It’s hard to talk about Kenya Kinski-Jones without acknowledging her lineage. As the daughter of legendary music producer Quincy Jones and actress Nastassja Kinski, it would be easy for Kenya to coast by on her good looks and heritage. Yet the Loyola Marymount alumna is more likely to be found mucking out stables and working with nonprofit organizations to raise awareness around climate change. From her editorial debut in a Bruce Weber shoot for Vogue Spain, to campaigns for Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein, Kenya is forging her own identity in spite of any preconceived notions you may have about her.
Tell us about your childhood.
I grew up in Los Angeles. My passion and first love was horses. I spent most of my days—from elementary school to high school—at the barn from morning to night when I wasn’t in school. It taught me a great deal about responsibility, discipline, and work ethic, both as a sport, and also just purely in the connection with such a wonderful animal. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for horses; they are very much a part of who I am. I am incredibly grateful for that time in my life and I can’t wait to bring it back because I miss it so much it hurts!
You were discovered by legendary photographer Bruce Weber. Tell us about what that experience was like.
I was with my mother and we went to visit Bruce on set in Los Angeles at the beach. My Mom introduced me to him and in between his shoot we spent a few minutes taking a couple of shots together in an alley in Venice. A few months later, I booked my first ever published shoot which was for Vogue Spain shot by Bruce. It was a day in Montauk and I was just so happy to be a part of it. The shoot was with a group of models that I love like Magdalena Frackowiak. Bruce and the entire team were so warm and kind. The way he shot flowed very naturally. It felt like we were just having a day by the water and in a barn that just happened to be a shoot. Those are still some of my favorite shots.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
Being a part of the ensemble for the Stella McCartney POP fragrance is one of my most memorable career moments. I cannot emphasize how thoroughly I idolize and respect Stella; for what she has not only done for fashion but also for our planet. She is truly the pioneer of sustainable fashion—and she does it in a way that has been all her own—years before it was even a thought in fashion. She paved the way for a place where fashion and sustainability can meet with integrity and style. To work with her in any way was a dream for me including the girls Amandla, Lola, and Grimes who were the coolest girls I’ve ever met.
Talk to us about your relationship with Chanel.
Chanel is a brand that I respect and admire very much. The house is truly in a league of its own. Chanel is absolutely classic while also being unexpected and contemporary as well. There’s an element of sophistication and simultaneous elements of surprise that you can’t quite put your finger on. Having a relationship with the house is an honor and so much fun.
As the daughter of two well-known parents what was it like trying to establish your own identity?
I think establishing my own identity was the same as any other person. I’ve never felt any kind of pressure from my parents in the process of unraveling who I am in any way.
You’re actively involved with numerous charities. Tell us about how you decided what charities to get involved with and your role with them.
As climate change has become—and has been for quite some time—the most urgent crisis that we as humans are facing, I am focusing on learning as much as I can and working on making sustainable changes in my own life as best as I can. I think we begin to make a change as individuals and then as a whole when we begin by educating ourselves truly about what is going on. When we know what’s happening then you care, and when you care you take action. As of this year I have been engaging with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC )which is an absolutely incredible organization that was formed by lawyers to help protect our planet and protect our health in regard to clean air and water, as well as protecting wildlife, and land. I am also the ambassador of Climate Futures which is an app that creates a low carbon economy from which people and businesses can directly offset their carbon footprints.
What is the most common misconception about yourself you run up against?
People make assumptions about how I’ve lived my life and what it must have been like, and it’s always very far from the truth. People make very strong assumptions when they have no idea. Not everything is as it seems. People make assumptions sometimes which can suck, and I think we all go through that. When you just keep doing you and standing in your truth, hopefully people can see that their initial assumption wasn’t so accurate.
You were an English major. What one book has had a lasting impact on you and why?
I would say what’s had a lasting impact on me in regard to literature is actually a poem which is William Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality. I studied it in an English literature course and we were assigned to interpret it. I remember turning in responses to my professor and over and over he told me I wasn’t quite getting the meaning of it. I remember finally one day I understood it and I had such an emotional response. The way he writes about losing your childlike view of the world—how the world glows when you’re small and then it changes—it broke my heart. I’d never seen those emotions discussed before, let alone by the genius of Wordsworth. I worked tirelessly to understand that piece of literature after not getting it for so long so when the meaning of it came together and crashed down on me, it really had an impact on me. Not to be so dramatic—but yes—that was very impactful.
What can we expect to see from you next?
We shall see!
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