PAUSE Her met the Model and Influencer Jennifer Mcking, otherwise known to you by her Instagram handle: @jennifermcking_
Location: Looking Glass Cocktail Club, 49 Hackney Rd, London E2 7NX
Special thanks for hosting our shoot.
For those who don’t know you, tell me who you are, what you do at the moment and where you’re at in life?
I am a fashion influencer/style influencer, whatever you want to call it, and right now I am in the transition of becoming a designer because that’s what I truly want to do. Me and my sister have been working on our collection and that’s why we’re back and forth from New York because we were both going to school out there.
Wait, you went to school in New York?
Yeah! I am very lowkey about everything!
So tell me about your living situation. You were born in London?
Yeah I was born in London, I went to New York during university time. I actually wanted to go to university out in the States because I was not getting inspired in London. I remember speaking to my dad, it was a big thing in my household, I was like ‘I can’t be here and my energy is just telling me to go over there and just grow and expand’. I just had a gut feeling, so Jasmine (my sister) was like ‘if you’re going, I’m going too!’ but she’s into real estate so she looked for a real estate school and I looked for a fashion school and we ended up going to school in New York.
I remember those times on Instagram because I was like ‘has this girl moved to New York, what’s going on?!’
I moved there to study and just to find myself and grow as a person. It made me grow in so many ways. I feel like I was so safe in London, I was so comfortable. I could be like yeah that’s great why would I want to struggle but I wanted to be broke in New York because I needed to feel it myself and feel what it feels like to build. I can proudly say I was broke. I was a broke student I had no money and I was trying to build my mental in school and build myself physically. And being in New York and being broke is the best thing because the city inspires you constantly, everybody is hustling. When you are going to school every day and you’re seeing people selling mangos or whatever it is, it inspires you! It is a jungle and if you’re not headstrong you will fall for the bright lights and get lost in the sauce! I thank my family; they installed the discipline in me.
Was it the first time you had experienced living independently without your parents?
Yeah! And just imagine I was miles away, different time zones, I knew no-one.
How did you adapt to New York?
It was very smooth. I’m African, I see them as African people. I always tell my New York friend, my best friend, they’re African people: they’re loud, they’re forward, they’re blunt, they say everything with their chest. So I was like ‘this is my scene!’. I realised a huge difference with London and New York, New Yorkers have attitude but they’re polite. That was the difference, I love Londoners but everyone’s just very cold and I guess at a young age I felt like I can’t be here. London was just so grey to me and my mental health wasn’t good. I knew I needed to go and I would advise anyone to really do what’s best for your mental health, don’t be afraid to take risks. Taking risks has put me in the position that I am today.
Career wise, you as a content creator do you feel New York really helped blossom your social presence?
Me and my sister had a fashion blog called Double the Fashion Trouble, that’s where it started. We were students but we were blogging part time because I’m Congolese and fashion is everything in the Congolese culture, so we just naturally had clothes and we’d seen people blogging and thought let’s blog as sisters! I never thought it would be a lifestyle and eventually my full time job taking pictures!
What was the first big brand that approached you?
I think it was G-Star Raw they approached me and were like ‘we love you, we love your content’.
I was really confused. I was in denial. I was all about school, I was so consumed in my life that I didn’t realise that I’m fly. I was so in denial of everything, nothing was real to me. What’s real is real life, I need to get my degree, that’s how I was thinking. I don’t know if you can scroll down on my Instagram but I wasn’t really posting loads but I guess the posts that did make made a huge impact.
And now you’ve worked with more and more brands and you’ve been signed. How’s it been since you’ve been signed to Premier?
It’s been amazing. It literally has taught me so much about this industry.
How did you get signed to Premier?
I never thought I’d ever be signed, I wasn’t interested in being signed. I never thought about modelling, I always thought my face is weird and I didn’t think I would ever get into it but this is why I always say things happen for a reason and things happen when you’re not looking for it. I was working on my collection but I got really sick at the time and I got contacted by Premier and the person that scouted me was Jay Thapar and he actually loved my whole vibe and had faith and believed in me. He would always say to me ‘you are such an incredible person, you are so talented, the things you do with fashion I haven’t seen done before’ and it was so nice and then he said, ‘I work at Premier you should think about being signed’. I’m a Scorpio I don’t like to be that open, but he encouraged me to have confidence and understand my influence. I didn’t hear anything after that conversation and then they contacted me and said ‘we love how you inspire people and think it would be good if you get signed to the artist board. Even though I don’t know shit about modelling, this is such a foreign thing to me, I was like let me do this for my community because when I looked at the artist board it wasn’t that diverse. I am the first Congolese girl to be signed on the artist board.
Me and my sister are actually in the process of working on starting an exhibition on Congolese fashion in the early 90s and 2000s when everyone first started coming to London because my parents have the most insane looks ever, but my dad is the most corporate person you will ever meet. He likes to fly but he will school you about politics.
