Ask her 909,000 Instagram followers and they'll tell you that 18-year-old Jordyn Woods is a jack of all trades: She's a social media star, a model with Wilhelmina Curve (she's appeared in the likes of Complex and Galore), an L.A. socialite, and a vocal advocate of body positivity. She also happens to be Kylie Jenner's best friend, roommate, and all-around confidante (for those familiar with the Kardashian family, they're basically the Khloé and Malika of Generation Z).
It's the Monday after Valentine's Day at the Trump Soho and Woods tells me she's feeling "antisocial." Me too, I assure her — it's snowing outside, after all, and it's the middle of New York Fashion Week. For her, however, I can imagine this feeling of not wanting to be surrounded by people is different from my own desire to stay in bed all weekend, simply because I'm tired and it's too cold. Instead, every time she leaves the house (and when she's at Jenner's side, which is always, basically) is catalogued — be it by her own guise, through social media, or through paparazzi photos that appear on the likes of TMZ and JustJared.
To be fresh out of high school with this exposure, awareness, and well, fame, at your fingertips, seems (to the average person like me, at least) both fascinating and frightening. It must feel so out-of-touch with reality, too, when your life includes sitting front row at Fashion Week and attending some of the grandest, most exclusive events in the world (like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's nuptials, for example).
"I like to think that my life’s pretty normal, but I guess according to other people, it’s not," Woods says when I ask what it's like to have seemingly every move chronicled. "But this lifestyle is pretty normal for me. I wouldn’t say I’m famous or that I’m known for anything really, except for being around people who are; that's awesome, but it also puts me in a weird position, because I never want to just be known as someone’s friend," she says.
There's a desire to be recognized for her solo accomplishments, too: "I want to have my own lane and do my own things. I wouldn’t change anything [about my life] for the world, but I do think it’s my time to just do me and not live in someone’s shadow," Woods says. "I don’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight, I just want to be successful in whatever it is I decide to do."
Our hyper-exposed, celebrity-centric world is no stranger to famous BFFs (think Paris and Nicole, Taylor and Selena) and the otherworldly lives they seem to lead. But for the most part, there is a concrete reason, besides their own relationship, that is responsible for these duo's individual stardom (be it innate talent or a familial luck of the draw). But for Jenner and Woods, that isn't exactly the case. Woods is, in many ways, a regular girl (by L.A. standards, at least) thrust into the spotlight by her mere association with (arguably) the world's most-talked-about 18-year-old. Yet, unlike others who may take advantage of a life of popularity, Woods is utilizing her position of peripheral power to start a conversation (and career) that doesn't involve promoting the latest shade of Kylie's Lip Kit.
At the moment, Woods has been able to utilize her (highly followed) voice to start a conversation about body image in an industry that typically struggles with diversity. That's no small feat, especially for someone so young. But Woods' drive for success (and the desire to be recognized as something other than someone's best friend) has been cultivated by a foray into the (extremely buzzy) plus-size modeling world, a place she never anticipated she'd be.
"I grew up around super-influential people [her mother is a photographer and talent manager, her father is a sound engineer for television, and her brother is an artist], but I never really knew what, exactly, I wanted to do as a career," Woods says. "I just knew that I wanted to help people and get a message across. Spreading positivity is my main thing."
Though she says she had never considered modeling as a career path before signing with Wilhelmina in November (her now-agent reached out to her via, you guessed it, Instagram), Woods realized that the vocation could be the perfect platform for getting her message across.
That message is, of course, one that is centered around transforming the fashion industry's use of the term "plus-size" to "curvy" (an idea she discussed heavily on the Today show) and spreading the word that a size zero shouldn't be the standard, nor the only size that's considered acceptable or beautiful. Woods' aim of inclusivity couldn't be more timely, considering that the current state of modeling seems to be on a path towards greater body acceptance, like Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition, there's recently been a slew of retailers and designers expanding size ranges, and IMG just launched its "Brawn" board, catering to men of all sizes. Her mission couldn't feel more powerful — or, more importantly, authentic.
"I feel like [my] generation is all about redefining boundaries and beauty," she says. "We live in a time where we’re finally all free; we have social media, where we can express whatever we want. I didn’t realize how much of an impact in this industry being a curve model would make until I got old enough to realize that society has such standards about what 'beautiful' is, and what you have to look like in order to model or be an actress, or do anything, really."
She is, in a way, in awe by this, noting how the average woman was curvier, back in the Marilyn Monroe days. "It’s so awesome that now, it’s almost cool to be a curve model, that the industry is having a plus-size moment," says Woods. "Because what you realize is that most people today aren’t a size zero and we’ve gotten to a point where everyone wants to see what’s real. Realness is coolness."
The notion of having "followers" can definitely feel strange: "Followers are weird," she says. "People treat you differently because they think of you in a higher way. I think it’s very odd that people follow me, for whatever reason." But social media has provided Woods with a stage in which people don't just watch her accomplishments — they feel inspired by them. And while they may have been brought to her via a love/obsession/admiration for Kylie Jenner (and presumably her entire family), they've come to realize that there's something refreshing about Woods' mission and honesty. "The fact that I can be considered a model and not be a size zero is awesome," she says. "I even get comments on my Instagram saying things like, ‘If she can be a model, I can be a model’ — and that’s true."
This connection she has with her nearly one million followers is clear, as is her dedication to making "curvy" a moment. When it comes to the use of "plus-size" versus "curvy," the negative connotation that is readily associated with the former isn't the only issue — the problems also lay in the lack of (stylish) available options for women who cannot wear a "standard" fit. For women with curves who are in-between the two, dressing for oneself can oftentimes feel difficult.
"I take no offense when I'm called 'plus-size,' because I see girls who are incredibly healthy, toned, and fit and they fall under the same category that I do," Woods told Paper magazine in January. "If anyone should be slighted by it, it should be women as a whole as it places such a narrow standard on us all. One of my friends wants to be a model, but is scared to pursue that because she's a size four and would either have to lose weight or gain weight to belong."
To keep things real, Woods takes to Instagram, where she posts behind-the-scenes modeling shots and more risqué selfies in revealing looks (from crop tops to bikinis), proving that no one's clothing choices (including her own) should be limited because of size; that being curvy doesn't mean you can't wear the same clothes as people who aren't.
"My thing is, I wear tight-fitting clothes because of my body shape," she says, when I ask about her affinity for skin-clinging items, like bodysuits and skinny jeans — which she admits are some of the most difficult items to buy: "It's either my butt doesn't fit, my waist doesn't fit, or my legs don't fit."
"Personally, I would love to wear streetwear, like baggy clothes, baggy pants; but being curvy, it’s hard to find the right fit and for that to look good, not like a trash bag [Laughs]. What I’ve noticed, for me, is that more fitted clothes actually look better than trying to wear baggy ones." One look at the personal aesthetics of her fellow Wilhelmina Curve models (and Insta-sensations), like Barbie Ferreira and Felicity Hayward, and it's clear that size actually doesn't matter.
Near the end of our interview, a girl in a pink wig, baseball cap, and bomber jacket runs over and hands Woods a rose. It is, of course, Kylie Jenner. This is no chance celebrity encounter; just two friends planning out their day.
"When we go outside, we're going to do this," Kylie says, posing with her hips popped out, holding a bunch of roses. Woods asks for one more, so she and Jenner (as well as Harry Hudson and a friend I didn't recognize from any of her social media accounts) will all have the same amount. To me, this feels like a voyeuristic view into an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But to Jordyn Woods, well, this is just an average Monday afternoon.