Check our interview with gorgeous model and human rights advocate Kayla Stern who was signed with Wilhelmina in NYC when she was 9. She has walked in NYFW for several designers including Michael Lombard. She is a co-host on Santa Barbara Teen Sports Radio. She promoted a new skincare line that’s selling at Sephora. She also worked with Cosmopolitan Fashion Week during NYFW. She is currently interning with a public relations company, Luxury Experience & CO. Kayla is also very passionate and educated on the topic of Human Trafficking Awareness and Cyber Bullying. She also volunteers at Girls INC.
Please you tell us a little about you?
I’m Kayla Stern. I’m a 16-year-old southern girl living on the west coast. I have a passion for the fashion industry. I’m a human rights advocate with a focus on human trafficking awareness. I love to travel, meet new people, and try new things. I am an intern for a public relations firm called Luxury Experience and Co. and I love playing sports.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative, Hard-working, and Loyal.
Name some of your strengths?
Some of my strengths include having good communication skills, a positive mindset, and making others laugh. I’m also pretty fast at running.
Do you have a role model?
My dad is my biggest role model. He started his own company, is a hard worker, and always seems to be able to juggle work and family life like a pro. He always encourages me to work hard, be responsible, be honest, to persevere, and to respect myself.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life so far?
My mom has been the biggest influence on my life. She is my biggest supporter and always gives the most honest advice. She encourages me to see the best in others and lead with a kind heart. My mom has always encouraged me to give to my community and the importance of helping others. I definitely hit the jackpot when it comes to great parents!
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little, I always wanted to be a soccer player. I started playing soccer at 3 years old. I played for a club team in Atlanta as center-mid and I’ve played for my high school team the last 2 years.
How and when did you start into modeling?
When I was 9 years old and living in Atlanta, a family friend asked if she could send a picture of me to someone she knew at Ford Modeling in NYC. I hadn’t really thought about modeling before that. They immediately contacted my mom but wouldn’t sign me unless I agreed to move. I was disappointed so my mom sent my picture into Wilhelmina. They were willing to sign me for the summer months, so we spent our summer in NYC.
What advice would you give someone getting into modeling?
My advice to aspiring models is: Always be yourself. Always be prepared for a casting by double checking details. Don’t ever compromise your morals for a job. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut instinct. If you want it, be persistent. Be open to advice, sometimes it’s constructive criticism. It’s important so you can learn, but don’t let it affect how you feel about yourself. It’s not personal. Always be professional so you can create lasting relationships. I feel there is definitely a misconception about the modeling world, but truthfully it is hard work, long hours, and a lot of rejection. If you are passionate about it and love the fashion industry, it will be worth it. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel and meet great friends. Lastly, from my experience, I also discovered that there are so many other opportunities within the fashion world, so don’t limit yourself to just modeling because you may discover other interests and talents within the industry.
What did you learn from your biggest failure? (if any)
I don’t consider mistakes or things not working out the way I plan as a failure. I look at it more as a learning and growing experience. I would prefer to try something new and it not work out than to always wonder “what if”. Yes, I have had friendships that didn’t turn out to be what I expected, or I decided I wanted to try something new that I ended up hating (ballet dancing) But I try to not live with regrets. Those things that haven’t worked out only helped me learn to be a better friend or led me to the things that I do enjoy.
How was working at NYFW?
NYFW is so much fun. I have met some very talented people in the fashion industry and lifelong friends. It’s a busy and exhausting several days, but totally worth it. I interned for Cosmopolitan Fashion Week backstage. I’ve enjoyed getting to experience both sides of putting on the show. I’ve done mostly child and teen modeling up to this point. Now that I’m getting older and I’m only 5’7”… possibly still growing… moving forward I could be limited in runway because of my height but it has been a really wonderful experience.
Best advice you have followed?
Within the past year, I faced cyberbullying from a group of students at a new school. They opened Instagram accounts with my name and private messaged pretending to be me. Some students sent mean comments on my account. When I came forward about what was happening to me, I got zero support from other students and the school administration. The bullying got worse and made me question my decision to come forward. Looking back, it was one of the biggest growing experiences I’ve had so far. It was shocking to see people go out of their way to hurt me to be part of a social group that prides themselves on making people feel bad and excluding people. I got bullied because I didn’t play by their rules. The best advice I followed is to feel confident in standing up for myself, not to doubt my instincts, and to surround myself with friends who are supportive and loyal. Social media has become an easy way for people to be hateful sitting behind a screen. It’s important for kids to realize the power of their words to hurt people or build others up.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Happiness to me is something found from within and something only you can create. It’s not found in the place you live, and your happiness isn’t the responsibility of others. It is a personal choice you make. If something makes you unhappy, change it. Surround yourself with people that make you happy.
How was Coachella this year?
I attended Coachella for my internship with Luxury Experience and Co with Melissa McAvoy and Brittany Reimann. During the weeks prior, I assisted in putting together guest lists, online research, and assisting with their social media. Melissa is teaching me so much. Those ladies know how to put on a successful event! It was so fun to see it all come together and they have many wonderful clients with amazing products. I feel so lucky to be a part of it.
Do you support any charities?
