When I first met Jaelyn I was completely mesmerized and flattered to be in someone’s presence who was so unapologetically themselves. Especially at the age of 17!!! I recall thinking look at this Queen how can I be more like her. The world needs to see her.” At the time I was working for a portrait studio that did Senior photos for selected schools. My job gave me the opportunity to be in the presence of some VERY insecure teens and witness the horrors and pressures young women face at that age. Trying to look and be like who the media said. Everyone wanted to look and be like some Kardashian or Beyoncé. Many not even near living or speaking their truths. However, here for the first time in my 7 years of being with the studio was a young girl who was so authentic I had to just take a moment to take her in.
Naturally I had to get Jaelyn behind my own lens and thankfully she agreed. And here is where our friendship began. Below is a small interview I did with her recently on living her truth at such a young age, bring a diverse look to the modeling world, and how she continues to remain unwavered in her confidence and signature look! I hope it inspires others especially you 2019 Grads!
Kyra: So you are 18 in college pursuing track and modeling. What made you want to get into the modeling industry and to be taken seriously? Especially in the era of the “IG Models”.
Jaelyn: What made me want to get into the industry & take modeling seriously was when I actually started to love myself & realize dark skin is very beautiful. I’ve always wanted to model since I was little but back then I thought being dark skin was ugly so I never took it serious till now. Over the years I started to appreciate my natural beauty and I feel like there’s a place in the modeling world for natural beauty as well.
Kyra: So we had our first shoot that actually got picked up and will be on stands soon! How does that feel? Especially since we brought a very bold and diverse look to the styled shoot?
Jaelyn: It’s very exciting, that was my first real shoot and I was so nervous with so many thoughts going through my mind but I made it through. I’m happy to be the first African American girl to have a full spread in this magazine for my first shoot. I can’t wait to see what happens for me in the future.
Kyra: Speaking of diversity, when we first met I saw this beautiful brown skin, lush Afro, unapologetic teenager; and now we do love in a society where that’s starting to be praised more I can imagine growing up it hasn’t always been easy. What’s one of the biggest challenges you faced going through middle school and high school? How did you continue to fight falling into the “normalcy” of those around you?
Jaelyn: I’ve always been different since middle school. Whether it’s me wearing different types of clothes that weren’t the typical middle school attire or me wearing cartoon backpacks till sophomore year. I always wanted to stand out, I didn’t want to look like anybody else , I wanted to be my own person. People used to tear me down back in middle school because I was darker than people at my school & I used to be really depressed over that. But when I started growing my Afro it gave me a whole different confidence about myself. That’s when I really started loving my skin & started to know I was beautiful. I thank my mother for that, she’s always told me I was beautiful but I never believed it until now. Which is why I am the way I am an unapologetic brown skin girl with an Afro.
Kyra: What advise would you give to little girls and seniors trying to live their truths. And just be comfortable and proud of the skin they are in?
Jaelyn: I would tell them being different is good. You're beautiful no matter what anybody says & no matter what skin you're in. Stop caring what everybody else says & be you.
Stand out & be different.
Kyra: Back in 2013 we did a series on Sisterhood and it resonated with so many people. So I have to ask you. In you growth as a young lady and experience with becoming your own person, how important was not just friendship but sisterhood in your growth?
Jaelyn: It was important when I was going through certain things that I couldn’t talk to my mom about. I always had my friends who were there to uplift me and motivate me to keep going. Sisterhood means a lot to me because without my sisters I don’t know where I’d be.
Kyra: Thank you so much to wrap up I want you to finish this sentence: “Self-Care to me means ...”
Jaelyn: Self-care to me means taking care of yourself and putting yourself first. Taking care of you mind and body & making sure your emotionally stable.
One thing we learned from Jaelyn is to find your light, stand it, and always live and speak your truth!