Do you feel like your influence in terms of fashion came from your parents and where you’re from?
One hundred percent! If anyone asks me who inspires you; My parents. I get pictures from my mum and I’m like I need to recreate that shit! I’m copying my mum! She did some looks back in the 90s and the early 2000s. Even my dad too! I get inspired by both of them because they were my fashion icons, they still are to this day.
My mum is my Rihanna, my mother should’ve been signed in the 90s. I look at her like she is the GOAT and I can not wait to share this exhibition with you guys.
When is the Exhibition coming out?
I was hoping to do it in the summer time, next summer maybe. She inspired me and that’s why I am who I am today and there’s so many things from that era that I love and hold onto, just the beauty of the women and stuff like that.
If there was one celebrity in the 90s or early 2000s that’s inspired your style who would that be?
I’m going to give it to Lil Kim, she set trends I see her as me. Do you know how hard it is to be a trendsetter? You’re either born with it or you’re not. Especially as a black woman she was doing it and her looks were consistently insane to the point where people are still doing it. I look at Lil Kim and I just love when I watch her interviews how confident she was but it’s crazy she poured out that confidence even though she didn’t feel confident. She started her own lane and I feel like that’s something we lack today. She didn’t give a fuck she just lived in her truth and that’s how I feel like I want to be doing it. Eyes on my legacy because it’s a different purpose here, and that’s it!
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
Oh my god! My Nike challenge! I got contacted by Nike and they loved how I style regularly so they challenged me to do 55 looks styling these trainers. They gave me five colourways and I did 43 looks. That’s a lot! I did 43 looks and posts on my insta story. I love Nike in general and the whole sneaker culture and for them to love my style so much and to contact me and have faith in me. I had so much fun and it was kind of a spiritual thing for me too because I kind of taught myself to style. Before I was like ‘you can pull outfits out your arse!’ but it’s not an easy thing to do at all. It’s actually a craft, it’s a form of art and I feel like a lot of people underestimate it. Being a woman of colour it’s very hard to get respected out here so for people just to see your talent when it comes to styling, I do carry it on my chest because I feel like it’s a part of my culture. If you go to any Congolese party, it’s like the Met Gala!
I saw you did a thing with Schuh as well, the event you hosted! I was like ‘wow Jennifer’!
That was another big thing for me, I almost cried because I was like ‘what the flip is going on here?’. It was perfect timing, the weather was right, the mood was right, the outfits were right and I had so much fun showing things that represent me. I decided to let people see how I work at home, so I had my sewing machine, my mood board and my sister shot those fake campaign shots for me and I was able to show that and Schuh loved it and I was able to host as well. It was so good, another great experience, I had an amazing time just being there and absorbing everyone’s energy and just to see myself on that screen. It was a good vibe.
Let’s talk about social media, in terms of mental health. It affects the younger generation a lot and people compare themselves too easily, they de-value themselves when they see someone else post. How do you cope with social media through your journey?
Social media is the new high school, everyone has their cliques and in school I was actually bullied. I’ve been bullied my whole life, so going from reception all the way to college. I was bullied for a lot of things, because my face was different and because I was a different person. In secondary school I was bullied more so because of my appearance. I went to an all-girl school and I would do different things with my uniform. In school I would try and jazz up my uniform and girls would say ‘why you doing that?’ and I didn’t care what they said I just dealt with it. I dealt with a lot of physical bullying too, in primary school I had girls throwing me in bushes, thorn bushes! I was just really sad because I was bullied by a woman of colour too, I went to a predominantly white school and it was just me and maybe three other black girls and it was so unfortunate that it was like that. So I take bullying so seriously. People actually want to commit suicide over this stuff and I was one of those people, at a young age thinking I don’t want to go to school because they’re going to get me. I actually missed a few days of primary school, when my mum saw the marks on me she had to go to school and tell them. Fast forward to now, we have social media and it’s the same thing. Not with me but the world, you get bullying in different forms. You get bullying in the industry as well. People trying to bully you behind the scenes and doing stuff where it’s like wow. How are you supposed to know what’s real and fake? Cancel culture and all this bullshit happens that doesn’t need to happen. People just need to communicate rather than being so high school about everything.
What do you mean by cancel culture?
When someone does something and people cancel them. The cancel culture! I think Kanye West actually talked about this, something about people cancelling him over the internet and again that adds onto the high school bullying rather than having a conversation and talk to him. You guys are quick to make memes and be nasty and do all these things that are so unnecessary so the way I deal with it is to be real with myself. This is all an illusion, people are quick to follow what’s popular so you need to stay focused and not pay attention to what’s popular right now. Just focus on what you’re doing and if you are receiving hate you can turn off your phone. I am able to deal with that now because I feel like I dealt with it when I came out of my bullying phase. I told myself I’m never going to let anybody’s words make me want to do anything to myself because words don’t kill me, make me broke – it’s just words! I have the power to take the words and do whatever I want.
