Brynn Bonner: Tennessee, Like the Whiskey
In castings for jobs or go-sees when meeting new people in the fashion industry, they ask where you’re from. My response usually is, “Tennessee, like the whiskey.” I grew up below Nashville in a house full of personalities with my parents and six, yes, six brothers and sisters.
We spent our days exploring the woods and helping out in the garden before coming home to do schoolwork with Mum. I loved to spend time filling dollar-store notepads with short stories and sketching whatever I could imagine in the highest tree I could climb. Alone in my little world. When I was young, I was loud and boisterous, one of the boys and running races faster than them all. As I grew older and femininity felt required, I explored vintage fashion and fell in love with Audrey Hepburn. Her short hair, her grace, and her unwavering kindness drew me in. Her custom-made Givenchy gowns were my favorite to draw.
But being homeschooled and with only my siblings to entertain and church to attend, I didn’t have a clue about modeling growing up. Once I did, to be honest, I didn’t give it much thought as an option. As usual in some models’ backstories, I had shot up to 5 ’11 by fifteen and was lanky and awkward in a new body. Add braces and waist-length locks of curls that couldn’t be tamed to the mix and you had an incredibly shy teenager that wanted to stay out of the limelight at all costs.
I was sixteen when I was approached by my first mother agency in a shoe store at the mall. She loved to say her pro tip to scouting models was to look in the size 10-11 shoe aisle, where on that day I was looking for new boots. Her business card stayed on our fridge for a good three months before I considered attending an open call. I had cut my long hair into a bob and felt ready to tackle new things after researching a bit more on modeling.
Little did I know in the background my father, who always knew his kids were “a chip straight off his handsome block”, had been carrying our headshots for years, showing us off and submitting us to agencies. Being mixed with Brazilian, White, Black, and as well as some Native American in there, I do have to say I have a gorgeous family. My parents both were more than supportive and excited for me in the upcoming two years I spent in development. I wouldn’t be anywhere near the place I am now without them. I did shows all over Tennessee and attended a model expo in Texas. Expos are where new faces in fashion and acting have the opportunity to get in front of top talent agencies from all over the world.
From Tennessee, I went to LA and finally to New York, the big city I now call home. Once in New York at eighteen the world felt like it had opened wide and anything was possible. In my first fashion week in February 2017, I was able to book a Dior exclusive and travel to Paris for the first time with my mentor, Sandi Bass. With her introduction, I was also able to meet one of the closest people to my icon Audrey Hepburn. None other than Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy himself! I was in awe after the experience. I remember being in Europe and seeing the Eiffel Tower in person. I had been covering my bedroom with Parisian iconography for so long that the trip felt like a dream. Then meeting Mr. Givenchy, I knew I wanted to go all in on this career for as long as I could! Paris was only the first of many new countries I was able to work in. Soon enough I cut my hair into a pixie I’d long wanted and spent time in London and Milan, meeting new people in every city and set I was in. I’ve been able to appear on the runway for Balmain, Thom Browne, as well as Christian Siriano, Armani, and Jacquemus.
I met my best friend, Yerim, in my first model apartment and grew up with her in every city we traveled to together. We bonded over our shared love of anime and cartoons and were definitely in our young and wild phase but we learned lessons about ourselves and the world that we never would have achieved in our hometowns alone. I’m gonna make her cringe at my being sappy but I have to say she is one of the strongest people I know, her smarts and humor have gotten me through some crazy experiences.
In a model’s world, you’re surrounded by strong women taking their careers by the shoulders and bettering themselves in mind and physicality to grow in this industry. I’m grateful to be surrounded and friends with many who’ve not only found their niche but the ability to use skills they’ve acquired in new ventures as well.
Also being surrounded by women, I always thought I loved only being a friend and biggest supporter. Later on, I admitted to myself that my support was far deeper than surface level when I met and fell head over heels with my girlfriend and now wife, Jordan. I love to say she picked me up from the streets and put me in her pocket. We met at a presentation during New York Fashion Week, a job where models presented a designer’s collection for a period of time. She was recommended twice to face forward when her gaze was focused on me. (I love telling this story!) We met again in one of the next fashion week stops in Milan and hung out together as much as we could and facetimed each night we were apart.
From then on we were able to do shows together and travel to Paris and even Mexico before the Covid 19 pandemic hit the world. She returned to Canada for its duration and I to New York where I shared an apartment with Yerim. During the lockdown, Yerim and I started school again given the break from work. Her with marketing and communications and I with psychology. Since the world has returned to its new normality I’ve taken a break from it and returned to work full time but one day hope to finish my degree and gain certification to become a counselor specific to creatives in the fashion industry.
I’m not talking down on my work in any way, but as with any career, models especially have a unique work-life spontaneity that is hard to find in other workplaces. The fashion industry has an incredible history of glamor and mystery embedded into it and yet it’s ever-evolving as well. I’m excited for the future of fashion as it changes to hold further diversity and inclusion. And who knows, life is full of surprises with opportunities at every bend! I prefer to follow where my heart leads and stay open to new things.
Now to the present day, married, living in Brooklyn, and working full-time, I look back on where I’ve started and what I’ve been able to experience so far. I have to say it is extremely validating, I think I’ve made baby Brynn proud. I’ve grown up with two favorite phrases, more like personal mantras that I’d like to share. Remember that you are enough. And as my Mum says, *Qué será, será*. What will be, will be.