Gordonnay Gaines

Gordonnay Gaines Gives Advice To Gen Z, Chats MaryLou Jewelry, and More

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Gordonnay Gaines

Gordonnay Gaines‘ Instagram account is a heavenly universe of complementary color schemes, breathtaking photoshoots that reflect her inner flair and motivational phrases to help you through the day. A 25-year-old model and entrepreneur based in West Orange, New Jersey, she has worked with some of Gen Z’s favorite brands whilst inspiring many in the process.

Growing up in a household and family full of creatives, Gordonnay found herself in an environment that championed the arts and encouraged her to pursue various endeavors. One of those was modeling, she found herself posing in front of the lens during her sophomore year of high school. Gaines has seen both highs and lows during her career as a budding creative with a rising social media following. The model has been vocal about overcoming the difficulties of epilepsy, which she writes about in her blog and community, Seize The Day. In spite of this, she keeps going and sets an outstanding example for everyone looking to follow in her footsteps.

Earlier this year, the content creator debuted her jewelry brand MaryLou Jewelry, a line of timeless solid gold pieces that can accessorize any ensemble. The question “Where’s your jewelry?” from her late grandmother sparked the idea for the brand, which was inspired by a single pair of hoops given to her after she passed.

Ahead, Gordonnay brings us through her childhood, highlights in her modeling career, launching her own jewelry label, and advice for young creatives among other topics. Read on to see our conversations.

Walk me through your journey, how did you get where you are today?

I was a tomboy. I didn’t relate with my two older sisters as much as I do now because of the age gap and I didn’t like the things that they like, such as boy bands and all of that. I didn’t really get into that until I turned 15, maybe 16. I ran track since I was in third grade until my aunt was like, “Hey, you should get into modeling. You’re so tall. You’re so slim.” And I’m 5’7″ so I’m not really that tall, but compared to everybody in my family… I was tall.

My dad is a music producer. His whole side of his family, there’s 10 of them, were all creatives — poets, DJs, choreographers, and singers. It was awesome just seeing the people I love and that love me back being able to do what they want to do. It was super inspirational and I’ve always wanted to be a girl boss. On my mom’s side, it was eight of them. So I have a huge family. I didn’t really have that many friends growing up because I have so many cousins, uncles, and aunts, and we spent a lot of time together.

I stopped running mainly when I developed epilepsy. It was making me lose weight, which eventually would have an effect on my body causing my seizures. I had to get on medication, I had to regulate my life, I had to get the right amount of sleep, and I couldn’t hang out with my friends like I would. So when I turned 21, that’s when I made my blog for Seize The Day. I was going through a lot beforehand. I was depressed in 2016 and the medication I was taking only amplified it. Life hits you, it hits you really, really hard. Just relationship-wise, I didn’t choose the best people, to say the least.

How do you push through all of that?

With modeling and family support. My mentor is Beverly Johnson and she kept me going. She kept me motivated and she would always include me. I was doing New York Fashion Week at 16, which was like, I shouldn’t be here, but I am. I may have been like the awkward girl, I would never really talk to anyone. I would always bring my dad or my cousin Danielle because they knew how to socialize.

Who did you enjoy working with the most throughout your career?

I really had a fun time working with Kanye and his team. I did pass out at one of his show, which was interesting. It was… I won’t say embarrassing because one thing that my parents always taught me is that any press is good press, at the end of the day. It’s something that I couldn’t control either because it was hot outside. I know there were rumors and all that stuff, but I would never downplay anybody that treated me well.

I remember TMZ called me when I was in college and I was like, “I’m in school right now. Stop blowing up my phone.” I was a sophomore at Seton Hall University, and it was a small private school and they released my name and picture in the school newspaper, which I did not like.

I had to balance school and modeling… and, most importantly, my health. Modeling brought me joy. I decided to go with that and it was also bringing me money. So I was like, you know, while I’m young, I want to do this. It’s just a decision I had to live with. I’m 25 now and I really don’t regret it. I know everyone’s like, “Oh, you should finish school. You should go back.” And maybe one day I will, but right now, I’m content with the decisions I’ve made. Obviously, I wish some things were better, but I can’t complain.

If you weren’t a burgeoning content queen and entrepreneur, what would your dream job be?

I’ve always wanted to be an FBI agent. If I wasn’t supposed to be Spider-Man, that’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be like Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds. That was my dream job and I have no doubt in my mind that I could have done it. I just have confidence in myself. The tomboy in me is still well and alive and I still definitely have it in me. I wanted to help people solve crimes and feel safe.

Earlier this year, you launched your jewelry label MaryLou, which is inspired by your late grandmother. Can you tell me a bit about that?

