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Kylie Jenner's Got a Secret and Her Name Is Amber Asaly

She’s Kylie’s friend, personal light-finder, and the photographer responsible for THOSE vacation pics.

Amber Asaly’s summer was better than yours. Unless you also spent the past three months chilling on a $22 million dollar yacht, taking dreamy photos of Kylie Jenner in vintage Dior while Kris Jenner flounced about in a tunic. ’Cause yeah, that’s what Amber was up to while the rest of us drowned our emotions in White Claw and argued over whether or not Camila and Shawn’s relationship is a PR stunt. (Amber thinks it is, which, fair).

Although this summer was dominated by press-hungry celebrities doing the absolute most, Kylie, notably, opted to get out of L.A., escaping on several luxurious vacations with her post–Jordyn Woods social circle. At this point, you’ve probably scrolled through your fair share of Instagram pics featuring Kylie posing with Sofia Richie, Stassie Karanikolaou, Yris Palmer, and Victoria Villarroel—all of which have one thing in common. Actually, two things: 1) your VSCO filter could never, and 2) they were taken by 26-year-old photographer Amber Asaly.

Amber stays behind the camera, which is why you’re probably like “wait, whomst????” but if you open up the ’gram again, you’ll notice an @amberasaly tag on every single one of Kylie’s recent vacay pics. The Kylie Skin trip to Turks and Caicos? Amber was there. The birthday jaunt to Italy? Also there. That recent Vegas getaway? Yup, invited on that private jet too. She’s the person singularly responsible for Kylie’s gorgeous summer Instagram aesthetic.

But to be clear: Amber doesn’t work for Kylie. Yes, she’s a professional photographer, but she’s invited on these excursions as a friend. An extremely talented, extremely good friend. “This summer has been fucking amazing,” Amber tells Cosmopolitan. “Kylie invited me on her Kylie Skin trip as a friend but also to catch the vibes and get cute pictures. And when I’m in a beautiful location with beautiful people and I happen to have dope cameras. I’m gonna do my thing no matter what. And they want dope pictures too, so it kinda just works hand-in-hand.”

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good vibes only 🌴

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Amber and Kylie have been friends for a couple of years now. I found Getty evidence of them hanging out in West Hollywood during a simpler time: Last August, at the launch of Jordyn Woods’ activewear label SECNDNTURE. To put their relationship in L.A. terms, they’ve been running in the same circles for a minute.

SECNDNTURE by Jordyn Woods Launch Event

EMMA MCINTYRE | GETTY IMAGES

But their Turks and Caicos vacation in mid-July was when yours truly first noticed Amber’s elevated style begin to take over Kylie’s grid. Her photos went from rather unremarkable (no shade, Kylie, lol) to…well, gorgeous. “Turks and Caicos were amazing. It was so, so beautiful, and everything was just photo-shoot ready, so it made everything really easy—gorgeous natural light, gorgeous location, the house that we stayed in was just insane, or mansion, I can’t even call it a house,” Amber remembers.

“It was right on the beach. We did some fun water activities. We went out. We just had such a great time. All of Kylie’s amazing outfits, all of Sofia’s amazing outfits—all the girls had just beautiful clothes. Their makeup was done, their hair was done, so everything kinda just turned into a photo shoot. It would just be us hanging out and me being like, ‘Okay, we gotta go to the beach right now, the sun is setting, we gotta shoot this.’”

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Salty but sweet

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Flash-forward a couple of weeks, and the cosmetics queen hit up Amber again to request that she lock in dates for “something special,” aka Kylie’s #BirthdayTour, as she dubbed it on Instagram. Amber ended up spending 11 days in August on a giant yacht in Italy with Sofia Richie, Scott Disick, Travis Scott, Stormi, and most importantly, Kris “This Is a Case for the FBI” Jenner, who apparently spent her time being iconic and buying everyone hats.

“She’s just such a queen,” Amber says of momager Kris. “She’d been to Italy so many times, so she was taking us everywhere…Everything she touched was like, ‘Wow, thank god Kris Jenner’s here.’ Because if she wasn’t, we would just probably stay on the boat the whole time. Like, we wouldn’t know what to do. She really took us around, she was our tour guide—she bought us all hats one day. She’s just a queen.”

