We spoke to Lotta Lavanti, perhaps more likely to be known as her Instagram-originated persona Lotta Liina Love on her guilty pleasures, thoughts on politics and the power of women.
We meet Lotta in the city, dressed casually after running some errands – she can finally catch a breath before running off to yet another task. She politely declines a cup of coffee, signaling to a bottle of Coke that keeps her energized throughout the busy day. We’ve had a couple of conversations before, so it feels like a natural extension to one of those casual coffee dates.
Lotta Liina Love, Lotta Lavanti, or “Big Daddy”, is way more than meets the eye. A model, art director, Instagram personality – Lotta wears many hats. We delve deeper into what makes Lotta, Lotta.
As we know, your days are busy – let’s just jump straight into it, shall we?
You have been expanding your skillset tirelessly in the past couple of years – jewelry design, fashion campaigns, editorials, art direction. At Copenhagen Airport, there are even two huge campaign posters within 100 meters from each other. Thousands of people must have seen these by now. Has it settled in yet?
Oh.. You are actually right. See, that’s the thing, I don’t think about it that way. I have this impostor syndrome, where I sometimes don’t feel like I belong where I am. To me, even though, as you said, thousands and possibly millions of people have seen my work on various platforms, I still feel like this girl who used to get twenty likes on Instagram and felt really happy about it, wishing I could make this a job someday.
And now I can say it has happened, even though I mostly work freelance with what I do. But I don’t really think about it in that sense. I know it’s work, I know I do it, but I don’t think I realize how many people see what I do. It hasn’t hit me yet and I don’t know if it ever will. So far, I’m still doing stuff and hoping people like it.
Instagram was the stepping stone, so to speak, for you to further expand your career in art direction and modeling – could you tell us a little more on how it all began?
My presence on Instagram has to do with a lot of the time when I was living in Germany studying there through middle-school and high-school. It was a half private, half government-owned school, thus it was a really interesting experience, to say the least. We had a lot of affluent germans in our school and, Bavaria is the Texas of Germany because it is big, loud and conservative as fuck. I don’t enjoy conservatism, especially in the sense where you have these stereotypical gender roles, where you have to have long hair as a girl, have to have skinny jeans, be sexy, but be cute, but also not too sexy. That just made me feel miserable.
I remember a certain scenario where I was being called out for having a bra strap showing, while the guy sitting next to me wearing a ‘wifebeater’ had both of his nipples out and, somehow, wasn’t breaking the school dress code. My solution to that was to take the bra off, which, needless to say, was also not ‘OK’. I like to think that that’s where my rebellion on people telling me how to be [me] began.
That’s where Instagram also helps these days, because it’s kind of anonymous, in a sense; I am doing it online, I am not doing it in front of people. I do it because I want to document myself. And I’m not going to look this way forever, so even if I look fine now, I’d like to remember that I looked good at one point. I don’t want to feel bad about being myself, I don’t think anyone does.
Besides living in Germany, China, and the US for a part of your life, you are fully Finnish, right? Lots has been happening over there…
Yes! Besides being known for our school system, I am also really proud of the recent political events that have occurred. Even though we have had a female president for two terms now, as well, which is not quite that common these days, the country is now represented by even more women in power, which is great. Otherwise, I don’t know too much about Finnish politics, apart from the fact that there is a racist party that I hate, which I really don’t care for. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see, at least, that, even for them, their leader was a woman.
Speaking of powerful women, you mentioned growing up with four sisters – do you think this has in any way influenced your views these days?
I think so, yeah. Basically, you know, when you have an older sibling, you want to be your older sibling. And I had two older sisters, and they were going through a bunch of very alternative phases like emo and screamo, and hipster, and whatnot, and, of course, I was stealing their clothes.
By being able to try a bunch of different things, I could explore what I wanted to be, but on the other hand, I am also wondering how many different opportunities I have missed out on by just not trying to be myself right away.
I don’t know how to phrase it, I think it was just really nice, because we’re all two years apart, so there is not that much of an age gap. So it was good to hang out and just goof around, in a nice way. It was kind of like the sense where, if you’re a girl, we didn’t have to be a certain type of girl, we were just people, if you will. And my mom’s the craziest out of all of us and that’s because of her mom. A woman is what you are, not ‘this is what a woman is’. Granted, if you want to be a woman.
When it comes to the [fashion] industry, you tend to seek out female collaborators. Is this a conscious choice or something that comes naturally?
I mean, for me, I like working with women, because that is what I know. Also, in projects where it involves nudity, with women, we get to explore more things together, because there is unspoken mutual respect from the get-go and they are not looking for anything from me except my creative input, the same way I’m not looking for anything more from them.
