Jordyn Woods stars on In The Know’s digital cover for November 2021.
At 12 years old, In The Know’s November cover star Jordyn Woods was spotted in paparazzi photos with her friend Willow Smith when the bullying about her body began. “People were like, ‘Oh is that her security guard?’ People were saying I needed to lose weight.”
That was over a decade ago. Now at 24 years old, she is starting to reflect back on the environment she’s been raised in her entire life: “Growing up in Hollywood is not normal. It’s scary.” She responded to the trauma of being a child target of internet harassment by becoming her own role model. She also became a literal model, walking runways for designers like Christian Siriano and Chromat, and shooting editorials for Vogue, Cosmopolitan UK and Teen Vogue. She’s used her position within the industry to not just speak out about size inclusivity, but also to work on solutions by creating size-inclusive capsule collections with Boohoo and Addition Elle before launching her own size-inclusive activewear line. Most recently, she launched a fitness app called FRSTPLACE.
Growing up in Hollywood, where beauty standards are invented and diet culture is worshipped, she became an advocate for body positivity because that’s what she needed. But since moving into the spotlight, she also found herself at the center of controversies that tested her — from public fallouts with famous friends to navigating backlash for her evolving image on Instagram. “Sometimes growth requires pain. Sometimes it requires humiliation,” says Woods. “Sometimes it requires being uncomfortable, so you can get to where you need to be.”
Jordyn sat down with Elaine Welteroth on Zoom to discuss her redemptive relationship to her faith, fitness, falling for the “good guy” for a change and why she posted those controversial before and after photos.
Elaine Welteroth: The way that you strike me is the way you strike a lot of people. I think it’s why you’ve become such an inspiration for so many young women who watch you walk through the world with your head held high as you navigate difficult circumstances with such positivity and grace. Watching your self-love unfold is really inspiring to see. And it’s still just the beginning for you.
Jordyn Woods: It’s a lot. I can’t lie. Honestly, the number one thing I have is God. When I go through anything, that has been my constant, my crutch. But also fitness became therapy for me.
Jordyn: The fitness world can be intimidating. You see somebody with a six-pack and, like, super ripped and you’re like, “Damn, I don’t know if I can do the same workouts as them.” I was hoping that I can be the relatable person in the fitness world that they’re like, “Okay, I know where I can start.”
Elaine: It sounds like your faith journey and your fitness journey have intersected in powerful ways. Can you talk about how your faith journey began?
Jordyn: I lived through a lot in my life, and a lot of things that I don’t talk about. And then the pinnacle was losing my father. And that put me in a totally different direction on a path I wasn’t aware that I was taking. And God will slow you down. [Laughs] God will put you where you need to be.
I said, “Why me?” I would question, “How did I get here? Why did I get here?” And once I started talking to God, I understood that it all had to happen in order for me to be on my path and to really come into who I’m supposed to be. I had to be shaken up a bit.
“I believe that fitness saved my life…I wasn’t working out to look a certain way. I was working out to feel a certain way.”
Elaine: Whew, I didn’t know you were coming in to preach today! That resonates so much. I think one thing that people may not know about you is just how much wisdom you have, and maturity. And people don’t see the dark moments and what you go through to get to this place.
Jordyn: I know we’re talking about all of these glamorous things and you’re saying that I’m so positive, but I definitely suffer from anxiety and everything else that everyone else deals with. I believe that fitness saved my life because it helped me build my serotonin back. I wasn’t working out to look a certain way. I was working out to feel a certain way. When I don’t exercise, I don’t feel right. I’m like, okay, I didn’t go to the gym today, I have more anxiety. I’m looking at more stuff on Instagram. I’m trying to pay attention to things that don’t really matter.
Elaine: I wanna ask you about body image. How do you think growing up in L.A. and in that world affected your body image growing up?
Jordyn: I could never fit the clothes that I wanted to wear. I would go to the mall, and I would wanna shop at Hollister and all these places that everyone at my school dressed at. And I could maybe get, like, one T-shirt. So it was really discouraging.
I also didn’t have anyone who looked like me growing up either. I didn’t have somebody that I could look to in fashion, or look to on the TV screen, or look at in magazines and be like, “Wow, she looks like me. I could dress like her.” So I’m trying to become that for myself now.
