In Conversation With Kenya Kinski-Jones

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!

Follow her on Instagram

Introducing Jena Goldsack

Jena Goldsack’s classic beauty—a delicate mix of both approachable and yet desirable—is the stuff of designer’s dreams. Jena’s portfolio is chock full of editorials for fashion bibles Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar in addition to campaigns for Iceberg and Versus Versace. I caught up with the Cornwall born beauty as she talked about modeling and her involvement with Sea Life Trust, a cause close to her heart.

Tell us about your childhood growing up in Cornwall.

I grew up on the beach, quite literally. We lived in a house at the back of my local beach until I turned five where the first thing I would see in the morning—if we were lucky that day—were dolphins on the horizon. We then moved just up the hill to a bigger place where I would sometimes get up early to go fishing with my dad. I was quite a tomboy—as there was only one other girl in my class—and my parents already had two daughters. Being the youngest I became a bit of a son to my dad.

How were you discovered?

I was discovered in Falmouth by another model who was quite well known in the 90s. I didn’t really take her seriously until a few months later when I sent my photos to an agency in London who I’m still with.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

I honestly don’t know—I’ve never been a planner— but I hope something to do with the ocean. I studied Ocean Science for a while online, and I studied nutrition and how it helps with auto immune diseases, so I have a couple options. I studied Media and Journalism in school too so I suppose I’ve always had a creative side.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

For me the locations are the most memorable. Shooting in the desert at sunrise in Oman for Condé Nast was incredible and the most peaceful thing in the world. I was so taken aback and happy to be there. Also, when I was shooting on a glacier in Iceland I heard and saw the icebergs flipping over. The colors were insane and it sounded like a thunder storm.

Environmentalism is a cause close to your heart. How have you leveraged social media to raise awareness around the cause?

I probably annoy some people on social media with what I share but someone’s gotta do it. Someone messaged me telling me I share “liberal propaganda,” but I don’t see how sharing facts about our environment and the climate is wrong, and for the most part people thank me for sharing useful information. I don’t want to feel like I’m forcefully guilt tripping my followers, so some days I post about it and some days I don’t.

What do you think is the defining social issue of our time?

I don’t think there is just one defining issue right now, there are a ton. In many ways we have stepped forward with things like the #MeToo movement, but in other ways it feels like we have taken a step back and become polarized with our own opinions about things like race and gender equality.

Talk to us about your involvement with Sea Life Trust.

I could talk all day about the Sea Life Trust. It is a charity where they have aquariums all over the world. I grew up by the Cornish Sea Sanctuary and earlier this year they helped move two beluga whales from an aquarium in China—where they had been captive for 11 years—and flew them to Iceland to be released into the worlds first sea pen sanctuary next year. As these whales have spent their whole lives in captivity it is not possible to ever release them into the wild. They depend too much on human interaction so Sea Life Trust came up with the idea to recreate their own environment while still being looked after. I went to Iceland last weekend to raise awareness about this and we shot a story about it. These whales love humans so much they’re like dogs—it was extremely surreal—they love their tongues being rubbed and they come out the water as much as they can to get a scratch or a rub from you. They’re literally gentle giants. One of the whale’s trainers at the sanctuary moved from Shanghai to this tiny island in Iceland just to be with his whale that he has this deep connection with. I witnessed them talk to each other, and blow water at each. There will be enough room for 12 belugas in the sea pen so hopefully other aquariums will follow suit once they’ve seen that this has been a success.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Again, I’m no planner but I probably should be. I’d love to be involved with more charity work—preferably something to do with the ocean. It’s a shame I can’t be a mermaid. I just completed my diving course so I’d like to be cleaning up the ocean like I’ve seen these divers start to do. Also, coral planting is on my list—they have coral gardens where you can help the dying reefs come back to life. Hopefully I’ll still be a model in five years—thank God for my baby face—as modelling has helped me fund my side projects, which is great.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I used to clean caravans and I won’t ever let myself forget it. A caravan park is like a trailer park for you Americans—we all come from somewhere.

Follow her on Instagram

Christina Kruse: Base And Balance

German born multi-disciplinary artist Christina Kruse’s Bauhaus influenced solo exhibit closed last week at New York’s Helwaser Gallery. By integrating core elements of the Bauhaus movement, Kruse lays bare any pretense and strips away all sentiment leaving the observer with an inherent beauty in her rational approach to the subject matter. The sculptures on display offer a cohesive body of work melding wood, bronze, and brass sculptures informed by Schlemmer, referencing the lines of human bodies.

