November/December 2023 Creative and Visual Art
K a y l a H M a g d a l e n a
P r o f e s s i o n a l M o d e l
What inspired you to start your modeling journey?
I've done some amateur modeling throughout childhood and college, but I was afraid to pursue more than that. After a self-discovery journey, I started modeling more seriously this year.
Part of my journey included reflecting on my mom's legacy. She was an amazing Black woman who was a Jack of all trades, master of all, yet still not celebrated enough for how amazingly talented she was. I want to honor her by pursuing all the things that I love and being the full person Mom raised me to be, while celebrating Black women and Black people.
I hired a dope Black photographer (Ashleigh Bing) to get some promo shots for a new job, a self-produced concert, and to start a professional IG page. It's taken off from there.
How would you describe your modeling style?
I'd say my modeling style - and my style in general - is: Black-forward.
By that I mean, I only feel underdressed if I'm not wearing something that is from a Black-owned brand, a Black designer or stylist, a Black-led company...something! My dream is for my closet to be at least 80% filled with items from only Black designers and companies. The other 20% would be items from other minority-owned brands, people I know personally, or hand-me-downs from my mom and grandmothers.
Even for my photoshoot for LDL, I purposefully used a Black photographer (KIGphotos), Black-woman owned studio (Studio 40E), Black make-up artist (Lauren Nicole Makeup & Skincare), Black lash esthetician (The Luxe Aesthetic), Black hair stylist (HairJournies LLC), and I consulted with a Black stylist for my outfit choices (Ersaline & Mae Vintage). I purchased the sparkly items and red booties from Black shops on Etsy, and the tulle skirt with the African print waist band is from a Ghanaian-based brand, Christie Brown (borrowed).
You have walked during the New York Fashion Week (NYWF) shows. As a model, how do you prepare for a huge show like NYFW?
This was my first time participating in fashion week. I was Googling, YouTubing, watching old episodes of America's Next Top Model, and new episodes of Project Runway. I was trying to ask other models without letting the designer know I was terrified so he wouldn't change his mind.
I was working out at SideBarre twice a week, doing 20 minutes of Pilates on YouTube at home most mornings, and drinking lots of water.
Then, I practiced my walk on any and every stretch of sidewalk and hallway I could find, recording myself and getting feedback from my girls whenever I could.
Actually, the morning of the show I was recording on an NYC sidewalk and had my phone propped up on a structure of a restaurant built for outdoor dining. My phone fell in this tiny crevice between some wooden planks, so I had to ask strangers for a screwdriver, disassemble and reassemble the structure, put the plants and decor back, all while talking to the restaurant's security cameras so they wouldn't have me arrested... It was a whole thing. I was mortified, but it was pretty funny.
Who are some brands that you have been able to collaborate with?
I've only collaborated with a few brands so far, but they’ve been minority-owned companies. My niece, Laila, and I did a photoshoot for Nine Culture, a Black owned athleisure brand. That's how I met KIGphotos, the photographer I've worked with on multiple projects, including the photoshoot for LDL. I’ve also worked with Avantgarde Fusion, a clothing and accessories store in NYC, and one of their Black-owned vendors, Isa Chic Co.
The other two brands I worked with during NYFW: The Debonaire Club (Black owned custom suit designers, which recruited me to NYFW); and Aden Hijab (an Indonesian high fashion outfitter, which is the show I booked while I was in NYC).
Other than that, I just buy clothes I like from Black-owned brands and tag them on IG so my friends and family can consider them the next time they shop. A couple of other brands I've recently worn are Sun Gods (bohemian-afro-chic apparel made via *slow* fashion) and Actively Black (athleisure and athletic apparel). I get stopped a lot for my style, and I always share the names of the Black-owned brands that I'm wearing.
It is the holiday season! Describe your perfect holiday outfit for a cocktail party.
I wanna say a cute wide-leg jumper with the back out and a little side cleavage. But I'd regret it when I'm trying to make it to the bathroom every five minutes after too many cocktails.
I think my real perfect holiday look this year is: structured, but slightly stretchy black sequined short shorts, a matching oversized blazer with the sleeves rolled up over one of my Renaissance World Tour merch T-shirts (with Queen Bey's face in the middle), and a sky-high, chunky heel in any color.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a model?
Modeling is a lot more challenging than I expected. One of the most disappointing things I learned at NYFW was that the majority (if not all) of the models I met had other "day" jobs. These people are super talented professionals - many are signed with agencies. Yet, they still have to do this "on the side". Realizing that this work alone won't be able to sustain me is a challenge I address (at least emotionally) multiple times a day.
It's also challenging to stay motivated; to learn new techniques and technologies; to realize that my body is constantly changing and that those changes will show up in my work. Figuring out when to take risks, what to spend money on, when to get help and from whom, and how to not be taken advantage of...it's all challenging. Trying again - with a positive attitude - after rejection (not being chosen for a show, a photoshoot taking longer than it should, being talked down to, being told no when you ask for help) is a major challenge.
I keep going because I love it and it fills me. I have similar challenges doing stuff I hate, so I might as well use my energy to overcome challenges that ultimately create something beautiful.
What are some words of advice that you can give to future models who want to build up their modeling portfolio?
First, I'd say not to talk yourself out of it - especially if you're doubting yourself because of height, or shape, or whatever. I was shocked that I was one of the taller models at my NYFW shows, and I'm only 5'8" (on a good day). People who were technically outside of the stated requirements have booked shows at all the model calls I've attended - so just try. Plus, auditions are some of the only places you'll get good practice and potentially feedback from professionals.
Then, I'd say to connect with other models, photographers, and make-up artists. Those are the people who've told me about other events, and reached out when they want to work together. Go to the meet-ups. Do all of the things to get practice and connections. Ask for and be open to feedback.
Lastly, I'd say pay it forward and back. There's plenty of work to go around and things would be boring with just you. So, include others in your efforts, and support other people's events.
"Then, I'd say to connect with other models, photographers, and make-up artists. Those are the people who've told me about other events, and reached out when they want to work together. Go to the meet-ups. Do all of the things to get practice and connections. Ask for and be open to feedback".
Outside of your modeling, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
I truly enjoy entertaining in most forms. I love live shows: performing and attending. Concerts, theater, comedy... I love it.
Also, I love, love, love to travel.
Combining travel and live shows?! *chef’s kiss*
Photographer: Kasim George Photography (KIGphotos)
Photography Studio: Studio 40E
Make-up Artist: Lauren Dew (Lauren Nicole Makeup & Skincare)
Lash Esthetician: The Luxe Aesthetic
Hair Stylist: HairJournies LLC
Consulting Stylist: Tristen Jones (Ersaline & Mae Vintage)
Manicure & Pedicure: Nailbed & Bar