When my mom and dad were at work or traveling, my grandparents took care of us. My cousins lived in Newark so they would come over to my house in West Orange and my grandma would take care of all of us. My grandma and grandpa are essentially the reason why I have such a close relationship with my family. Grandma always kept us together. It’s funny because I didn’t wear jewelry as a kid. She would always be like, “Girl, where’s your jewelry?” She would always say I was beautiful, but she would always ask about jewelry.

In 2020, my grandmother passed from Covid and when my grandma passed away, it was a lot, especially for my health. I was spiraling and no one really knew. I had seven seizures in about six months after and I think it’s really because I didn’t know how to deal with it. Because of Covid, I couldn’t even say goodbye and I couldn’t attend her funeral. Looking back at it now, it’s been two years, it was a lot for me. When I finally went down to see her, it was about 11 months after her passing, and I went to my grandparents’ house.

It was just me and my grandpa in the room and it was a very uncomfortable feeling to see my grandma’s stuff around and her not being near. My grandpa said, “Hey, I have something for you. Your grandma would want you to have these” and it was a pair of gold hoops. At that moment, I was like wow, this is something that I will always have, her gold earrings.

What’s been the most rewarding part about it thus far?

Knowing I can pass this on to my children and be like, “hey, this was your great-grandmother’s.” 

As African Americans, I think that’s something our people need more of. We need more heirlooms that we can pass down. A lot of people think that because of the prices of my jewelry, I’m doing this to make a “come-up” but this is the price of gold. In addition, I think everybody needs to realize this is solid gold and it’s something that you will literally have forever and ever, if you take care of it.

For the first few months, family and friends were the only people supporting it. Now, it’s more people outside of my bubble, which I love. They made me happy to be able to do this. It’s simple designs, but it will last forever and I think that’s what matters the most. Things don’t happen overnight. So I’m just staying the course.

Speaking of jewelry, do you have any styling tips when it comes to accessorizing your fit?

I’m a very cozy but cute type of girl. I love being comfortable. The other day I went to the airport and I wore little boot heels with sweats and a hoodie. I love a good layered outfit because if you want to take things off you can, but if it gets cold you put them back on. My statement piece: my hair and my jewelry.

I only wear my jewelry and everybody could say what they want, but if you don’t wear your jewelry who else will? I love dressing comfortably but I love wearing statement pieces and I love wearing all black… as well as contrast colors — white, gray, and black. Those are definitely my go-to colors. But, also… I love neutral colors. So green, brown, and orange.

What direction do you anticipate the modeling and fashion industry as a whole taking in light of the ongoing upsurge in activism, inclusion, and acceptance?

I think it’s going in a really good direction compared to even a couple of years ago. Beverly Johnson was the first African American woman in American Vogue. So compare her experience to what black girls go through now. We definitely made progress, but we can absolutely do better. For example, the hair thing. We have hairstylists and makeup artists who don’t know how to do our hair and/or makeup. It’s like, you call yourself a makeup artist, but you can’t even do everybody’s hair, which is mind-blowing to me because you’re on set with multiple people who don’t look like you. You’re supposed to make them feel beautiful and can’t even deliver that?

So now, when you see yourself on the subways or billboards, you look crazy because someone couldn’t do their job essentially. So I don’t know, I think it’s going in a better direction, but again, we can do better. I’m gonna talk about my experience with New Balance. I had a hairstylist, Chuck Amos — the day before the shoot, he reached out to me and was like, “Hey, do you want anything specifically done? I want you to feel comfortable. Do you want to do anything specifically yourself? Or do you want me to do it?” And I appreciated that a lot.

With the journey that I’ve had, just accepting my epilepsy has taken me a long time… years. I just want people to see me as a normal person so I think it’s great that everybody’s getting included. I don’t want that to be the only reason people are getting included in stuff though, if that makes sense. I think it should just be because they’re human, not for the numbers and for publicity. I really hope it’s just because brands/companies see that everyone is human and they just want it to be genuine at the end of the day.

What advice do you have to give to younger people who want to get started in fashion or modeling?

I think boundaries are very, very important. There will be a lot of people who will say, “This is what I could do for you if you do this.” That is never good and there were some agencies and people that would be like “take off your clothes and shoot this.. you know, Calvin Klein would want to shoot with you.” I know I was young, but you couldn’t play me.

So I’d tell them to set boundaries, say what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not, and always stay true to who you are. If you want to do some stuff, go ahead if you’re comfortable… it’s your body! I support everybody. Everyone lives in a differently, so just stay true to your truth.

For more information or if you want to book Gordonnay, contact VIE Agency.