MODEL VOICES: In Quarantine - Kai Wright
By TADHI COULTER
As the world dealt with the ramifications of COVID-19, many industries had to make adjustments. The economics of Fashion were able to be sustained in certain respects, but some models - the clearest casualty of an abruptly halted ecosystem - have had to be a little more resourceful during this time of recovery. We catch up with a few from multiple agencies for their perspectives and experiences during such a strange time.
TC. What has been your greatest “in quarantine” life lesson since the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kai Wright. That really you can do anything as long as you’ve got time. Since quarantine has come around, I remember people saying ‘Oh! Bro! I have so much time like I don’t know what to do.’ But in all reality, if you had something that you wanted to do [before quarantine], all you need is the time ‘cause all it really takes is you need time to learn or whatever that you’re trying to do, or study what you’re trying to do, and then whatever you’re trying to do it obviously takes time. You know, it’s really as long as you’ve got time, you can do whatever you want, literally, and that’s just how I see, and that’s what I’ve been running with. I’m like, if I have the time for it, then I’m going to do it ‘cause what’s the point if I have time and I’m not trying to do it. That’s not something that I want to do. Like I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do. I feel that everything I do with something that I wanna do is [making] progress. Like, if something were to happen, say some pretty amazing campaign [or show], I’d be ready for it; I’d feel like I’d know what to do.
TC. How has your modeling been impacted "in quarantine"?
Kai Wright. I’m still pretty new to the modeling scene, still getting my feet wet. Recently, I did a shoot for Highsnobiety, and I modeled some Dior and Louis Vuitton and stuff I didn’t think I would model ‘cause I was like ‘Nobody knows my face...nobody’s seen me’, so why would they put me in this stuff, you know? That’s sort of how I saw it at first. But I did it, and it was a successful shoot. I had gotten, towards the beginning of the pandemic, an opportunity with another great design house [out of Paris] that fell through with all international flights being canceled. That shoot literally was dropped, and I was like ‘Yo! That would’ve been cool’. Right now I’m on ‘Pending’ for another shoot for another great designer.
TC. Has the fashion calendar being affected by the pandemic changed the way you think about booking runway shows, higher-paying campaigns or projects?
Kai Wright. Say if I was to get “big” off of modeling or whatever, if I was to push like a clothing brand or like anything else that I wanted to do, it would put me under a better image because people would be like, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this kid model for like…’ so and so. ‘I’m gonna just check his stuff out just to check it out’. Nowadays, I feel like a lot of stuff runs off of popularity and hype. If you don’t have popularity and hype, it’s basically like you’re not “big.” You could have all of this money or whatever, or [even] a great life, but if nobody knows you in a way they wanna see you, then you’re not gonna be seen like that. With the modeling, I was like, ‘Yo! This is cool to me ‘cause not only am I really taking pictures and being promoted in these magazines as myself--like that’s literally. Nobody can be like, ‘Oh, that’s Photoshop[ed]’. ‘No!’ Like that’s me! For example, on Instagram, saying things that aren’t 100% true but nobody questions it because they’re like, ‘I’ve seen it on Instagram.’ A lot of that stuff is based off of the fact that those people already have a certain popularity or fanbase, so they have enough people to just believe [the things they say and post]. Their following has already seen them do enough things where they’re not even going to question it. I don’t want to get to that level. I just want to be somebody who’s actually doing what he’s saying. You know, instead of--not living a lie--trying to flaunt on people for no good reason, and there’s no reason for that because everybody has a life. It’s just the way you live it.
[As far as bookings for the money] At first that’s how my dad was. He was trying to tell me like, ‘Oh, are you going to get paid?’ and all this and that. For me, I understand that you have to make a living off things, and there’s certain things you have to do to make money but like, to me, modeling isn’t like...I don’t really see it for the money. I’m like, this is publication for me; this is like putting me out there for anything else that I’d want to do. Say, if I were to go--I don’t know--like anything could happen or come across and be like, ‘Yo, that’s a good idea! I’m gonna go do that! I’m gonna run with it!’, I feel like if I have an image behind my name, it’s just that much easier to do something like that. So, yeah, I mean like every time I get a booking or shoot, I see it as an opportunity for me to just be bigger in modeling, modeling whatever I want to do. So when it comes to like meeting new people and they’re like, ‘Yo! What do you do?’...Oh, like I’ve done a lot. It’s more like I’ve done this and I have receipts for it, and I can show you that I can actually do this, instead of ‘Oh, I do this but I can’t show you that.’ With the modeling, I feel like that’ll put me more out there than I am. I feel like I’m at the door but haven’t quite stepped in, and once everything falls into place, then it’s like I’m in and I can do a lot more things.
