Follow The Leader: Teyana Taylor
Teyana Taylor is a presence. She is one of those rare women who walk into a room and take it over just because she’s unapologetically original. At only 20-years old she has found and embraced what most women spend their whole lives trying to alter: the very essence of who she is.
The person she has become is admirable.
But you won’t find that on your favorite blog site. By most she’s ridiculed and bashed for being “famous for nothing” or “just that girl who was on Sweet Sixteen”; however, the Harlem native is so much more than what meets the eye. After remaining pretty mum about her critiques, Teyana Taylor is ready to show the many layers that make up the woman who is always one step ahead of the pack.
With her bold attitude and fearless style, Teyana Taylor is a constant reminder that leaders are born and not made. While her peers are fighting for pieces of the same spotlight, Taylor has been busy carving out her own path to the top. But as with any journey, there have been roadblocks along the way. In Teyana Taylor’s case there’s the ever-present looming idea that she hasn’t worked for her place in the limelight. But she insists that what people don’t see is often times what they simply don’t want to understand. “It gets really hard because people don’t really know what’s happening on the inside of things. People can be so cruel and not even know your situation and not want get to know”, she says in her soft spoken and perfectly raspy tone. This transparency and softer side may shock many who know Taylor as the Jordan wearing, opinionated skateboarder chick whose big hair and unique style is being copied by young girls everywhere. But the sincerity in her vulnerability is magnetic. The wisdom and understanding she possesses at such a young age is enviable. Though having been moving in silence in the industry since her single “Google Me” in 2008, Teyana hasn’t been out of the public eye at all. From popping up on runways during Fashion Week to lending her voice to the title track on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Teyana is closing the gap between her and her peers…and everyone can feel her coming.
But so many people still doubt that a girl like her can win in this game. There is no recipe for a Teyana Taylor even she knows that. “I’m a piece of work and I am certainly one of a kind, I know for sure that I am”, she says, “but I honestly can care less about this industry. I just do what I love”. In her confidence is also knowledge of the power she has as a role model for young girls that need a place in this world to feel accepted. She speaks for a large part of the new generation of young women who simply want to be who they are but fear no one will understand. When talking about her responsibility to the girls coming after her, Taylor’s speaks with the wisdom of a veteran twice her age. “I want to inspire young people, with everything I do. Even through my style”, she says, “if you can change the world or just change lives directly, why not go for it? If I can encourage kids to be themselves and to be cool with being different that’s what I’m going to do. I have a responsibility to try to change as much as I can”. Her passion for showing young girls how to love who they are comes in part from her own experiences and struggles with accepting and loving herself.
In an industry that devotes hours of attention to promoting standards of beauty, a girl like Teyana Taylor can fade into the background. She does not fit that mood—neither does half of the world. And though many people praise her beauty, Teyana has had to remind herself at times that no one can define how she must feel about herself. “The standard of beauty is just ridiculous, it’s unfair. Now to be beautiful you have to be light and have long hair and a big butt. That’s just stupid. If your lips aren’t small or your nose isn’t contoured enough…you’re less than”, she explains as the tone of her voice shifts, “sometimes I feel like I’m not beautiful because I have big lips or just because of the other features I have. I had problems growing up and I was teased a lot. People don’t see inner beauty anymore. It hurts me to go online and see “light skin vs. dark skin” stuff. Beauty is more than what’s on the outside”. In her explanation lies the very reason why so many people adore the very core of who Teyana Taylor is. Her youthful and fun attitude often overshadows the wonderful and complex mind she has—a mind that gives her the freedom to think completely for herself, right down to what she wears.
Unlike many of her peers, Teyana doesn’t have a stylist. *Gasp * Tis true. The evolving style chameleon picks every outfit she wears without the help of an image team. Perhaps one of the most unique things about Teyana Taylor is her ability to flow freely from one style to another and somehow everything works. “It’s unexplainable (my style), I kind of just get up and go. It’s one of those things—if you’ve naturally got it, you’ve got it. I don’t have a set style, I dress the way I feel”, she says before dropping a gem, “I guess I would say my style is a story. Everything has to tell a story”. While her place in style history is writing itself, Teyana is embarking on a new chapter in her career as she is set to star opposite Bow Wow, Loretta DeVine and Tyler Perry in his upcoming film Madea’s Big Happy Family. Though new to acting, Taylor felt at home on set. “I’m already a funny person so playing another character was nothing but fun for me”. And how did she feel about her boss and co-star? “He’s super focused even as funny as he is. So he creates a nice balance”, she says.
Along with venturing into acting, Teyana has brought back her popular blog, IAmNba.com much to the pleasure of her fans. A basketball player herself, Taylor created the blog to give fans a closer look at the players we all love. “Before I got signed I was a skateboarder and I played basketball. I gave it up for my career because the label saw a lot of danger in it. I wanted to do something so that I could still have basketball in my life and as a fan I wanted to know more about players”. Her small gesture to remain close to the sport she loves turned into a 100,000 strong following in just one week, a number that she hadn’t planned for. “The site kept crashing”, she says with a raspy laugh, “we didn’t build the site for those kind of numbers. But we’ve been back for almost three weeks and we’ve already gotten almost all of our traffic back…. it’s good to know people didn’t forget about it”.
Being remembered is something that Teyana Taylor will never have to worry about. With so many avenues to dominate, everyone is holding their breath for the true arrival of Teyana Taylor. Without a doubt there are secret hopes that maybe she won’t hit. That maybe all she’ll ever be is a friend to the biggest stars or that girl who knows how to put together a good outfit. That maybe she’s just living out an extended 15 minutes of fame. But if we had to place our bets on a contender we’d take the one who was born with a crown…it’s pretty hard to beat what is destined.
Written by: Iman N. Milner
Photos by: Ashley B. Nguyen
Styling By: Seth Brundle and Teyana Taylor
MUA: Sarah Bahlibi
Third Look: :Leather Bubble Skirt, Vinton Vital (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vinton-Vital-Clothing/336680992814); Earrings, Maggnolia Jewels (http://www.shopmaggnolia.com/); Necklace, Lucratif Street (http://www.lucratifstreet.com/); Shoe, Air Jordan (http://www.nike.com/jumpman23/); Crown (stylist’s own)