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#BirthdayTour 🇮🇹

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Amber’s photos from the Italy trip are next-level—like, there’s no way you didn’t double-tap the pic of Kylie in a Dior bikini. “Those photos just looked insane, Kylie’s body looked insane, her face was perfect, the light was amazing. We shot it in 15 minutes and they’re our favourite photos ever,” says Amber. But dealing with paparazzi was a battle.

“We couldn’t really have much of a photo shoot because there were so many paparazzi everywhere and we didn’t want the photos to leak before I shot them—so it was more Kylie looking really cute, and me just being like, ‘Alright, this is good light right here, let’s get this done now,’” says Amber. Which, hey, could be the reason why so many fans speculated that Kylie was staging her paparazzi pics on this trip. In reality, it sounds like she was always camera-ready for her BFF/photog.

Nevertheless, Kylie and her sisters are constantly being accused of Photoshopping (shout-out to Kim’s six toes), as anyone who spends 5 minutes on the internet can confirm. And Amber’s work is no exception. This photo from Turks and Caicos drew a ton of flack when Kylie posted it because of the size of her assets:

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views

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Having America’s resident billionaire highlight your work on Instagram is obviously major but lemme make something clear here: Kylie isn’t making Amber’s career. If anything, Amber is making Kylie’s Instagram. Amber was already an established badass when she started hanging out in the same friend group as Kylie, Stassie, Yris, Victoria, and Jordyn—and aside from creating content for Kylie, she’s shot campaigns for brands like Puma and Converse. She even launched photography imprint Print Is Dead—which featured a stripped-down and styled-up Jordyn.

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proud of u @jordynwoods @secndnture

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Much like, ahem, me, Amber wasn’t the most academically-minded in high school but was fully “that bitch” when it came to photography. Once she hit junior year in Laguna Beach—an insanely wealthy resort city where she says “literally everyone is pretty”—Amber started shooting her friends in a portrait series called Summer Faces: “I would have just random people from my hometown show up to my house, and I’d shoot them in front of an American flag with something that meant something to them—so like, my Native American friend wore a headdress. It was just different people doing different things. Honestly, looking back at the photos, they’re awful, but everyone thought they were so dope back then.”

If you watched MTV in the early aughts, then you know Laguna Beach isn’t exactly the most diverse place to grow up, so Amber got the hell outta there and enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco as soon as she could. “Laguna Beach was really white-washed; there’s not a lot of cultures,” she says. “I’m 100 per cent Lebanese, I’m Arabic AF, so living in Laguna, I felt like all I wanted to do was be white so bad—have blonde hair and blue eyes so bad. That’s all I wanted. But then when I moved to San Francisco, especially going to this school, it was like all the freaks, all the weirdest kids. The outcasts kind of came together, and I really found myself living in SF. It was a beautiful time.”

Amber’s work has taken her everywhere—from San Francisco to Los Angeles, to New York—but it was last year in NYC that she had her first fully viral moment: a birthday party…on the subway. Nope, not on a platform or at one of the recently renovated stops, but in an actual car on the J train—complete with lobster, pasta, a piñata, and streamers.

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“Everyone knows I’m obsessed with my birthday, but that year, I was more low key about it—I was just there [in New York City] for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I’d always wanted to go to that,” Amber says. But uh, the “low-key” vibe changed when her cousin, event planner Samantha Seyfert, told her to ditch Manhattan and head to Brooklyn ASAP for dinner with friends.

“They had all these suitcases packed up and it smelled like fish, and I was like, ‘Wait, what the fuck is going on? I don’t know what’s going on.’ So we get to the train, we get on, and it was like a meme where you press fast-forward and everything moves fast. They set up a table, they had pasta, lobster, wine—they set up banners everywhere, and then we just had dinner on the train. They one million per cent threw me a surprise party on the train.”

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The photos were covered by a trillion outlets and from there, Amber’s Instagram—and art—took off.

And it’s obvious why. Amber’s work is f*cking fun. Her photos feel lived in and warm; they breathe. They’re alive. Her lens makes celebs like Kylie Jenner and Sofia Richie—who, despite being reality stars, are so removed from our reality that they don’t seem real at all—feel tangible and human. It’s clear Amber knows—really knows—the person in front of her camera. And you can tell that Kylie feels seen too.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, thumbing through Amber’s Instagram is as close to a $22 million yacht as we’re going to get.

This post originally appeared on COSMO US

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