Presented in loose groupings, her sculptures punctuate the gallery against a backdrop of her renderings in pencil and chalk. These drawings—almost diagrammatic—serve to complement, rather than compete, with the architectural sculptures on display.

“The drawings to me represent the issues in each sculpture that I need to contain. Some of them are super colorful, for starters, and a little mad—everything flows, everything is all over the place. And those are the matters that needs to be contained and organized in order to create an upright, standing, solid structure. They’re basically the issues to fix.”

This cohesive body of work is a natural evolution of her photographic and collage work over the past two years. Kruse, by introducing another dimension to her oeuvre, whets her audience’s appetite for what this promising artist has to offer next.

Allie Ayers On Sports Illustrated and How She Plans to Disrupt the Fashion Industry

From the pages of Sports Illustrated to disrupting the fashion industry with her size inclusive swimwear line Bissy Swim, Allie Ayers is forging her own path by creating a new paradigm of what it means to be a model in 2019. The self proclaimed weird kid from rural Oklahoma chatted about how the pursuit of her dreams landed her in The City of Angels, and how she stays grounded.

What were your aspirations growing up in a small town in Oklahoma?

As a kid I was constantly paying my brother in Spam—we were weird kids—to act in the plays I would put on in our front yard for the neighborhood. I also spent a lot of time drawing each outfit for my imaginary fashion shows. There was never any question what kind of person I would become. I knew I wanted to live a life bigger than I was going to get in a town of 1300 people, so one of my most prominent dreams was to move to New York City. I ended up in LA, but New York was an important stop along the way.

Was modeling a career you always wanted to pursue and how did you get into the industry?

I remember submitting my photos to a Teen Vogue modeling competition when I was around 13. Part of the prompt was to showcase several outfits we styled ourselves. In true early 2000s fashion, I know there were jeans worn under dresses, lots of layered tops, and a ton of awful prints. So, yes, I certainly wanted to model. I didn’t have my chance until 5 years later when my mother agent scouted me at a beauty pageant. I told her I would have to call her after basketball season and I did!

Tell us about your experience working with Sports Illustrated.

The Sports Illustrated team has been such a blessing in my life. Anyone who has modeled a while will have a slew of stories highlighting how negative the industry can be, and I certainly have my fair share. This group of people—mostly women—were so lovely through every step of the process. I think one of the most important things they do is to give the models so much control over their image. When you are on set shooting for a company you almost always have no say in how you appear (to an extent hard lines should be abided by). With Sports Illustrated I was able to have a say in the swimsuits I wore, and the team were open to any feedback I gave throughout the day. I say that’s so important because it reinforces the message they are sending about female empowerment that we, as women, have full control over our bodies and our image.

You’ve spoken about the challenges of being a mid-size model. What have you discovered about yourself through that experience?

The initial realization that I was in some vague category between standard size models and plus size models was frustrating because nobody knew what to do with me. I was sent to plus and straight size castings and didn’t fit either. The industry is starting to open up now, so it is getting easier. Now I’m so thankful for that time in my life because it heightened my awareness of the lack of representation in modeling for not only midi models but also different races, genders, and ages.

Talk to us about the genesis of Bissy Swim.

My baby! Bissy is the product of the frustration I had with the lack of diversity I was seeing in fashion advertising, the realization that the plus size community has such limited options and lack of quality within those options, and the love I’ve had for creating since I was a kid. I had been making suits by hand for a time when I found out I was going to be featured in Sports Illustrated. With that momentum, I launched Bissy.

You described Bissy Swim as a size-inclusive swimwear line. Talk to us about how your line differs from other brands.

I’m hoping to change the standard within the fashion industry through Bissy’s example. Yes, we cater to the plus community, but we take that farther. So many plus brands give women options that stack ruffles on patterns on layers of fabric, clearly with the intention to cover up. Quality-made pieces are also hard to find. I wanted to make sure women could come to my site and find sleek, classic options that are designed to flatter the curves they have, not to cover them up. By the way, my use of “flatter” doesn’t mean “make them look thinner”, it means “show off how how hot those curves are”! With my marketing, I also aim to disarm whatever it might be in someone that makes them feel like they need to hide their body. Another area we are super passionate about is the sustainability, and the ethics of our work. Our suits are made in the USA. I chose to do that, so I would be able to see for myself that we were hiring fair labor facilities. We’re also making changes regularly to reduce our waste. We are focused on creating pieces that will last our customers a long time by making quality swimsuits that will stay nice longer, but also by choosing designs that won’t be out next season or the next.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry headed in the next few years?

