Refinery29 is proud to partner with Stitch Fix — a personal styling service that delivers pieces handpicked by stylists straight to your door — to celebrate modern mothers’ unique journeys as they transition back to work, and the ways in which their style evolves as they navigate their busy lives.
Not unlike most parents who have their children’s best interests at heart, Jaycina Almond’s family had big dreams for her. “I was the smart kid,” she says, matter-of-fact. But instead of becoming the lawyer or the doctor they had wanted for her, Almond, at 24 years old, found success all on her own, carving out a unique career path as a model and the founder of Tender, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to mothers in the Atlanta area. And on top of it all, she’s mom to her nearly 3-year-old daughter Syx.
But the journey to get to where she is now wasn’t easy nor conventional. At every turn, she shattered norms and defied expectations, starting with dropping out of college in the second semester of her first year. She was neither happy nor fulfilled, and so despite having secured a full ride, she made the decision to forgo the prospect of earning a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising and textiles in favor of pursuing modeling full-time. Standing at 5 feet and 9 inches with striking features, Almond already looked like a model, but to her dismay, it didn’t happen right away. She moved to Atlanta — the next major city after Los Angeles and New York that she felt was more affordable — and worked in sales at a contemporary retailer (in her go-to “quintessential teenager” uniform of tiny crop tops and pleated tennis skirts) as she tried to catch her big break, taking part in amateur photo shoots on the side.
It wasn’t until she found out she was pregnant at 20 years old that her life changed in every way. She gave birth to a beautiful, healthy daughter. Eight months later — after two years of trying to break into the industry — she was signed to a local agency, and then a nationally recognized one based in L.A., all before Syx reached her first birthday.
“Transitioning back to work was a slow build. At the time, I had never been away from Syx, so when I was starting in Atlanta, it allowed me to get used to the separation while I was still nursing,” she says. “When we were traveling between L.A. and Atlanta, I continued to breastfeed her.”
That meant taking Syx with her to L.A. for two or three months at a time, bringing along her best friend (Syx’s godmother) to act as her nanny-slash-support system. Now, Almond splits her time between New York, L.A., and Atlanta, leaving Syx at home (now that she’s old enough to attend pre-school) with her father.
“Sacrificing a big chunk of time is hard to get used to — and when I’m away, all I do is count down the days until I can get back home,” she says. “I’m a 24-year-old mom in New York — that’s not the norm — and it’s isolating because there are 19-year-old models who just don’t have the same responsibilities I have. There have been times when I don’t care [about modeling] and I want to go home. I have to remind myself, it’s worth it — you have to have a career.”
What she does care about — passionately, effusively, and unquestionably — is Tender. Originally conceived as a maternity clothing subscription service tailored to each trimester of a woman’s pregnancy (where a box would be provided to a woman in need for every one sold), it evolved into a local philanthropic endeavor after Almond became more invested in giving back than selling clothing. For now, Tender supplies necessities to disadvantaged mothers in Atlanta, but Almond hopes to grow it into a national organization.
“Being a mom is so hard — I can’t imagine having to worry if my kids are going to have a place to sleep or if they’re going to eat,” she says. “My mom was a single mom. I live in Atlanta, and I can’t ignore what I’m seeing right in front of me. I see what other girls go through — who are my age, who were pregnant around the same time — and their struggles. I’m a young Black mom, but I’ve been fortunate, and if I can make an impact on somebody’s life, if I can help change someone’s situation, that means the world.”
She’s also harnessing the power of social media (a reach of nearly 50K followers to date) to shed light on issues that she holds close to her heart. In one, Almond is captured breastfeeding Syx in a beautiful, incredibly intimate black-and-white photo. “The last time Syx nursed was November 25, 2018,” she wrote. “I had the luxury and opportunity to breastfeed for 21 months. That is not often the case for women who look like me. Lack of support, lack of access to resources, lack of diversity in the lactation industry, the painful history behind Black woman and breastfeeding.”
Almond breastfed Syx for nearly two years — “so my boobs are completely ruined,” she says, candidly. In an industry that continues to perpetuate certain beauty ideals (despite a push for diversity), along with unrealistic societal pressures for new moms to “bounce back” to their “pre-baby bodies,” Almond admits it’s been hard.
“My career could probably be further along if I could do certain things,” she reveals, naming lingerie and swimsuit jobs, specifically. “It’s not the client, but it’s because I’m not confident. And when I’m in a casting with a million girls, I just have to block out those pressures or the judgment I feel when people find out I had a baby at 20 years old.”
She is, however, most confident when she’s comfortable — in pieces that are versatile, easy, and stain-resistant (aka dark colors), that can take her from school drop-offs to meetings. And with a packed schedule like hers, the problem is simply not having the time to shop. “I don’t think I’ve actually shopped in real life more than three times since having Syx — it’s such a chore, but Stitch Fix delivers clothes that are chosen by my stylist and tailored to my style,” she says about the online personal styling service that offers pieces that cater to all body types and lifestyles, including maternity, plus, and petite. “It really doesn’t get any easier than that.”
What really sold her was how comfortable the clothes were. “Comfort is my main thing; I need to make my mom wardrobe fit for everything in my life,” she explains. “For other mothers, I think you should wear whatever makes you feel beautiful and comfortable.”
At the end of the day, Almond says she wouldn’t change a thing about her body or her life. “Giving birth and being a mom is incredibly empowering — I grew a human for nine months,” she says. “It’s just a matter of learning to be gentle with yourself.”
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