Girls like Polina [Vinogradova], Christabelle [Beaudry] and Laura [Tønder] have different backgrounds from me and they all have different backgrounds from each other. So then, being able to work with people who have their own experiences and don’t ultimately force their opinions on to me is great. It’s more them explaining their points of view and opening it up to show what the creative possibilities are, allowing us to work in great synergy. I do want to point out, however, that there are plenty of wonderful professionals who happen to identify as male too!
Considering the fashion industry and the Fashion Week season approaching swiftly, we’d like to pick your brains on your decision of using and promoting mostly vintage pieces in your looks.
A year ago, during the Winter Fashion Week, I borrowed way too many pieces from way too many brands, which lead me to completely stressing out and trying to get these looks to be shot, instead of enjoying the experience. I was just wondering why am I doing this, as I didn’t really feel like myself. As an influencer, the whole point, theoretically, is going to fashion weeks to be photographed. It’s a super vain situation. I feel like I lose my personality when I only do that. It’s a struggle because I do work with some of the brands and I do like them, it’s just that it’s a huge marketing tactic and a huge media circus.
So I decided to ‘go vintage’. I didn’t want to push the ‘click-to-buy’ marketing tactic even more. I wanted to show that one can go vintage shopping and actually find pieces that you value and someone else has pre-owned. I think if you can reuse already processed materials and make it look like something trendy, it’s great. That way people are actually inspired by your style, instead of by just what you’ve been paid to wear. I really believe in thinking in a way that if you are going to be a consumer, just buy less and buy smart.
On a little lighter note, we couldn’t help but notice your Instagram bio featuring such pseudonyms as ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Medium-sized Daddy’. What’s that all about?
Oh, it’s just a joke. I saw a meme somewhere once, which basically questioned why there are only big rappers or lil rappers and no medium-sized rappers? I saw that meme and I thought ‘that’s really funny’. And I was ‘Big Daddy’ at the time, so I was like, OK, I can be ‘Medium-size Daddy’ for a bit.
It’s actually just something my older sister called me once in high school. We have these really random names, she still sometimes calls me ’Rock Hard’, which stems from me touching my abs on a holiday once and saying: ‘Oh, rock hard’ and then she comes to me saying: ‘Oh, Richard, nice to meet you’. And I thought that was so funny, so the nicknames stuck.
Also, obviously, if you see me, you don’t expect me to be called ‘Big Daddy’. And I think it’s funny because I am Big Daddy, I am the BIGGEST Daddy.
Does ‘Big Daddy’ also come with your signature poses or would you say it is something that you have naturally evolved into?
There is nothing natural about the way I pose (laughs). I’ve thought about it quite a bit. I think it’s just a mixture of different things. First of all, I’m a middle child, so, I guess as a kid I didn’t get enough attention – OK, I got a lot of attention – but I wanted more. I had to split it with four other girls.We have a bunch of kid videos where I would literally grab the camera and say: ‘The camera loves me’. That is pretty much where it stems from and I think I’ve always been an entertainer in that sense. So I think a part of me, when I’m in front of a camera, I’m thinking: ‘OK, yes, this is my moment, I’m just going to do something fun and make people laugh’.
And the other side is looking at drag queens. Ru Paul’s Drag Race changed my life, I have joined the club of millions of people who may say that. Looking at those beautiful people at that show, where they also have this duality where they get to be one person during the day and when they put on their makeup, hair and beautiful outfits, they become somebody completely different… That’s what I want to do with Instagram. I like the possibility of sitting in ski-underpants doing this interview versus putting on a really nice dress and go do something crazy, and it would still be fun for me and it is still me. If I could be a drag queen, I would. I can’t, I am not as talented. But I take what I can from them and try to apply it to my own work.
You have achieved quite a lot in this past couple of years – working with a number of brands as a model, being an influencer, offering art direction to projects, designing a jewelry line – how do you unwind when you finally get a little bit of down time?
It’s really strange to call me a model. I grew up with this perception of supermodels being six feet tall, signed to agencies and all that. But it has changed a lot over this time. I don’t feel like I have to look a certain way to be one. Even though I don’t look like the models I love and admire, I am still booking jobs and doing my thing, one hundred percent. Instagram is not forever. It’s just what I’m doing right now until I figure my shit out. I don’t know what I want to do at all.
But when I do get some time to relax, I wish I could say something nice like, I like to read books or go for walks, which I do occasionally. But my ultimate guilty pleasure is to watch ‘The Real Housewives’ (laughs). It’s just a really bad reality TV show. I mean, they are kind of inspirational as well. They are crazy in their own way and they own it.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Women are pretty fucking incredible. And, working on social media and being the spectator of it, just take all with a grain of salt. Obviously, not everything is a hundred percent authentic. Just like my Instagram is my alter-ego. I’m not Big Daddy 24/7, but I am that when I do odd jobs for money, Medium-Sized Daddy on a daily basis and a Lil Daddy on the weekends.