To Top

Daily Inspiration: Meet Kendall Baisden

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kendall Baisden.

Hi Kendall, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.

I’ve been running and modeling for quite some time now. Seventeen years for track & field and about six years for modeling. Even still, I’d honestly say my story truly starts when I decided to move to Los Angeles last summer. Earlier last year, I found myself signing with my US modeling agencies: STATE Management NYC and LA. By the time summer came around, I had completed my undergraduate degree in business honors and supply chain management at the University of Texas at Austin and competed in my second USA Track & Field Olympic Trials.

The last four years had been focused on coming out of a lengthy rut and rediscovering my passion in my athletic career in order to make the 2020 USA Olympic Team in the 400m dash. When I crossed the finish line during the preliminary round of the trials and realized I wasn’t going to continue on to the semi-final to keep fighting for a spot on the Olympic team, I didn’t feel devastation or heartbreak. I just had this overwhelming energy of, “Keep going Kendall. You aren’t stopping anytime soon”. I had dedicated so much time into a personal evolution and fought so hard in order to have the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to be able to step on the line and to compete amongst the nations best for a spot on the team that I don’t think my body could even try to fathom the emotion of failure.

I let that energy guide me and it led me to the realization that Austin, TX could no longer serve as my home base. So, it was time to move on to a place where I could create an environment that would allow my Olympic dreams in track & field and my career in modeling to be realized simultaneously. I decided I was going to take a leap of faith. Despite not having a secured training group or coaching situation, place to live, etc, I terminated my apartment lease in Austin, packed up my things in my Honda Accord, and shipped everything to the only place I felt that could give me that opportunity: Los Angeles, CA.

Leading up to my arrival to Los Angeles, I had signed up for track meets that were a part of a US track & field circuit series that happened to end in Los Angeles called the American Track League. However, I had to end my competition season early because since the Olympic Trials, all the traveling to different climates was causing me to have debilitating asthma attacks and sinus infections. Making that decision was aggravating and disappointing to say the least, but I still had this energy of “Keep going Kendall. There is more for you” that would not let me feel or act stagnant. From there, I started to pour my energy into my passion of modeling that I had put on a soft pause for the Olympic year.

Despite the factor of the pandemic and not being located in any of the major fashion hubs in the US before my move to LA, I was intentional and consistent in affirming to myself that my modeling career would grow, I’d walk in the fashion week shows, and have the modeling agencies in order to do so. I had made partial headway in these aspirations already with my fashion week debut in the fall of 2020 in the Thom Browne SS21 film presentation and with signing with my two US agencies at the beginning of 2021. I figured that with this type of momentum, I could contact my Los Angeles and New York agencies to let them know that I would be in NYC during the New York Fashion Week and I wanted to be submitted for the NYFW castings. My NYC agents were rightfully hesitant in saying “yes” to my request because there was a lot of uncertainty if any shows were going to occur that season because of the pandemic. They also weren’t sure how I’d be received in the market without a full year of development in the market in addition to them not actually seeing my walk let alone me in person yet since the pandemic had stopped any opportunity to meet in person. They ended up obliging my impulsive decision since I had already booked the one way flight to NYC. With this leap of faith, I fortunately and unprecedentedly grew my modeling career past what my agents or I would have expected within my first season of being signed

For my first fashion week cycle, I ended up walking again for Thom Browne during New York Fashion Week, Blumarine and Missoni during Milan Fashion Week, and exclusively for MIU MIU during Paris Fashion Week. By the end of the whole experience, I was signed by agencies in Milan and Paris and realized Tyra Banks was not lying or exaggerating about anything in her portrayal of the modeling industry in the reality show, America’s Next Top Model. When I returned to Los Angeles in early November, figuring out how to navigate, balance, and maintain this hybrid career path had become the main plot of my story.

By January, I was heading off to live in Paris for a month for what you can call a modeling residency while continuing my preseason training for track & field. That month’s residency ended up turning into two months, me continuing my modeling and training in London for two weeks after signing with a London modeling agency, and walking exclusively for MIU MIU again at the Fall/Winter Paris Fashion Week. As I now get ready to head off to London again for a month of development and competing on the European circuit, I have embraced this unpredictable and unanticipated aspect of this path I’ve made for myself. Simply  because at the end of the day, I have the opportunity of a lifetime to live out my dreams unapologetically.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?

Anyone with a story that is set in professional sports or the modeling industry is bound to have their fair share of obstacles. For myself, I feel that my interpersonal struggles in making decisions, dealing with myself by myself, and handling uncertainty have been my biggest foes.

As my story began, I have found a necessity in developing a more healthier and self-aware habit in intentional decision making. To make the best decisions for my professions, I’ve had to spend time discovering what at my core would bring me fulfillment in my professions. I’ve not only found this mindset profoundly impactful but also a much needed protection from letting external influences or temptations sway me from trading a pathway to long-term life of fulfillment for a pathway of short-term satisfaction. Being able to focus my direction in this way requires me to constantly wrestle with psychologically freeing myself from the idea that I must follow the blueprints that my professions encourage. Instead, I have to guide myself in replacing those blueprints with a “mold” my vision is calling for me to create.

Dealing with myself by myself has been the most interesting obstacle I’ve faced so far in this time of my life. Since modeling requires me to be on the road quite often, I’ve had to spend the majority of my training sessions solo and frequently adjusting my lifestyle with new environments. Under these circumstances, the only person I can rely on to be my biggest advocate in staying motivated, accountable, and steady on this path is myself. By learning how to be that person for myself, I feel that this whole experience has uncovered the most freed and happiest version of myself. It just feels like having that solid grasp on how I’m wired and how to nurture myself during my lowest of lows and highest of highs is the most exhilarating feeling. Maybe because I am teaching myself to enjoy these experiences just as much as focusing on being prepared to conquer my way through these experiences.

