Name: Kyiona Goldie
Claim to Fame: Goldie appeared in the game-changing Pyer Moss New York Fashion Week presentation at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre.
The air smelled of coconut oil and shea butter, choir robes graced the floor, lids were rimmed and lips were painted. House lights flickered at Brooklyn’s King Theatre as the fashion industry prepared to finally embrace Kirby Jean Raymond. But the long-suffering Pyer Moss founder wasn’t the only one experiencing a full-circle moment. Backstage model Kyiona Goldie was finally ready to take the career she never thought she would have to the next level.
After years of career changes and criticism, she had finally found her stride. Goldie talked to HelloBeautiful about her path to walking in one of the most important shows in the past decade.
“I was working first as an inclusion push-in teacher for preschool students with disabilities. I worked directly for the special ed department once I got my degree.”
She tried to pursue modeling as a teenager but her family discouraged her.
“My first effort was when I was like 18, and I was still in college and stuff. And my family told me like, ‘Oh, you need to focus on school modeling is not going to be, you know, you’re not gonna make money there’.”
Nothing she learned in her classes at Bloomfield College prepared her for the toll the position would take on her spirit.
“I was working at Peshine, Brick Peshine Academy, and that’s when I decided like, I was like, ah, this is stressful. You know, I need to do something else.”
She found a way to engage with the kids that fit her better, penning a children’s book called The Book With The Mismatched Smile while still in the classroom. She then transitioned away from education altogether.
Like many college graduates who had prepared themselves for careers that turned out to be a mismatch, she turned to the insurance industry.
“I switched over to insurance, and I did insurance for about like eight months and I was like, this is not it. I’m kind of making any money like I’m still broke. I’m still trying to figure stuff out. They promised me that I would be able to get a management position after a certain point and I felt like it wasn’t moving fast enough, especially since I was living on my own.”
She turned to her circle to figure out how to keep herself afloat.
“It was commission, and I was stressed out about money, living on my own, trying to survive. I had a car note, I got all these things, all these responsibilities, you know?”
“I was like, all right, my friend was doing a lot of background work for like movies and films and she was also doing modeling stuff. And so I hit her up and I’m like, ‘Hey, like how long did it take you to get work’,” she continued.
Her friend directed her to an agency called Central Casting, a lifeline for many young people working on figuring it out.
“She gave me the information, I went to central casting and I got work that same day. So it’s like, ‘Oh, well maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing, you know’ I was featured in Power as a model, Luke Cage as a model. I did background for Orange Is The New Black and a show Younger. The first job that I got was the show Younger. It was like a party scene at a lesbian bar.”
“I’ve actually never watched it which is hilarious,” she added.
With no manager to guide her choices or family connections she continued to try and navigate her own career, and look to her friends’ examples.
“So I started doing that stuff and then I finally found my first New York agency for modeling. My friend had signed with them and I was like going through like Instagram pages trying to see like, ‘Oh, what agencies look good? I had no idea how to actually search for an agency, but I was just kind of following my own path, trying to figure it out.”
She headed to an open call for Hello Models where she blew the casting agents away with a look that she was forced to adopt when she experienced every natural’s nightmare.
“I had just shaved my head ‘cause my hair had got damaged. I went to get it blown out and the lady at the Dominican shop, she damaged my hair. I went and they jacked up my hair. It smelled like burnt hair for like two weeks and I was like alright let me just shave it off.”
Later she would go from random doobie shops to some of the most seasoned hands in New York City, thanks to her research and persistence.
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As she continued working towards that fateful night her personal life shifted in a major way.
“I was going through a bunch of transitions,” she said.
“I was going through a lot of different things in terms of life changes. And one of those changes was me, becoming an egg donor. I donated my eggs to a gay couple.”
This change permanently expanded her family.
“They started asking me like, ‘Oh, do you want to come see the baby?’ I had actually started to become an active part of his life.”
Right after New York fashion week, I went to Singapore for the first time because that’s where my son and his dads were living. And when I went there, they’re like, ‘Well, since you’re modeling now, like why don’t you try to see if you can get an agency here. So you know, you can come stay for a little bit.”
She headed into the unfamiliar city to see if she could expand her industry footprint.
“I was there for literally like six days and I found two photographers to work with and I also hit up the agencies that were in town. One was like, ‘Oh, there’s no market for a Black girl in Asia.’ And then another one was like, ‘Oh, you have a good look.’”
She worked with the second, who made a huge profit from not being ignorant. While bonding with her son and his dads, she was able to learn what a true support system in the business was supposed to look like.
“I didn’t know what it was like to have an agency, for real, you know, because like the work was really slow. So when I went to Asia, I was at my busiest. I was actually going to castings all the time, one or two castings every day. I did like six or seven magazines, I did twenty-two shows. It was amazing, like a really good experience.”
When she was ready to return to the states she had a new point of view.
“So when I was leaving, after three months I had fit at my agency in New York and I’m like, ‘Hey, like are you guys going to like do, what is your plan for me?’”
Her additional knowledge allowed her to leverage her resume, and materials into booking bigger and better shows including Pyer Moss, and Frederick Anderson.
She also found a mother agent who connected her to opportunities she might not have been able to book in North America on her own.
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“It’s very important to have a great mother agent, my current mother agent Yanii Models is amazing.”
Today she uses her experiences in different aspects of the industry to help others.
“I appreciate all of the challenges because I learned a lot and I learned what to do and what not to do. You know? And I feel like I’m able to give advice to others and you know, um, I like I can tell them it’s not, it’s not that easy for us, it’s not. It is very difficult for black girls in this industry. But if you work hard, you can get there.”