Do you think bullying helped you career wise to keep going and not focus on the negative?
Yeah! The bullying experience I thank God for it because it made me strong and it made me be able to handle what’s going on now in my life. If I got a comment or whatever that’s negative, I would laugh at it. I would even like it too because just think about your mental health, you came all the way over here to project how you’re feeling about someone else. We have to really speak to people, have conversations with people. I was able to deal with my trauma and it helped me today to deal with this level of attention but other people don’t have that so if we talk to each other and try and understand each other before we start doing social media blasts. I’m not perfect, in the past if a friend would do something i’d be like ‘oh, shots fired!’ but I have learnt you don’t need to do the petty thing. Even when pettiness tries to come my way, I don’t see it and there have been people that have tried and it says more about you than it does me. Why would I feed something that doesn’t need to be fed, it’s negative. For me I just try to stay focused and my best advice to everyone is to talk to everybody you have an issue with. We’re all on phones but nobody is knowing how to communicate properly. Don’t let the digital age phase you.
Do you think its difficult for a black female influencer?
Of course. I realized for a black woman it’s either you need to be connected to someone famous to make it or you have to do something extra crazy. I don’t want to go down that route, I want to be known for my skill, I don’t care if it takes time for me to grow massively but I’m going to get there. I’m going to do my thing authentically and I don’t want any man attached to my success. I want you to say my name before you say another successful male because trust me, they’re in the DM’s and I’m like ‘no, I’m good!’.
Who’s been in the DM’s?
Your favourite rappers! Black women are beautiful so we’re going to draw that attention and a lot of people won’t know how to handle that attention. I’m older so I know already, I’m not going to be like ‘oh my God that rapper is in my DM’s’ that’s not the legacy I’m trying to build. A lot of these rappers don’t have good energy, they don’t know who they are – I know who I am! I advise every young girl please know who you are and don’t be hyped from names. When I came into this industry, I had to ground myself and set rules for myself because no-one is going to tell you anything, you can be lost in the sauce. I just want to make a name as a black woman without it being attached to any man.
Amen! Talking about names your starting a brand with your sister, tell us about the brand!
The brand is called my surname, McKing and it’s just such a beautiful brand. First of all, the name is shocking, whenever we have meetings with people they’re expecting men to show up and they see two black women. It’s a gender fluid brand, it’s streetwear and basically the whole thing is about evolution. It’s about evolution and the tigers represent that, our logo is two tigers which represent me and my sister and it’s the animal that represents evolution because back in the day tigers came from leopards and they ended up having stripes. You have to grow and better yourself. And it’s a strong cat; we were raised with a lot of men around us so that strong cat is there for a reason. We wanted to launch this year, but we thought 2020 is the one, so early next year. We’re starting a new century… evolution, growing, new beginnings. You can’t set a time on anything, when you make plans God laughs at you. But let’s talk about building the brand by yourself, no investors, no help, you and your sister working hard just to fund everything. When people say self-made, I wasn’t really getting why people were mad at Kylie but I had to deep it when I was really spending that money. If I had a million-dollar savings account waiting for me I would definitely be a billionaire like Kylie Jenner! For me and my sister to be the only investors has been such an eye opener. It’s made me gain respect for my sister and my own self because when you’re trying to start a brand properly that’s not rushed you need to get it right because if the foundations aren’t okay, everything is falling down. I really know its going to grow because I have faith in what I’m creating, I can’t wait to share it. That’s my favourite thing I’ve done this year, working behind the scenes and it’s been so hard, I have my moments where I want to leak my own designs because I get so excited!
When you do something and don’t share anything, and you just drop the bomb you will shake the world!
Yeah, and a lot of people don’t know that I am an artist too. I draw, I paint I do the designing. Jasmine is the business machine but we’re both organised and focused. The brand reflects who me and my sister are as people, we like to emulate the male side and men can be sexy. I feel like we live in a gender fluid time anyway.
In terms of the future, you’re now signed, have your own brand, are there any other goals you want to achieve? Or for you mentally as a person?
Yeah! I feel like definitely this year I didn’t get to travel how I wanted to because of the brand so I want to travel more. I need to be on the beach, I’m tired! I’ve been working my arse off I need to see what the world is saying, open my mind. I want to learn different languages, Korean, Japanese, Chinese. I want to learn everything about different cultures and languages. I want to start multiple businesses, I feel like people don’t know what me and my sister are about because we haven’t shared it because we’re living our lives ,but my sisters into real estate so she wants her own property business and interior design business under the name McKing that would be amazing. We want to get into so many different avenues, we want to build an empire together as black sisters.