Black Excellence: Wisdom Kaye Overcame Bullying To Become A TikTok Fashion Sensation, Now An IMG Model

by Duke Magazine

TikTok has incredibly been a platform used to usher and showcase vibrant creativities to the world since its launch. The app has over 1 billion active users monthly. Unknowingly, slew of creators like Wisdom Kaye joined to share their piece of creativity with the world. Little did Kaye know he was creating content that the model industry would love. Today, with more than 5 million followers on TikTok, Kaye has launched his modeling career with IMG.

“I never, honestly, even saw myself doing fashion,” he said. “I think the lightbulb moment for me was when IMG reached out. That was the moment I was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. Am I here? Is this actually happening?’”

Since signing with IMG, Kaye has worked with Dior, Fendi, Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Revlon, and now the 20-year-old Texas State University student is taking a break from school to grow his career. He joined TikTok in January 2020 sharing his personal style mixed with high fashion, OOTD looks and 70’s inspired outfits, garnering millions in views.

“If you had asked me, let’s say, my freshman year, when I was trying to find myself, I wouldn’t have told you I’d be a model years later,” Kaye said. “But when it happened, it didn’t feel too out of place because, weirdly, I recorded my videos and took photos of myself. I had always been sort of modeling; when I actually got into it, it never felt too uncomfortable.”

In July 2020, Kaye was named as Vogue’s best-dressed guy on TikTok, just six months after he first posted a video on the app.

The six feet four model wears the cap of the creative director, the stylist, and the photographer for his videos. He is really a strong voice in the way TikTok is challenging the fashion industry. He can express his style beyond the binary descriptions ascribed to clothing as he has stuff from the women’s section in his wardrobe.

His enthusiasm towards fashion began in high school when he used it as a shield for kids who bullied him, but he desperately wanted to fit in with everyone, so he began using personal style as a form of self-defense, Teen Vogue reported. Eventually, he found his voice which has been nothing short of amazing. He now takes inspiration from people who know and understand fashion and style; Hedi Slimane and Rick Owens are two of his favorite designers.

However, according to Teen Vogue, Kaye posts outfits drew inspiration from anime characters, fashion for mail runs, TikTok sounds interpreted as outfits, AE ads, or runway looks on a budget.

Dance challenges may be more popular on TikTok albeit, but Kaye has found a way to stand out and he exudes his unique style effortlessly with every look he puts out there. “What sets my page apart, and what has contributed to my growth, is that I show the limitlessness of fashion. I make videos that disprove myths like you can’t wear navy blue and black or boots with shorts.

“I also like to try different kinds of videos, like how to dress like certain musical artists, which gains interest from people who like fashion and certain musical arts. I also like to make how-to videos as well, to provide an educational component, which I think is important.”

The TikToker turned influencer and model is itching to have his own fashion label. 

“One thing I know I want to achieve, for sure, is to have my line. There’s part of me that works as a creative in making videos, but I’m also really interested in clothing, and I want to figure out how to do that and take my creative abilities to the next step and bring my fashion and what I create together into my line.”

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