I became interested in Human Trafficking Awareness after watching my mother teach survivors a curriculum called Ending the Game, which is designed to educate and empower survivors. I realized that the majority of teens are completely unaware of this issue. I have collected art supplies for House of Hope at my high school, discussed human trafficking on my local radio show, and assisted my mom in a variety of different small projects. I also had the opportunity to talk to the developer of the program Ending the Game, Rachel Thomas, and gain more information from Carissa Phelps, author of Runaway Girl, along with connecting with a local survivor. As I began to research and attend awareness events, I found that most parents choose not to inform their children about trafficking because they either feel uncomfortable or are under the impression that it cannot happen to their child. Human trafficking can happen to anyone no matter who you are, where you live, or the color of your skin. My family also just sponsored a dinner for Empower Her Network in hopes of bringing the program to the central coast. The non-profit collaborates with survivors by removing housing barriers, financing education, and uncovering employment opportunities to clear the path to independence. I also work at Girls Inc. every Wednesday as a mentor for the Boost Program which helps to increase a girl’s confidence and build a “can do” attitude through support. Each girl participating in the program is partnered with a mentor who focuses on bridging gaps the girls may have that are preventing them from succeeding in their school work.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
A typical day in my life includes going to school, hanging out with friends, going to work out, on Wednesday’s I volunteer at Girl’s Inc, finishing any work I have for my internship, completing homework, spending time with my family, and watching an episode of the show I’m into at the moment.
What’s the advice you live by?
I try to always be open minded and not judge others. We never really know what someone else is going through. It’s important to respect each other’s journey and respect ourselves.
Who is your favorite Actor/Actress? And why?
My favorite actress is Annalyn McCord because I admire all the work she’s done through Together One Heart to help survivors of human trafficking. She has such a big heart. My favorite actor is Ashton Kutcher because he helped save many kids from sex trafficking through his organization Thorn. I admire those who use their platform to speak about issues they’re passionate about.
What is next for Kayla Stern in 2019?
I’m moving to the East coast this summer, so that will be a huge change. I’ll be working on the ESPY gifting lounge with Luxury Experience & Co. in July and then the Super Bowl Event later in the year. I can’t wait to see what amazing partners we’ll have for these events. I’ve applied to a couple college leadership programs this summer, but I’m still waiting to get the acceptance letters. My dream would be to go to Cambodia with Together 1 Heart over the Christmas holidays. I’m also hoping to get more involved with Empower Her Network.
What’s your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” by Mother Teresa. When it comes to helping with those who have survived human trafficking, it can be difficult and frustrating hoping to save everyone, but you have to take a step back and realize the power of just saving one person.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
If I could meet someone living or dead, it would be Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa is so inspiring to me because she did so many amazing things to help others. I would love to hear her talk about her life and about her challenges in her faith and how she got through it.
Your idea of a perfect Sunday is?
My idea of a perfect Sunday would be a picnic on the beach with my family and four dogs or going to polo.
Something people don’t know about you?
I’m more fun than people expect. I think a lot of people think I’m a goody two shoes.
What would be a deal breaker on a first date?
Hmmmm…I’m not sure. I haven’t had much experience with dating. I like boys who are confident and kind.
Name 3 things you can’t live without?
Three things that I can’t live without is my family, my animals, and airplanes because I love to travel and experience other cultures.
What is your workout routine these days?
I love running so cardio is a big part of my routine. I also lift weights and attend hot yoga classes at Core Power.
What is your favorite healthy food?
My favorite healthy food is avocado.
Your favorite cheat food?
My favorite cheat food is a salted turtle sundae from Lucky’s.
Which project is still on your bucket list?
A project that is still on my bucket list is going on a mission trip abroad and learning a new language. I need a full time Spanish tutor!
Who is your biggest beauty inspiration?
I love everything Bobbi Brown, but my fav beauty influencer right now is James Charles. I enjoy watching his YouTube videos and learning all new tips, tricks, and different brands to try. He is so confident and creative. I love his eyeshadow looks and I would love for him to do my makeup someday.
Who are some of your favorite models and designers, and why?
My favorite model is definitely Gigi Hadid. I love her candidness about her body and her ability to balance the demands of her career and her desire to be healthy. I have spent countless hours studying her natural and beautiful walk. There’re so many designers I love. Valentino and Calvin Klein are 2 of my favorites. So elegant! I thought I died and went to fashion heaven when I saw Chanel’s Paris Fashion Week winter wonderland themed show this last season. Chanel is so classy and chic.
How would you describe your fashion style?
Fashion is my favorite form of art and creativity and I use it to express how I’m feeling. I don’t dress in one way. I love to wear ripped jeans and a crop top or a designer dress and heels…or sometimes mix a casual look with heels. Heels definitely make me more productive and want to take on the world. As far as modeling, it’s so exciting to walk for different kinds of designers. It lets me try on different sides of myself. For instance, with Michael Lombard…I’m usually reserved so it’s fun to try on my sexy, edgy side. I definitely have had clothes I’ve liked in the moment and look back at pictures and think “why the heck did I think that was cute” but it’s like everything else in life…it’s where I was in the moment and my fashion style changes as I get older and change. But I’m always comfortable in the moment with what I choose to wear. We’re all different and it’s great to have the freedom to express that through fashion.
Where do you see yourself five years?
In five years, I see myself in college majoring in marketing. I would love to do an internship in NYC and study abroad.
What do you think of Social Media?
I have conflicting feelings about social media. It took me a long time to get comfortable sharing myself online. Everything has turned to online advertising so if you’re trying to start a business, sell a product, network, model… you really are going to limit yourself if you aren’t online. I also feel like social media makes it hard for our generation to relax and live in the moment. It’s all about balance.
Where can we follow you?
You can follow me on Instagram @kayla.stern
Book: To Kill A Mockingbird
Sports Team: The Cavs
Restaurant/Bar: Rue 57 in New York City and Mr. Chows and Nobu in LA
Drink: Sweet Tea
Song: Any song by Khalid
Travel destination: Prague, Czech Republic
Movie: The Notebook
TV Show: Gossip Girl