“I want to break that stigma in the fashion industry.”
Over the past ten years Keyla has battled with a variety of medical conditions including being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Rather than let these things stop her, she has used them as a step to propel herself towards a career in modeling and activism. Speaking with Sharon O’Donnell of Jenleeion, Keyla discussed her newfound career in modeling, her strength through trials, and her advice for those who may be struggling.
Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was only a step in a long line of medical complications for Keyla. In her twenties she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). By twenty-nine her UC had become controllable, however, this was also when she was told that she had a cancerous mass on her uterus that would have to be removed via hysterectomy. Afterwards, her condition continued to deteriorate until she decided to remove her colon and undergo a J-pouch procedure. This, too, came with its own trials and eventually she decided to have a permanent ileostomy placed. After all of this, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s.
Rather than allowing her many tribulations to get the best of her, she decided to create a photoshoot with her friends that was eventually published. Ever since, she has continued to model and spread awareness about Crohn’s Disease and her story. At her time of sitting down with Jenleeion, she had only “been in the business for six months.” Through all of this, how has she been able to remain strong? “From the journey itself, and from my support system.” She references her eleven-year-old child, as well as her twelve-year relationship with her boyfriend, as the foundation to her strength through hard times. She also referenced her own strength in overcoming hardships, “my will to live is strong…I want to be able to live life.”
What created that strong will? She credits its creation with her lowest moments, “the journey itself, it’s been tough.” She explained that she felt somewhat alone in her journey as a result of her lack of understanding for the various medical issues she faced. She hopes to be a face that people who may be going through similar struggles can identify with, “I don’t want anyone to have to go through any struggle by themselves, that’s why I advocate my story.”
Her new life as a model still feels surreal. When asked about gracing the cover of the July edition of Jenleeion, she remarked that she’s “still in shock.” The day before her interview she participated in a runway show to create awareness around human trafficking. Despite clarifying that she “trained so hard for the last three months” in order to be prepared for the show, she said that on the stage she asked herself “is this my life right now?” Happy that she was able to make it there through everything, she was still sure to point out that she was “honored to have done it for such an important cause.”
In adjusting to her new life, how does she balance her work as a model with her needs for her health? Understanding the importance of self-care, she makes sure to stick to her “self-care routine.” “I’m in pain pretty much every day and I have to push through it.” She has not let her pain prevent her from being successful, both in her career and her personal life. She points out that a positive attitude goes a long way, “even if I’m in pain,I’m always silly, I’m always smiling and laughing.”
Being different has led Keyla to some uncomfortable confrontations with people who may not understand her story. How does she deal with instances like this? “What I try to do is…educate them as best I can…or just let it go.” Keyla is the only one who has lived her life, and she understands that her path has not been easy, “I had to work so much harder than some people.” Still, she keeps calm even when combatting the naysayers, “I know my truth…I know my story…I don’t have to validate it for someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes.”
What’s next for Keyla? “So much.” She explained that she’s looking to start a non-profit called “better together” that would connect people “with health conditions that are looking for help.” As far as fashion is concerned, she plans to walk at “Baltimore fashion week…New York and London as well.” Early on into her career as a model and she is already reaching success and sharing her story. “All good things.”
As someone who has pushed through her trials to get to where she wants to be, Keyla is a master on overcoming adversity. What advice would she give to others who may be struggling? “Remember to love yourself…remember that everybody’s journey is different…Live life as much as you can.” Keyla is proof that with hard work and determination, even your biggest difficulties can be turned into your greatest achievements.
BEHIND THE COVER
Make Up Artist: @facesbyfelicita
Wardrobe Designer: @iaamhollywood
Interview by: Sharon O’Donnell @sharonodonnelll
Written by: Aaron Devyn Imholt for Labella Diva Enterprises labelleladiva.com