I’m so over fast fashion. These brands rip off quality designers to rapidly produce essentially disposable clothing. Almost always in these situations fair labor practices aren’t implemented either. It’s so negative for our environment, for employees, and for the fashion industry as a whole. I hope to see sustainable fashion made cool. I want to see people being celebrated for wearing the same pieces over and over, instead of it feeling like a no-no to post a photo of yourself in the same dress on Instagram twice.

With so much on your plate, how do you stay grounded?

I’m careful about who I surround myself with. I think it’s so important to keep a tight group of friends who truly align with the person you want to be. I’ve also learned to not only keep “yes men” around me. You’re not going to make the best decision every single time—we’re human. Keep people around who aren’t afraid to check you.

What projects are you working on that you can share with us?

I’m so excited to have taken on the wardrobe direction for the upcoming feature film Colonials. It will be my first time wearing this hat and I can’t wait to see it come to life.

Follow her on Instagram

Model Elise Crombez On Her Next Chapter

I met Elise one dreary Friday afternoon in a cafe in Chinatown in Washington D.C. As I perched at a high top table I noticed her sitting at the table across from me. To an untrained eye she would present as just another pulchritudinous brunette, but as someone who has studied fashion and models for the better part of two decades, I immediately recognized her. I waited until she was preparing to leave before satiating my curiosity and confirming my suspicions. As beautiful in person as she is in print, the Meisel muse entertained me either out of politeness, curiosity, or a mixture of the two. Now residing in New York, what follows is a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the model.

As a model you are defined by your looks. How did you reconcile your image with Elise the person?

I was lucky to have a strong foundation of family and friends while working. Going home to Belgium on a regular basis helped me balance out the demands of my job. But in the end, it was a gradual process of getting used to my ‘natural’ looks again after working with such great hair and make-up teams. I’m just really lucky to be seen and loved for who I am, and that is all I strive for. From the beginning, I have always looked up to women who age truthfully, fearlessly, and thus gracefully.

In fashion you have very little autonomy. What was that experience like for you, how did you cope, and in retrospect what have you discovered about yourself through this experience?

I agree that we are being told where to go and what to wear, although the reality is that most models move abroad, learn a new language, and make a life for themselves at a very early age in a business full of sharks. When I started, there were no smartphones or Wi-Fi, so we had to be much more responsible and self-sufficient. Most models become businesswomen in their early twenties. So I can proudly say that modeling has made me more independent than I could have ever dreamed to be.

You previously expressed an interest in film. Is that something that still holds your interest?

I love artistic self-expression. Modeling fed my passion to a certain extent but I felt at home in the acting lessons in New York and Los Angeles. I joined the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Ghent, Belgium for a year before moving back to LA. This might seem strange to some, but exposing my vulnerability and truths creatively (through a character in a play, a movie, or my own writing), hoping to connect with the audience, is what I feel I’m meant to do.

What does success look like to you and do you think of yourself as successful?

I’m a Leo, so I’m very demanding of myself. Success felt like a threatening word for a long time because I feared it would change my beliefs and values. Today, I feel successful in the sense that I try to be a good person and have never compromised my core beliefs.

Do you feel you’ve achieved balance in your life?

I’m in this challenge right now. I find it very hard to sit still and be patient. Even though I sat in hair and make-up chairs for hours and had to wait for my turn at castings and fittings, I was still doing it for work. Work horses love to work. I’m trying my hardest to enjoy the free space I have without feeling guilty or forgetting I have sacrificed a lot when I left Belgium at 17.

If you think of your life in chapters what do you want to achieve next?

Creative risk-taking.

Where would you like to see your life in the future?

Healthy, honest, harmonious. Nothing great gets accomplished when you want to be happy and comfy. I realized that wanting to be HAPPY all the time is not conducive to what I feel my life’s purpose is, which is to show honesty on a stage, on the screen or in my writing.

What do you think people would be surprised to discover about you?

I turn into a kid when I’m at the beach, I’m obsessed with Jeopardy, and my dad jokes are relentless.

Follow her on Instagram