TC. How has tech such as Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Duo, etcetera played a role in your daily life or casting experiences "in quarantine"?
Kai Wright. It’s honestly helped a lot because my agency is on the other side of the country. I’m signed to Wilhelmina, New York, but I’m in [Southern] California. So all the FaceTime and the Instagram live videos makes it helpful for me to talk to people at the agency and clients even. With Instagram and like everything that’s going on, it’s working out good! It’s going smooth and I can’t wait to see what happens next really. Though I was with RED Models about 2 years back before signing with Wilhelmina, New York, I guess you can say that tech made it possible for Wilhelmina to notice me. So basically how it came about was my mother agent, Terrence, had sent me a message saying, “Hey, I’ve got big news for you. This agency’s checking you out and they really like you.” But he didn’t tell me the name of it or anything. A couple of days later he sent me a link, and was like, ‘Oh, you better be ready!’ or something, and I was like what do you mean? I clicked on the link and it literally opened up a bunch of pictures that I’d sent in, [photos] to just post on social media and stuff was on the Wilhelmina board. I was like, ‘Yo, like that’s crazy!’ They were pics that my brother, who used to do a lot of photography and was a pretty big YouTuber, had taken of me real quick, too! It’s definitely been blessings on blessings for sure. I couldn’t be happier for what’s happening.
TC. What have been some of your favorite go-to items to wear and groom yourself "in quarantine"?
Kai Wright. I mean, honestly, with fashion and clothing I’d gotten a little bit lazy, but not where it’s like, ‘Oh, what is he wearing?’, you know. So I’ll just go with something cozy, so I can be warm, so I can do whatever, really. Just be chillin’. I’ll get like a Gap zip-up or sometimes like a Gap hoodie, and usually like either Gap sweats to match or Nike sweats. It’s usually like the cotton Nike hoodie and sweatpants, you know. So, it’ll be usually like that. It just depends really on what I’m doing that day. If I’m going to go skate[boarding], I’ll wear baggy cargo pants with a hoodie. But it’s nothing ever too crazy or ‘Yo, like what’.
When it comes to skateboarding, brands that I like are like Hockey. It’s kind of like Supreme. I feel like it’s more in depth with skateboarding because Supreme has kind of turned into this hype thing. Like what Supreme was before, I feel, that’s [now] what Hockey is. It’s really like plain stuff that’ll just say either ‘Hockey’ or have some screen printed design or [artwork] on it. You wouldn’t see it and say, ‘Hey, that’s a skate brand.’ ‘You’d be like ‘What kind of brand is that’? That’s one of them. I like to wear Nike [sneakers] because they’ve been the most comfortable and durable for me. I’ve tried Vans. I’ve tried Adidas [but] they just didn’t last as long for me, and Nike’s a bit nostalgic for me. As a kid, I’ve always remembered hearing about Nike SB, like ‘Nike has skate shoes!’ It was like Vans and Nike was it. There wasn’t really like Adidas or New Balance, like all of these brands making sneakers now. It was a little more simpler I feel like, and I’ve kind of just run with what I’ve grown off of because, I don’t know. A lot of the stuff now I feel like people get because they see other people with it, and they’re like, ‘I can wear it just ‘cause that person’s wearing it.’ A lot of the stuff, though, you can’t do that because I feel like it’s better to have your own style to pull stuff off. It [really] just depends how a person wears it. You can have a whole thrift store look on and people’ll see you and go, ‘Yo! Where did you get that? You know that’s like hard clothes.’ Nobody’s gonna think like, ‘Oh, they went to the thrift store and picked out all of their clothes.’ You know!
TC. What’s on your bucket list, “post quarantine”?
Kai Wright. Honestly, I’m not going to lie. My life isn’t the simplest of things, like ‘Oh, I’ve got all of these friends’ or ‘Dude, I wanna go to Six Flags and do like the most!’ I just wanna take my girlfriend to like Disneyworld or Disneyland, just because I know that’ll make her happy and I like to genuinely make other people happy off things that they didn’t get to do, or like just nobody was able to be like, ‘Yo! This is what we’re gonna do,’ like a surprise or a cool thing. My mom would always take me and my brother to Disneyland and stuff like that. I feel like, to a kid, that’s what they want to do, but they’re not so, ‘Take me to do this!’ ‘cause they know it’s such a THING TO DO! So I just wanna spread like happiness to the people I love. When “quarantine” ends, I’ll be able to do more of that.
Photos 1-4 (top-to-bottom): Photography | Micaiah Carter, Styling | Corey Stokes, for Highsnobiety, courtesy of Wilhelmina
Photos 5-8: Photography | Alyssa Fioravanti, Courtesy of Wilhelmina