Culture | February 4th, 2022

Becoming An ‘It Girl’ With Kennedy Johnson

By: Madeline B. Smith
Becoming An ‘It Girl’ With Kennedy Johnson

Kennedy Johnson came to FAMU thinking she was going to just focus on academia. After a semester of building her brand, “Gotta Love Swag” has taken off beyond what she expected and her plans have changed.

“I have always had a love for fashion. My mom played a big role in me wanting to get into clothes more because she would always dress me really nice. Once I got older people would always say that I dress really well, but I thought I was just matching colors,” the 20-year-old says. 

In her junior year of high school, Johnson changed her Instagram name to “Gotta Love Kennedy.” She deleted all her pictures and began rebranding her page, deciding to shape her account into the “it girl, influencer” vibe she was hip to. With an aesthetically riveting Instagram and quite a few viral photos, Johnson has done just that.

Cult classic Rick Owens, unconventional Converse sneakers, Zara and the infamous Telfar bag are staples across her profile — a clear sign of her “it girl” stature. Johnson describes her style as streetwear meets girly and admits she gets fashion inspiration from the “Bad Gal” herself Rihanna and stylist Amanda Murray.

Photo of Kennedy Johnson | Photo courtesy Justyn Thomas

To adhere to her mother’s advice, Johnson — a junior in environmental science — strictly focuses on school during the semester and routinely works in the summer for extra cash like most college students. During last summer, Johnson had applied and interviewed for a few jobs but after comparing her options and consulting with her boyfriend and mom, she decided working for someone else wasn’t for her. 

“I had a job interview and I would be selling things for another person. I had gotten the job, but I kind of felt weird selling things for other people, and even when I work regular jobs I feel a little weird working for other people.”

Johnson’s boyfriend immediately encouraged her to use the skills she would be providing for others, for herself. Initially, she took the conversation lightly but after speaking with her mom, who is a self-employed hairstylist of more than 30 years, she was assured that entrepreneurship was her next step and thus “Gotta Love Swag” was conceived.

“I know a lot of people have fears about not doing well. That’s why I wanted to start because I’ve wanted to do a lot of things”

While entrepreneurship wasn’t always at the fore of her dreams, she is glad she had faith and made the step. I never saw myself being an entrepreneur. Other people around me did, but I just had this ‘basic’ dream to go to college and become a dentist. I still want to go into the dental field, but I really wanted to start a business.”

Self-doubt is often a looming fear before a potential feat, however, Johnson knows the first step is starting. “I know a lot of people have fears about not doing well. That’s why I wanted to start because I’ve wanted to do a lot of things.” 

Conquering new feats isn’t anything new to her. She has a YouTube channel dedicated to travel vlogs, fashion and lifestyle videos garnering over 2,300 views and 600 subscribers.  “I have a YouTube channel, and I wanted to start vlogging in high school but I never started because I thought nobody would watch me. It’s crazy because it’s a self-doubt thing, but nobody has ever doubted me. People always persuade me to get into stuff like that.” 

Photo of Kennedy Johnson | Photo courtesy Justyn Thomas

Between the end of the summer and her release, Johnson ignored any self-doubt she had, created a business plan, established her brand and learned how to embroider via TikTok and YouTube. Her first beanie collection, of 30, debuted on Dec. 30, 2021, at noon. Within two hours, she sold out and had to reopen the site. 

“It was basically like a test drop to see if people would actually buy from me and it worked. A lot of people did buy and I was actually shocked,” she says. To avoid getting overwhelmed with orders, she closed the site after selling nearly 60 beanies and surpassed her expected revenue by $1,200. 

Nascent business owners often look to friends for support and while she did gain their support she luckily garnered attention from strangers. “You realize that it’s strangers who will make you money, it’s people who’ve bought from me who I have no idea who they are.”

“I hate when people try to put me in a bubble. I want to do everything”

Johnson has since released her second and last beanie collection, “The Brim Collection,” in which the heart-shaped logo sits on the brim rather than the skull of the beanie. After two successful drops, Johnson is ready to move on to new garments and is dabbling in sewing and screenprinting.

“I hate when people try to put me in a bubble. I want to do everything. I don’t want people to look at me and be like, ‘oh that’s the girl who sells hats.’ My ‘Big Three’ screams I need freedom and makes me work harder,” she says, crediting her Sagittarius sun, Gemini moon and Virgo rising.

The next “Gotta Love Swag” collection will drop in February and due to many requests from her supporters, it will consist of sweatshirts and crewnecks, but she looks forward to what she will create in the summer.