Engines of society - Marlee Dos Reis

Sponsored content Switch to French for original article

Listen to this article

In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we regularly present women who have a very special impact on Luxembourg society through their professional careers or simply through their personal stories.

Car enthusiasts love to challenge the limits of the models they test. They pay attention to acceleration, top speed and road holding. On this hot day, however, it is probably the air conditioning that Marlee Dos Reis is waiting for the most when she arrives at the Porsche Centre in Howald in 36 °C weather.

"I'm not a car lover", she says, laughing. "My brother is. He was jealous when I told him I was testing a car. And then he heard it was a Porsche …" Marlee never misses an opportunity to make people laugh, but whether you like cars or not, a Porsche never leaves anyone indifferent. Today she has the chance to test a Taycan Turbo Cross Turismo, a model that is 100 per cent electric.

Marlee is a 34-year-old Luxembourger who is proud of her Cape Verdean roots. She is a mother of a three-year-old daughter and works in the Ministry of Health. But the fact that she has a story that will inspire many is mainly thanks to Imani, her asbl: "I need 70 per cent of normal work and 30 per cent need to be my own projects", she explains. "I like to go to work, then come home and look forward to finally being able to take my photos during the weekend."

She has turned her hobby into her profession. Under the umbrella brand Imani, she pursues several activities: Photography, fashion design, events and collaborations with make-up artists and models. And all with success. "Young people now know what Imani is", she says. "I noticed it in December when someone recognised me in a shopping centre. I thought, 'Wow, what's going on?'"

But as Marlee often points out, "Imani is more than a brand, it's a statement." Her main goal, she says, is to help young women, regardless of their colour, background or ethnicity, to assert themselves and be themselves. "I want to give a platform to the women who are not featured in the newspapers and don't have a voice." Incidentally, the word "Imani" in Swahili refers to faith. For her, it describes a strong woman, a person who unites. That is the movement she wants to see across generations.

"I want to give a platform to the women who are not featured in the newspapers and don't have a voice."

Marlee Dos Reis

Like the Porsche brand, which has been making car lovers dream since it was founded, it will last for generations. And that will not change with the move to electric cars. Indeed, the Porsche soul stands for performance in every sense of the word, and the Taycan CT is no exception, combining design, performance in both driving and charging, and comfort.

The Cross Turismo, one of the three versions of the model (along with the Classic and Sport Turismo), is also the estate version of the Porsche Taycan. It has 21-inch rims and wears an off-road package, in black, which underlines the adventurous character of the CT, but remains refined thanks to its fine features, which are highlighted by the ice grey metallic colour of the model Marlee is about to enter.

But before that, she stows her stuff in the boot. The boot of the Taycan has a volume of 405 litres (1,171 with the seats folded down). When the boot is closed, the rear is the most striking, with its impressive design, the continuous light strip and the PORSCHE lettering in three-dimensional glass-look letters.

Inside, the Porsche Advanced Cockpit, with its screens running from right to left, catches the eye. These include a 10.9-inch touchscreen that turns the passenger into a co-pilot, and a curved display that faces the driver. The interior and seats are covered in black leather. The icing on the cake is the timelessly classic analogue clock that majestically towers over everything. Listening to the first beats of Lizzo's About Damn Time, Marlee switches on the car and drives off in the direction of Vianden; back to her past.

"Wow … I want to buy a Porsche", Marlee laughs as she comes out of the first bend. "I don't even want to drive my car anymore! (laughs)" After only 200 metres, she has already been convinced. "We're supposed to give the car back when we want, right? So next year! (laughs)." Under the long glass roof of the Taycan, everything is in place to enjoy beautiful, sunny roads and blue skies in cool surroundings.

With her company Imani, which she founded in 2017, Marlee has already written many anecdotes. The first was that of an award ceremony whose aim was "to support all talented people of Cape Verdean origin in Luxembourg, to give them a boost and make them visible". 2,000 people attended the event and the press rolled over without Marlee having addressed them: "It was covered all over Europe. We were even on Cape Verde's national TV channel. I couldn't believe it!"

Since this success, Marlee has developed into a real businesswoman who is uncompromising when it comes to quality: "I brought out a first lipstick that was so well received that I kept producing. People still order them today." However, she says one thing sets her apart from the sharks of business life: her priority lies on the human aspect, not the financial. "My brand has nothing to do with multi-million dollars or anything like that. I don't make a lot of profit. The money that comes in is the money I spent."

"In all my projects, I have tried to include Luxembourg and its diversity." Marlee always comes back to the importance of representation. This has absolute priority for her. Because although she has found her way today, she says she was searching it for a long time. And this without a role model who could have helped her in her search. "I didn't see any women in the media who were like me. Except maybe Monica on TV (laughs), but you didn't see her talking about her feelings."

"I always think of the little girl I was. When you're little and you get bullied a bit or you don't have the same privileges as the others, you wonder what's going on. You wonder why." So being the exact person she herself would have needed as a child is what she wants, so she can help other girls who are in the same situation as her: "That's what's always driven me."

Having a motor is crucial. It sets the motion in motion and makes it possible to move forward. The engine of the Porsche Taycan Turbo CT, now approaching Vianden, has an overboost power of 500 kW, i.e. 680 hp, and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.3 seconds with Launch Control. An impressive performance that promises a pleasant driving experience thanks to an automatic transmission.

