Life is crazy. A lot can happen in four years,” says Jordyn Woods, sitting across from me in London’s Sanderson hotel, wearing a hoodie that aptly reads “Bad energy stay far away”.
Seeing her fresh-faced, outside the realm of social media and with her mum, Elizabeth, a few steps away ensuring that her girl feels supported, she seems younger than her 21 years.
Over the past few months, Jordyn Woods’ name has featured heavily in celebrity gossip headlines and been dragged through the mud on Instagram.“There’s been so much that’s happened in my life, I feel like I’m so old,” she tells me semi-wearily, as though the magnitude of living such a public-facing life is still sinking in. She is referring, in part, to the loss of her father in 2017 and to the moment she found herself embroiled in a tabloid frenzy of cheating allegations surrounding the Kardashian-Jenner posse – the world’s most-watched family, with a combined social media following in the hundreds of millions.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, Woods – a successful fashion and beauty entrepreneur – was known to many as the long-time best friend of Kylie Jenner. Until, in January of this year, there was an alleged kiss between Woods and Tristan Thompson, the boyfriend of Kylie’s sister Khloé Kardashian and father of Khloé’s 16-month-old daughter, True. In an intimate chat with close family friend Jada Pinkett Smith on her online show Red Table Talk, Woods claimed that Thompson kissed her on the way out of his house.
Yet a now-familiar narrative pattern, in which men are not held to account for their infidelities, repeated itself and despite Thompson’s rumoured history of cheating, it was Woods who received an onslaught of online hatred, including a (since deleted) tweet from Khloé Kardashian that read, “Why are you lying @jordynwoods?? If you’re going to try and save yourself by going public, INSTEAD OF CALLING ME PRIVATELY TO APOLOGISE FIRST, at least be HONEST about your story. BTW, you ARE the reason my family broke up!” apparently holding Woods accountable for the subsequent breakdown of her relationship with Thompson.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IN CLAPPING BACK”
Woods goes on to explain that, straight after the kiss, “I didn’t know how to feel. I was like, ‘That didn’t just happen.’ I [told him] ‘I need to go.’ I was leaving already so I walked out immediately. I got in the car. I was in shock.” The first thing she did was check in with her mum and family and spend time processing what had happened. “You know that saying, ‘I feel so alone in a room full of people’? I went through a phase of thinking, ‘I’m going to isolate myself, because I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know what the right thing to do is.’”
Throughout our conversation, Woods speaks about the importance of her relationship with God.“I just need[ed] some time by myself to try to understand what [was] happening, why it [was] happening, and how am I going to react to this internally, you know? How can I make things right with myself, with God and with my relationships? It took some time off in order for me to have a level head on how I should react.”
When it comes to self-care, Woods is an advocate of social-media detoxing in favour of family time.“I don’t believe in clapping back or reacting out of emotion. I could have handled this a million different ways, but I just went with what felt the most natural to me. Would I ever have wanted this to happen? Never. But shit happens. And in the end, I never want to see anyone hurt; I would hate to be the reason for anyone’s pain. We all have to go to sleep with ourselves at night.”
The temptation to see what people were saying about her was very real.“It becomes addictive to look on the internet, to look at your name. When I would look at my name and see all of the things that people were saying, it became like a tumour. It became cancerous to me.” From “homewrecker” and “snake”, right through to death threats, Woods saw it all.
Growing up in California, in a close-knit family with two brothers (26 and 19) and a younger sister (12) who looks like she could be her twin, Woods was a self-professed tomboy. She’s been big on social media since the age of 15 when she started cashing cheques for her work as an influencer, after initially making videos for fun with friends. Raised in a predominantly white area, Oak Park, Woods recalls being one of only two black girls in her school.“I never really looked at people’s colour or noticed that I was different to anyone else, besides the time one of my teachers called me Leah [the other black girl], and Leah and I look nothing alike. She was short and dark-skinned, and I’m tall and light-skinned.”
Although Woods doesn’t believe the outpouring of hate she received this year was entirely to do with her race, she pinpoints specific instances where online abuse was definitely targeted at her because she’s a black woman. “The first picture I posted on Instagram afterwards was a photo of me with short hair, which was a weave. I cut it; I just wanted short hair. I posted it and all the memes going around were, ‘Oh, Jordyn can’t afford hair extensions any more, she’s so broke.’”
“I KNOW THAT I’M A BLACK WOMAN AND I LOVE BEING A BLACK WOMAN.”
After a recent trip to Nigeria, a 47-second clip surfaced of Woods speaking about the online bullying she’d faced and how it illuminated what it meant to be demonised as a black woman existing in a public space. The internet latched onto it, professing that Woods had just discovered what it meant to be black – something she is particularly keen to clear up. She references an article she read on gal-dem, the publication I founded, about school girls being sent home for having what the school deemed “inappropriate hair”. “I’ve had the privilege of not having to face it as hard as the girls in [that] school because of my surroundings, but now I have a clearer understanding of how this game works, and how people feel like it’s OK to say whatever they want. I know that I’m a black woman and I love being a black woman.”
She strikes me as someone determined to look forward, not backwards. “I don’t know what’s next. Knowing me, I might wake up one day and be like, ‘I’m moving to Peru!’” As we emerge from our quiet corner of the hotel, a waiter recognises Woods and tells her he is a huge fan. She and her mum give him a quick squeeze. As I’m poised to leave, she turns and softly says, “I’ve had to grow up in front of everyone’s eyes – between losing my dad, this, relationships, whatever it is. I’ve had to deal with so much, [but] my life could be way worse.” She’s got the rest of her life ahead of her, and something tells me the world will be watching intently to see what Jordyn Woods does next.
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