Here's How Artist Laury Layani Gave Lewis Hamilton Her Portrait Of Him
Like anyone would be, Laury Layani was over the moon excited to give her portrait of Lewis Hamilton to him. And then he posted the painting and tagged her on his Instagram stories and that was the icing on the cake.
Layani, a French artist, has been drawing since she was four years old, took some classes and then worked on her craft on her own. She struggled to find her own style, but found success with her vibrant portraits of animals. She's a lifelong sports fan and got to enter the world for herself when German football star Thilo Kehrer her her exhibit a painting of a lion at his event.
Since then, she's painted portraits of several of her favorite athletes and gotten the chance to gift them to the subjects. She masterfully blends vivid colors with a collage of images that are special to the athlete. For Hamilton, it was a picture of his beloved dog Coco and a Black power fist. For Romain Grosjean, it was Spider-Man and a donut. Grosjean's crash in 2020 is what actually got Layani hooked on Formula 1 for herself after growing up with her dad watching races every weekend.
"I used to complain it was too long and noisy though," she laughs. "At the time, he used to test me every week with the driver's name and nationality. I was a big boss at it!"
She has painted Grosjean twice and given him both portraits. She's grown as an F1 fan since learning more about the sport and been grateful to have time with him to fuel her interest.
"After Romain's accident in 2020, I was so shocked that I wanted to understand what happened," she said. "And since there were a lot of technical terms I didn't know, I started researching and reading about it. Then I watched a lot of videos of different GP, got to learn a little about the drivers personalities, and haven't missed a GP since last year!
"I met Romain twice for 2 different paintings and he's an absolute angel! Last time was super fun and privileged — I was in Switzerland, and since I'm a little stubborn — I brought the painting I made of him with me — and he joined me last minute at the train station so i could give it to him in person. We chatted for 20minutes outside the train station and i asked him about 184,7484,990 questions."
The paintings were a special part of Grosjean's transition out of Formula 1 and into IndyCar as he moved his family overseas, which meant a lot to Layani.
"He hung on the wall of his daughter both of the paintings I did of him," she said. "This is probably the sweetest thing ever."
Layani's met several other athletes, including Esteban Ocon, Olivier Giroud and Novak Djokovic, but perhaps her meeting with Lewis Hamilton was the one that got the most attention. She had previously tried to gift the portrait to him, but the timing hadn't come together yet.
"The meeting with Lewis was very intense!" she shared. "I made his painting last year — as I exhibited four paintings of four drivers in Monaco at Prince Albert's car collection. I wasn't able to contact Lewis directly, so I reached out to people who worked with him. A lovely lady told me I could ship the painting to the UK and that they could give it to him. But since it's one of my favorite portraits — and quite a large one — I decided to keep it at home for a little longer, and try directly with him when in Paris."
Then Paris Fashion Week came around and she learned the night before that the 7-time champion and fashion icon was in town. So she went to try to meet him.
"I honestly didn't think there would be so many people waiting for him, but since it was Fashion Week here — and a sunny day in Paris — everyone was outside," she said. "As a friend said, 'People are waiting because they see people waiting who don't know what they're waiting for.' It was hilarious."
But Layani knew she was different than other people just trying to catch a glimpse of a famous person.
"I have always been very spontaneous and respectful when meeting these athletes," she said. "I don't overthink, and just go with whatever I have in mind. ... The amount of people who were here made me realize I had to try and behave if I didn't want to be on the red list! Also, I really wanted to be seen as an artist and not a fan."
The waiting wasn't miserable as she made some friends and got a lot of compliments about her art.
"It turns out the hotel crew, and Lewis' personal crew — as I was waiting outside the hotel — absolutely loved the piece, and gave me a lot of sweet advice," she recalled. "People were cheering for me and complimenting me a lot! A huge number of people asked me various questions about the piece and told me I was gifted and fun. It was incredible. I didn't record these moments but that was so beautiful and it really warmed my heart."
Then came the moment that went viral.
"Lewis was very surprised I wanted to give him the piece and not keep it for myself," she said. "His reaction was priceless. I have offered about 12 pieces to different athletes, and he — on the same level as Novak I'd say — is the one who was the most excited about it. And let me tell you that nothing in this entire world would make me happier. When you think that these boys can have access to a huge amount of valuable things — whether it's fashion, art, shows,... and that they appreciate my artwork — made in my bedroom with my tiny hands... is completely crazy."
And that wasn't all. Hamilton posted the portrait on his Instagram story and tagged Layani in it to his 27 million followers. But there was one person in particular who wasn't even an F1 fan that she shared the special moment with.
"A couple of minutes after we met, I heard that he was going to post it on social media because he took a nice picture with it on the roof of the hotel and put my card in his wallet," she said. "I was super excited to see it and told the amazing people/new friends I met there that the rockstar life was waiting for me around the corner. When I received the notifications, I was painting, and I showed my sister and said, 'Okay what do I do? Do I open it ? Do you think it's really him?' She has never watched a single race and doesn't care about it much, she didn't answer my questions and probably just wondered why her twin ended up being so nuts."
Even if her sister was annoyed, it's Layani's outgoing nature and bubbly personality that's gotten her so many famous friends. Hopefully Hamilton is her newest one.
"I can only hope to stay in touch with him and get to paint more for him," she shared. "Lewis is an absolute legend in the motorsports industry, and a beautiful soul! I adore his style and his involvement in so many great causes."
Read the full feature on Laury Layani and learn more about her football fandom over at Urban Pitch.