When Jordyn Woods, 21, found herself at the centre of a cheating scandal with the Kardashian-Jenners, it turned her world upside down. Here’s what happened next.
Seeing her fresh-faced, outside the realm of social media and with her mum, Elizabeth, a few steps away ensuring that her girl feels supported, she seems younger than her 21 years.
Over the past few months, Jordyn Woods’ name has featured heavily in celebrity gossip headlines and dragged through the mud on Instagram. “There’s been so much that’s happened in my life, I feel like I’m so old,” she tells me semi-wearily, as though the magnitude of living such a public-facing life is still sinking in.
She is referring, in part, to the loss of her father in 2017 and to the moment she found herself embroiled in a tabloid frenzy of cheating allegations surrounding the Kardashian-Jenner posse – the world’s most-watched family, with a combined social-media following in the hundreds of millions.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, Woods – a successful fashion and beauty entrepreneur – was known to many as the long-time best friend of Kylie Jenner. Until, in January of this year, there was an alleged kiss between Woods and Tristan Thompson, boyfriend of Kylie’s sister Khloé Kardashian and father of Khloé’s 16-month-old daughter, True.
In an intimate chat with close family friend Jada Pinkett Smith on her online show Red Table Talk, Woods claimed that Thompson kissed her on the way out of his house. Yet a now-familiar narrative pattern, in which men are not held to account for their infidelities, repeated itself and despite Thompson’s rumoured history of cheating, it was Woods who received an onslaught of online hatred, including a (since deleted) tweet from Khloé Kardashian that read, “Why are you lying @jordynwoods?? If you’re going to try and save yourself by going public, INSTEAD OF CALLING ME PRIVATELY TO APOLOGIZE FIRST, at least be HONEST about your story. BTW, you ARE the reason my family broke up!” apparently holding Woods accountable for the subsequent breakdown of her relationship with Thompson.
“That was 2001, I was four. Uncle Willy [who Jordyn’s sound-engineer dad worked with in the ’90s] and my father, they’re like my two dads.”
Woods goes on to explain that, straight after the kiss, “I didn’t know how to feel. I was like, ‘That didn’t just happen’. I [told him] ‘I need to go.’ I was leaving already so I walked out immediately. I got in the car. I was in shock.” The first thing she did was check in with her mum and family and spend time processing what had happened. “You know that saying, ‘I feel so alone in a room full of people’? I went through a phase of thinking, ‘I’m going to isolate myself, because I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know what the right thing to do is.’”
Throughout our conversation, Woods speaks about the importance of her relationship with God. “I just need[ed] some time by myself to try to understand what [was] happening, why it [was] happening, and how am I going to react to this internally, you know? How can I make things right with myself, with God and with my relationships? It took some time off in order for me to have a level head on how I should react.”
When it comes to self-care, Woods is an advocate of social-media detoxing in favour of family time. “I don’t believe in clapping back, or reacting out of emotion. I could have handled this a million different ways, but I just went with what felt the most natural to me. Would I ever have wanted this to happen? Never. But stuff happens. And in the end, I never want to see anyone hurt; I would hate to be the reason for anyone’s pain. We all have to go to sleep with ourselves at night.”
The temptation to see what people were saying about her was very real.
“It becomes addictive to look on the internet, to look at your name. When I would look at my name and see all of the things that people were saying, it became like a tumour. It became cancerous to me.” From “homewrecker” and “snake”, right through to death threats, Woods saw it all.
Growing up in California, in a close-knit family with two brothers (26 and 19) and a younger sister (12) who looks like she could be her twin, Woods was a self-professed tomboy. She’s been big on social media since the age of 15 when she started cashing cheques for her work as an influencer, after initially making videos for fun with friends.
“You know when you’re [first] on Instagram and you just post anything? That was me then – I think I was in Malibu.”
Raised in a predominantly white area, Oak Park, Woods recalls being one of only two black girls in her school. “I never really looked at people’s colour or noticed that I was different to anyone else, besides the time one of my teachers called me Leah [the other black girl], and Leah and I look nothing alike. She was short and dark-skinned, and I’m tall and light-skinned.”
