’s hoping Hollywood will take note and we’ll get to see more of Harrier in the spotlight. —Hillary Crosley Coker

This feature originally appeared in the August 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.


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