model kenya kinski-jones on animal rights activism and the power of grimes

Despite her film and music world ties, the emerging model has always been more interested in horses than Hollywood.

by Jane Helpern
25 March 2016, 5:10pm

Following a breakout role in Stella McCartney's girlpower-loaded POP fragrance campaign, Kenya Kinski-Jones is now officially the youngest member of the Kinski-Jones dynasty commanding the cameras. Since signing with an agency at 18, the Ford model and hardcore animal activist has been quietly crystallizing her status as a scene-stealing face in the fashion world. Now 23, Kenya has already scored her first major magazine spread with Bruce Weber, and has two Calvin Klein campaigns in her pocket. Fresh out of college, the daughter of 80s model-actress Nastassja Aglaia Kinski (best known as the amazonian, python-enveloped beauty in that Richard Avedon photograph) and entertainment mega-mogul Quincy Jones, was born ready for her close-up. As her latest campaign launches, we get to know the second generation model and animal lover.

Growing up, were you very aware of your Hollywood upbringing?
Honestly, I had a really normal childhood. Even though my parents do what they do, my dad always just did what he loves and never concerned himself with the extras. I grew up riding horses and being in the barn every day.

So it wasn't so much the glamour that stuck with you, but more your dad's passion?
Absolutely. My family -- my sister Rashida and my dad -- the advice they've always given me is to do something that you love, and that you get excited about every day. That's the most important thing.

Congrats on your recent graduation. Was graduating the moment you decided to go full-throttle with your modeling career?
Getting my education was a huge priority for me. Even though I was simultaneously interested in modeling, you can't really do both. I tried to balance them, and did what I could, but my attitude was just to get my schooling done, because I knew if I didn't finish it now I never would. I feel good to have it under my belt, and excited to move into a new chapter.

You recently collaborated on a PSA with the non-profit Last Chance for Animals. How did you get involved with animal rights activism?
Well, I grew up with eight dogs, five cats, and my horses. I thought I was going to be a professional horseback rider. That was my dream. I always felt really close and connected to animals. I became a vegetarian when I was eight years old. I always say this, but I feel like [horses] taught me so much and even raised me in some aspects. It's a really special bond. When you go to the barn and spend time with the animals, you just don't think about anything else. I remember being so in love with the horses, and being so connected, even without any words. Animals had a really strong impact on my life, and today I feel a natural responsibility to be a voice for them.

Considering your deep connection with animals, you must have been thrilled to work with Stella McCartney?
Absolutely. I've looked up to her for so long. The fact that she is the only high-fashion designer to go completely cruelty-free is so cool, and I really admire it. When I found out I would be able to collaborate with her, it was a dream come true.

Will you use you fashion platform to advocate for animals?
No matter what I do — whether I model, ride horses, or pursue journalism — my love for animals has been with me since I was young, and it will always be a passion of mine. I have a lot to learn, too, and I'm excited to talk to and partner with other activists. The more you know, the more you can speak on the issues. Creating conversation is the most powerful tool for getting your message out there.

Models today are increasingly also seen as role models. It's a really exciting time for someone like you — with a cause you're so enthusiastic about — to be breaking into the industry.
Totally. This generation's version of a model gets to have a voice. We get to expand and take on different layers. We don't have to be so one-dimensional; we can have the influence and a voice and make a difference.

For any young girl growing up, the most important thing is to embrace who you are and what makes you unique, and to celebrate your flaws. It's also so important to root for your fellow girls and to create a supportive community. That's really what it means to me, and I'm so proud to be a part of [POP] because I really love and believe in the message.

What else is inspiring you right now?
Grimes' album came out just after we finished the POP campaign — she absolutely blows me away. She does all the album work herself, and I think that's really inspiring as a young woman. I've never seen anything like that before. I also love Lady Gaga.

I had a poster of her above my bed in high school! And I just saw her speak at a fashion event. I'm always excited about her and anything she does.

You split your time between the coasts. Are you team LA or New York?
LA is home to me, so it's familiar, comfortable, and warm. I grew up here. New York, on the other hand, really excites me because it's so different. I love the idea that you walk out on the street and everything's happening. I like the idea that life can just happen to you, because everything's so intertwined.



Text Jane Helpern
Photography Daria Kobayashi Ritch

stella mccartney
kenya kinski-jones