For an unparalleled experience, the Cross Turismo features all-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering, giving it exceptional traction despite its superior performance. The Porsche Electric Sport Sound Pack pampers the ears of purists who yearn for the hum of the iconic 911, the legendary flat-6 engine and other elements that have made the German brand famous.

So in narrow Vianden, the Taycan got through everywhere without the slightest problem. As on the motorway, the Porsche also drives smoothly over hilly roads and through hairpin bends that lead to a breathtaking view of the castle and the cobbled lanes of the main street, where Marlee stops in front of the inn where she once lived. Barely parked, the flowing lines and dynamic flyline of the CT steal the show from the charm of the place.

The Porsche drives smoothly over hilly roads and through hairpin bends that lead to breathtaking views of the castle and the cobbled lanes of the main street.

As Marlee gets out of the car, she pauses for a moment. Vianden evokes memories of a time that was very different from what she is experiencing today. "Wien hätt dat geduecht? (Who would have thought?)", she says. "I lived here in a 10-square-metre one-room flat when I was 18 years old. It was the smallest room in the whole house. A few years later I'm here with a reporter, a photographer and a Porsche that I'm testing with Losch."

When Marlee was about 18, she left her parents' house to start her own business. "Things weren't going so well with my parents", she says. "I wasn't a rebel, but a dreamer, and I was always in my world. That didn't work anymore. I promised my mother that I wouldn't drop out of school, which was natural for me anyway, and I moved to Vianden." She then began to combine school and work.

"I was never afraid of work. But it's hard to work eight hours, come home and not be able to go out", it was all too far away. Marlee fell in love with her adopted home: "Vianden is beautiful. Have you ever been to the Nëssmaart? It's the best event in the whole country! (laughs) Vianden is underrated. I discovered another world here." The sparkle in her eyes testifies to that.

In winter, the terraces of the restaurants in Vianden are closed. Marlee therefore had to work at the McDonald's in Ingeldorf, which was only a few kilometres away from the St Anne secondary school in Ettelbruck, where she went to school. "I came out of school at 4 o'clock, went to Mc's until 6 o'clock to do my homework, worked there until 10 o'clock and then took the bus back to Vianden. I missed it twice. It was hard, but I don't regret it. It made me who I am."

© Eric Engel

Marlee says she built her life by herself without the help of others. And now she shares everything she has learned along the way: "One day I decided to work with young people in the organisation." Always on a professional basis. "I love that and it's important for them to know that they have to be paid for their work." This way, she says, she gives them an initial foundation and prevents those who contact them in the future to offer them a job from taking advantage of them. She says she prepares them for life.

The same goes for her models, she says, because on top of all that, Marlee also has her modeling collective. "I always told myself that they had tremendous potential, but no one was booking them. So we gave them a platform, mentored them and trained them." From this, Marlee derives only the satisfaction of being able to help, she says. She doesn't take percentages and only arranges if her models want it too, "Free. They are free!"

After a detour to Al Schwemm, a café on the banks of the Sauer in Diekirch, where Marlee makes her video calls, it's time to head back to Howald. After returning to the Porsche Zenter, the Taycan Cross Turismo has had a good drive of about 120 km. But it still has more than 60 per cent range left. On one battery charge, it can cover between 345 (long-distance range) and 467 (city range) km.

Even longer journeys are no problem. With the Performance Plus battery, the CT can travel up to 512 km on a single charge – a range that is almost equivalent to a conventional tank filling. What's more, with a maximum charging power of 270 kW, the battery of the electric estate can be charged from 5 to 80 per cent in 22.5 minutes; an ultra-fast charging time that few cars can match.

This charging power also means that you can accelerate the Taycan to 100 km range in just 4.5 minutes. So the CT is undoubtedly an ideal partner for holidays and everyday life that is fun, practical and kind to the environment.

Such is the case with Imani's latest fashion show, with which she has declared war on fast fashion. "I don't want to go in that direction. If only for my conscience… I'd rather make quality than sell cheap products to make more money." Marlee then decided to give clothes a second life by reworking already worn garments. She went to thrift shops to buy blazers, got more blazers online, invested in an iPad to draw, and had a seamstress friend cut the items.

As she always strives for higher things, she has also found a company that sells second-hand fabrics. "Balmain, Gucci … Because they are no longer allowed to be thrown away in Europe. They are fabrics from collections that are many years old, but that doesn't mean you can't make something beautiful out of them anymore." At the time of our interview, she was in the process of organising this event to bring together fashion and sustainability, which successfully took place at the Cercle Cité in early September.

"All of that was the plan", she concludes. "When I was little, I played office worker with my parents' Excel programme or modelling agency by cutting models out of my mother's 3Suisses catalogue." What happens to her today she even predicted in her diary, she says, which she kept in English so her parents couldn't understand.

No doubt, it is innate in her. Nothing will stop her, she wants to be involved worldwide. "I always say to my daughters, 'Don't throw it all away, because in 100 years they'll make a museum about me and you'll be able to display it there! ' (laughs)." Who knows, maybe there will also be a photo of her at the wheel of a Porsche Taycan CT.