Now that I’m older, I see my younger sister growing up in Hollywood and I realize our beauty standards, and what we do, and how we look… it’s not normal. It’s scary. It’s actually kinda scary. What we normalize is not real life, and I’m realizing that now.
Elaine: It is scary. You are somebody people are looking to for fitness inspiration. So do you feel some responsibility to walk that fine line between promoting a positive lifestyle and the reality of what it takes to look the way you do, while also showcasing yourself in the best light? How do you navigate that for yourself?
Jordyn: We have to preach that Instagram is not real. It’s what people wanna see. Like, of course, I can post any photo on my Instagram, but why wouldn’t I choose the best angle where the lighting’s the best? Instagram is just a place where everybody sells dreams and the best version of themselves. I’m also guilty. I’m choosing to show you the beautiful side of my life. Not when I’m crying in my room ’cause this happened, or when I’m having a bad day, or I might be a little bit self-conscious, or my hair is not curling the right way.
Elaine: I think it’s so important to hear someone like you say that with the platform that you have.
“Sometimes growth requires pain. Sometimes it requires humiliation. Sometimes it requires being uncomfortable so you can get to where you need to be.”
Jordyn: It doesn’t mean I’m not gonna mess up again. A lot of us get caught up in the idea of living for other people rather than living for ourselves. I wanna be this advocate for positivity so I feel like I have to do all this stuff for other people to prove that I’m being who I say that I am. You can try and try and try, but people are so miserable and unhappy with themselves that they will choose anything to pick apart.
Elaine: I wanna dig into this moment that we all saw online when your fitness app came out and you received criticism for posting before and after photos of your body. People had a lot to say about it. I want to hear about that experience from your perspective. Why did you decide to post those photos?
Jordyn: This was a whole lot of years of transformation — this wasn’t a nine-week challenge. I’ve never gone on social media and said “Hey, if you do my workouts, you’re gonna look like me,” or “Your journey is gonna be like mine,” or “You’re gonna lose weight in this amount of time,” or “Losing weight is even the right thing for you to do.” I have to live for myself. I don’t owe people an explanation.
I do think there are boundaries; there are some things to keep to yourself. Just ’cause I promote something, I’m not saying “This will be your physical result.” I am saying put yourself first. Live for yourself. I felt like I was sharing something positive for myself, and it got taken the wrong way. The sad truth is you can have 1,000 great comments and have 50 negative comments and it just feels so negative. So that’s part of me also becoming more of a woman, focusing more on the positive rather than the negativity.
Elaine: Well, speaking of flipping a negative into a positive, your boyfriend Karl had your back. He chimed in on Twitter.
Jordyn: He was just fed up. And he always has my back. It was really sweet ’cause I had no idea that he was doing that at all.
Elaine: I love to see it and I think more people probably got hype off of seeing that exchange than off the negativity. We all love to see Black love. I know that you guys were friends first, too — I was also friends first with my husband, and there are so many benefits for the foundation of the relationship. Do you agree?
Jordyn: Totally. But I didn’t see it coming. We were friends for a few years before we started dating. We would talk all the time. I remember I was going through a time in my life where I wasn’t on social media, I wasn’t talking to anybody, I was just, like, in self-isolation. And I saw that he had gotten in a car accident. Like, an 18-wheeler or something hit his car. So, I was like, “This guy has always been super cool to me. He’s a really genuine person. You know what? I’m gonna give him a call.” So that night, we ended up talking for probably like five hours on the phone.
“I didn’t have anyone that looked like me growing up. […] So I’m trying to become that for myself now.”
And then, that evolved into us talking every day, and we became best friends. When his mom passed away, I flew out there with my family, and both of our families were together, and we were just dating ever since. I don’t know, it just naturally progressed to that moment.
I didn’t prepare, but I was like, “You know what? Is this what God is giving me? Maybe I should try to date the actual good person vs. keep dating people that aren’t any good for me.”
Elaine: That part.
Jordyn: If I can give a young girl any advice: Just don’t overlook the good guys. [Laughs] They’re actually way more fun in the end, honestly.
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If you enjoyed this story, check out In The Know’s October cover story featuring Evan Mock!
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