Although Woods doesn’t believe the outpouring of hate she received this year was entirely to do with her race, she pinpoints specific instances where online abuse was definitely targeted at her because she’s a black woman. “The first picture I posted on Instagram afterwards was a photo of me with short hair, which was a weave. I cut it; I just wanted short hair. I posted it and all the memes going around were, ‘Oh, Jordyn can’t afford hair extensions any more, she’s so broke’.” After a recent trip to Nigeria, a 47-second clip surfaced of Woods speaking about the online bullying she’d faced and how it illuminated what it meant to be demonised as a black woman existing in a public space. The internet latched onto it, professing that Woods had just discovered what it meant to be black – something she is particularly keen to clear up.
She references an article she read about schoolgirls being sent home for having what the school deemed “inappropriate hair”.
“I’ve had the privilege of not having to face it as hard as the girls in [that] school because of my surroundings, but now I have a clearer understanding of how this game works, and how people feel like it’s OK to say whatever they want. I know that I’m a black woman and I love being a black woman.”
She is, she says, a private person, despite her following of 9.8 million on Instagram. “I don’t really care to share my whole life on social media, because certain things are special and once you share it, you open yourself up to people’s opinions.” This became a double-edged sword: “People got to see me at my most vulnerable moment without even really knowing me, because I don’t showcase who I am, really.”
We go on to discuss the universal, perpetual fear of “being cancelled” and the disconnect between people online and in real life. “The internet feels so entitled to have opinions about everything, but a lot of it is nonsense. These are real people, with real lives. People are so detached that they don’t feel empathy, they don’t feel bad, they don’t realise that the one message that you sent laughing at someone could be the message that pushes that person off the ledge.”
Throughout our chat, Woods is open and thoughtful, taking her time to articulate exactly how she feels, even though she’s ready to put all of this behind her and focus on her career again: she’s got a range of hair extensions with Easilocks, an Eylure collaboration and an inclusive sportswear company, Secndnture.
Woods’ instinctive business ethic continues to drive her. Perhaps it’s because, after her dad passed away two years ago, she filled her life with work and exercise became her therapy. During that grieving period, she lost weight, and faced questions over whether she was still a body-positive advocate. “I feel like being body positive means wanting to be the best version of yourself. If you want to be skinny, big, or whatever you want to be, you have every right to be that, as long as you’re being good to your body.”
Her hair range is another passion project, born from her own experiences. “I’ve been through such a [journey], especially as a black girl,” says Woods. “Growing up, there’s always stories of getting your hair done, or your mum brushing your hair, trying to tame it.” She smiles at the memory. “The neighbours would think I was killing you,” laughs her mum as she looks on, before telling me about the time when a relative relaxed Woods’ hair without her permission, leaving her fuming. “I’ve grown to not have a tender head at all and I enjoy getting my hair braided now,” adds Woods, who begged her dad to let her get her first weave. Despite the labels that people place on black women’s hair, defining what constitutes “good” or “bad”, Woods has created a brand and a space where women feel able to express themselves, weave or no weave. “Hair helps me switch my identity. Bad hair… What is [that]? There is no such thing. It grows out of your head. It’s a part of you.”
“She’s the closest person in my life.
It means the world having a supportive woman who is also a best friend. She’s taught me to always have integrity.”
After a traumatic few months, the future looks bright for Woods, but how does it feel to be navigating all of this – good and bad – without her best friend Kylie by her side? There’s a pause, and I can tell she’s apprehensive. “I love her. That’s my homie. I hope everything falls into place and that we can all grow and build our relationships with our family and God and come back together one day and be stronger and happier.” It’s been illuminating for her to figure out who she is and who she can trust. “A lot of people can be around when things are good, but you don’t know who’s really around until things are bad.”
I ask what impression she hopes people take away from this interview. “It’s not about public statements for me and it’s unfortunate that something so private had to happen publicly…” she tails off, before adding, “Let’s stick together. The world is so crazy. Our politics, our wars, our this, that and the other, the last thing we need is to start going against each other about things on social media. Let’s be better humans and learn from our mistakes.”
She strikes me as someone determined to look forwards, not backwards. “I don’t know what’s next. Knowing me, I might wake up one day and be like, ‘I’m moving to Peru!’” As we emerge from our quiet corner of the hotel, a waiter recognises Woods and tells her he is a huge fan. She and her mum give him a quick squeeze. As I’m poised to leave, she turns and softly says, “I’ve had to grow up in front of everyone’s eyes – between losing my dad, this, relationships, whatever it is. I’ve had to deal with so much, [but] my life could be way worse.” She’s got the rest of her life ahead of her, and something tells me the world will be watching intently to see what Jordyn Woods does next.