Lastly, handling uncertainty has been hands down my most agonizing foe. I am an ambitious, stubborn, and passionate dreamer. So, when my professions test my need for assurance that I will continue to have progressing opportunities, anxiety comes knocking at my door. The most effective thought I use to soothe this type of angst is: I am fully immersed in a space that I am passionate about and find joy in, therefore I am in the realm of where I am supposed to be and it’s only a matter of time that I will stumble open where I’m meant to be. I guess it’s a comforting reminder to myself to stay open and not to hold on so ferociously to a specific outcome, so that I blind myself from opportunities that can bring me more success or fulfillment than I could ever imagine.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?

It’s difficult for me to call what I do “work” because I consider my professions my passions. If someone were to ask me “how’s work Kendall”, I’d probably giggle and just shake my head before responding because it just feels strange to me  to label or equate something I’ve been doing for almost half my life to the realm of a traditional 9 to 5. If anything, I would consider myself to be a professional dreamer who is pursuing her passions while creating her own mold and path to do so. All in an effort to inspire others to do the same while embracing and creating their own identities that can profoundly contribute to the spaces they are inhibiting.

My athletic passion labels me as a professional American sprinter specializing in the 400m dash with a personal best of 50.46 seconds. I have been in the sport of track & field for seventeen years and attribute my time in the sport to molding me into the woman I am today. I am a three-time IAAF World Junior Champion, two-time Pan American Games champion, and two-time NCAA champion for the University of Texas at Austin. Throughout all of these accomplishments, I have met one of a kind souls from all walks of life and have been able to travel the world. Although I had a pretty accomplished amateur career and haven’t yet continued to produce the same level of accomplishments in my professional career, I am proud of myself for consistently picking myself up every time I’ve fallen. I can say that regardless of my circumstances or how it looks on the outside, I have kept my career going with the same integrity, passion, and humility I started it with.

My creative passion labels me as an international fashion and runway model. I am signed in NYC, LA, London, Milan, and Paris which has satisfied my wanderlust tremendously. In pursuing this passion, I am most proud of myself for doing so on my own accord and for myself. Since I was a little girl, my maternal grandmother always told me that I should model, but I never viewed myself as a person who could exemplify or portray beauty. It wasn’t until I started college that I started to view modeling as a form of expressive art and began to feel drawn to try it. After not making the Olympic trials in 2016, I looked to test out my skills in front of the camera with one of my close friends from high school who happened to be taking up photography.

When I think back to this session, I can’t help but think this was an overall career-saving moment for myself in track & field. The whole time I felt as if I was interacting with the camera more so than posing. It felt as if with every snap of the camera, I felt like I was being introduced to a persona of mine that I didn’t know existed. This newly surfaced persona felt more expressive, fluid, and composed than the intense, stoic, and animalistic persona I often enter as an athlete. Overtime, I’ve recognized that discovering this polar opposite persona gave me a mechanism to check and balance my constantly on overdrive athletic persona, so that I could save myself from burning out in my sport.

Training your body on a consistent basis to run at top speed and to be a champion creates an abundance of strain and stress on your mental and physical well-being that needs to be flushed out periodically in order to avoid a breakdown. Modeling definitely gave me a creative outlet and safe space to flush out all of the excess and stifled energy that I was carrying throughout the year. From the beginning of my modeling journey, I have made it clear that I am not a model who “models” I am a model who creates. When I am creating, I let myself get lost in the expression of what a theme or inspiration behind a project may be. I love projects that let my body and emotions flow in a type of rhythm to interpret the story of a project’s concept. I’ve been told when I let myself slip into this somewhat unconscious zone that I move in a way that makes time stop. If this is to be a valid observation, then I hope that during that halt in time people are drawn to what I create because they feel that they are connecting and taking something away from the art that guides or helps them emotionally or mentally as it does for me. Not simply to admire a beauty,

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?

When it comes to support, I would say the one thing I would appreciate guidance in is having the proper recovery routine and resources for my system to be able to handle my fast-paced and on-the-go lifestyle. I am innately a productive and independent worker who always works diligently and tirelessly to find a will for my way. However, I recognize without proper self-recovery routines, I cannot expect to have much longevity or continued progress in my professions because of the constant breakdowns my body and mind will be prone to. In this area, I would appreciate support in the right recovery tools and resources for the self sustainable-routines I can implement in dieting and body treatments as I am on the go.

When it comes to collaboration, I believe a collaboration that can help explicitly execute the defining of my creative capabilities would be vital in elevating my pursuit in my creative passion of modeling. I already recognize that in my modeling, I am capable of being vastly versatile in my look, expression, and movement. This summer, I want to explore this range with creatives that are experimental and curious as I re-do my portfolio to define my creative capabilities. I want this body of work to exemplify the uniqueness and novelty that I can bring to the fashion and modeling industry with what I create in front of the camera.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

1 – Photographer: Andy Nelson of The Register Guard 2 – Photographer: Carly Zavala 4 – Photographer: Jeff Cohen 5. Photographer: Florent Schmidt 6. Photographer: Roberta Mishchenko 7. Photographer: Drew Botcherby 8. Photographer: Tonya Matyu

Suggest a Story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in local stories