Polyglot Nazanin Mandi has shined since the wizened age of ten, when she booked her first modeling gig. Only five years later the young star belted out Mozart’s Requiem to a crowded Carnegie Hall. It’s little surprise the half-Mexican/half-Persian beauty, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, has lived a charmed existence, including marrying the love of her life, superstar R&B singer Miguel.
But as the actress—who plays leading roles in Lena Waithe’s BET series Twenties and 2020’s The Last Conception, and will be seen this fall in BET’s Games People Play—debuts her stunning lingerie line Elle Rêve, she reveals perhaps even more.
How was your morning?
Well, I woke up at 6:30 like I always do, that’s my routine. I give myself a good ‘me time’ hour. Me time includes coffee, reading emails. I will wake up and meditate in bed with my husband sometimes, he does that every morning. Sometimes I’m just not in the mental space or don’t have the time. I’m also like a crazy cat lady—it’s my time to spend quality time with my cats, they sit with me while I’m reading and that’s like our little time together.
I noticed your cat’s name is Vanity. Was she named after the Prince protégé?
Yes she was! [laughs] I grew up obsessed with her, from the music to her long blazer and tie and thigh-high boots, and then Apollonia in Purple Rain. I have always been intrigued with the ’80s, but also with Prince, The Time, Vanity6, just that whole music era. I find so much joy and passion, and it brings back amazing memories being a little kid and watching my parents enjoy their music.
Do you think the fact that she was, for lack of a better term, exotic, or not your traditional blue-eyed blonde, appealed to you? Yes, absolutely. Especially at the time she was the closest example of somebody who looked similar to me. Who had the dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, and it was what I was just attracted to because you hardly saw that in the ’80s and the ’90s.
You’ve spoken about your body dysmorphia and overcoming child- hood fears. From any sane perspective you are a beautiful woman, and I’m assuming you’ve been treated like one for most of your life. How does somebody develop these fears and self-doubts?
It’s hard to say because social media has such a huge influence on it, but I don’t think it matters what you look like or where you’re from. We’re all insecure about something. And it most likely stems from trauma from your childhood, which mine does.
Somebody extremely close to me told me repeatedly at like 11 or 12 years old, it was a very crucial time in adolescence and growing up, that I needed to watch my weight, that I was gaining weight, and that in order to do what I wanted to do in life I needed to be disciplined in that area. If you’re telling that to a girl entering junior high, it’s going to stick with them, and it has. And I just feel like it’s so important to remind people to be careful what you tell children, they’re very intelligent and it sticks with them. It was a very low-key traumatic experience.
Was this at all part of the motivation or inspiration to develop your new lingerie line, Elle Rêve?
Yes, it absolutely was. Everything that I try to do is influenced in a very positive and motivational way, and it comes from experience. I wanted Elle Rêve to be as inclusive as it could be. I wanted it to be for most body types, and we’ll eventually get to all body types, but the intent always is to make it inclusive.
I made products that I knew could and would accentuate certain body parts, and make women feel comfortable. And I really made the line because I’ve always been intrigued by lingerie; I’ve always been like, ‘Wow, how did something so delicate and small make someone feel so confident and sexy?’ And I want other women to feel this way as well.
If you look at early Apollonia, Vanity and even Prince, there was a lot of lace and lingerie in their outfits. Do you think there’s any subconscious or conscious inspiration from that era and what you perceived as beautiful?
Absolutely. And I think there was and will always be that influence in anything I create because I was, and still am, so inspired by that era. From the black lace to pearls to leather. It’s just like that’s who I am. That’s what the majority of my closet consists of.
Is there any particular aspect of the line you’re most proud of?
Yes. I’m most proud of the quality of the product. For me it was quality over quantity. I didn’t want to create 20 pieces and have the quality be mediocre. I created half of that, and I researched fabrics, and I tried for very formfitting fabrics, and comfort, and a really buttery feeling.
And everything was made here in L.A. We actually customized a few of the lace pieces, which I am really proud about. We also created the red, it’s like a deep Pantone red, and it’s a running theme throughout the first collection. I wanted something not so bright; I wanted it to be a little muted and just not as a startling.
Clearly you are a beautiful woman of great confidence and abilities, but what is it like to date a superstar R&B singer who is a sex symbol himself? How do you deal with it confidence-wise?
Well first of all, he’s my husband, so I don’t look at him the way other people do. I’ve known him before any of this happened. I just see him as like this normal 18-year-old guy that I met. So when things started to progress I learned to separate Miguel Pimentel from the superstar. So when it comes to his female fans, when he steps on the stage he belongs to them. You have to learn to separate that. If you don’t learn to separate that, it’s going to be really difficult.
So I learned that very early on; his work, when he leaves the house, when he steps on the stage, that is work, that is his passion. And I respect that. But when he comes home, when he steps off that stage, he is family, he’s my husband, he’s the love of my life. And this is the focus. So I think for me, what really helps is separating the two and understanding my place in his life, and vice versa.