Model Jasmine Sanders Talks Instagram Bullies, Growing up in the South, and Her Future Career Plans

By Ryan Pfeffer. Photographed by Mike Rosenthal. Styled by Jacqueline Zenere | March 1, 2018 | People Feature

Have you met Jasmine? Jasmine who? @golden_barbie Jasmine! This is how it usually begins when you are Insta-famous. But behind all of the selfie-made success, Ryan Pfeffer discovers a 26-year-old model—and role model—who is quietly becoming a force of fashion.

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Red mesh sheer boots, $1,350, Fendi, Design District

Just south of 3 million pairs of eyeballs per day focus in and out of the life of Jasmine Sanders, known more familiarly to those eyeballs as @ golden_barbie. They watch, scrolling their way through the day-to-day of the 26-year-old model, who’s quickly becoming one of the buzziest names in the industry. There she goes posing on the red carpet with Karl Lagerfeld. There she is smiling in the middle of an Obama sandwich. Is that Cardi B?

It’s a life worth watching—no doubt—and one that’s earned Sanders a snowballing amount of attention in the last year. With that attention come perks: finding herself in the pages of Vogue, Allure and W; nabbing campaigns with Ralph Lauren and Ugg; and vacationing with the Kardashians.

Things can be tricky, though. It’s not always easy for her to navigate her way through a career (Instagram model) that didn’t exist 15 years ago. The comments section, for one, can be an occasional drag. “The people who are on my page defend me and protect my privacy so much that I feel like I should protect them,” she says. “If there’s anything negative written, I delete it because I don’t want them to go into a battle with someone who begins to do any type of cyberbullying. The internet is so hurtful sometimes and it can be one click that changes somebody’s life.”

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Silk blazer, $2,650, Lycra leggings, $295, belt, $550, and patent leather sandals, $775, all at Versace, Design District; striped open-chest knit top, $950, at Fendi, Design District.

Less stressful but still challenging are the gifts. Every once in a while, she’ll get a box of delicious-looking free food only to realize it’s actually for her two wonderfully wrinkly little nuggets, French bulldogs Bam Bam and Rocky, who themselves are enjoying a tiny bit of Insta fame as @bambamandrocky.

“It’s, like, a gourmet situation,” Sanders says, laughing. “I open it and I’m like, Oh, this isn’t edible... for me.”

But long before she was dangerously close to eating dog treats, Sanders’ vision for her future was clear. She was born in Germany. Her father, enlisted in the Army, was from South Carolina, and her mother was from Stuttgart, Germany. When she was 1, they moved back to Columbia, S.C., and there, she quickly found a passion.

“There are photos of me when I was really young just sitting around with a bunch of magazines, flipping them upside down and looking all crazy at the photos,” she remembers. In her heart, Sanders knew she loved fashion. Others had trouble believing the self-professed “big tomboy” could be interested in anything that didn’t involve tossing a ball around.

"The people who are on my page defend me and protect my privacy so much that I feel like I should protect them...the internet is such a hurrtful place sometimes and it can be one click that changes somebody's life"

Sanders was not exactly winning superlatives for most likely to become a supermodel. She had a happy childhood but not a glamorous one. Her ugly-duckling phase came quick and hard. “I was super tall at one point and very, very skinny,” she says. “I hated my legs because everybody would talk about how bony my knees were.” She was bullied for things just about every teen goes through—including the wild curls that have since become her trademark—but also for things few of her peers could relate to. “Living in the South, people look at you differently because you are a mixed kid,” she says. “I would get bullied over who my friends were—if I had too many white friends or too many black friends.”

But at age 13, a local photographer approached Sanders’ mother to see if she’d be interested in doing a shoot. She knew her daughter would jump at the chance, so she said yes. Photos from that shoot would end up in an envelope to New York City, Sanders’ first attempt at seeking representation. It was a rare and instant yes.

Just months later, when the kids in her hometown began to see her appear in the pages of Seventeen and Glamour, the bullies got quiet.

Things took off quickly for Sanders after that. She was flying back and forth to New York every couple of weeks while still in high school. She maintained good enough grades to be accepted into college—though when that opportunity came, she was faced with a tough decision: At the same time, an offer came to shoot in South Africa and beef up her portfolio. She could try to balance college with modeling—a tricky proposition—or jump headfirst into this thing she’d loved for so long and not look back. She got a passport and chose the latter.

She’s found stunning success as a model. It’s easy to forget, since she is only 26, but she’s been at it professionally for 13 years. In addition to finding herself in almost every major fashion magazine in circulation, she’s walked the coveted Miu Miu runway in Paris alongside Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. “People think it can be very catty backstage, but as much as we compete trying to get different campaigns and jobs, we’re family back there. I have girls that are pushing me and telling me, ‘Hey, you got this. We all have nerves—you got this. You look beautiful. Let’s do it.’” And when the pre-show jitters persist, her immediate family is only a ping away. “I texted my mom like, ‘I can’t walk in these shoes. I don’t know if I can do this.’” To which her mom replied with one of those practical yet perfect bits of mom advice: “You have two feet: One’s right; one’s left. You got this. You are OK.” And she ended up being just that—OK.

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Left: High Jewelry Serpenti necklace, price upon request, Bulgari, Design District; earring, Sanders’ own. Right: Fringed mesh camisole, $1,790, by Rosetta Getty at At Ease on Sunset.

Today, Sanders has found a style all her own, a thoughtful yet effortless look that her former tomboy self would probably approve of. “A lot of people who inspire me, whether they’re famous or not, are usually [people who are] not really trying so hard. I feel like everybody just needs to take a breather and smile more, and care less about their outfit and hair and everything else. Not that I’m not going to care about it—and it probably will take me a while to do it—but it’s going to look like I didn’t care too much.”

Sanders is putting that same amount of unseen effort into the next phase of her career, one that presents an overwhelming number of possibilities. “I want to begin to be more of a businesswoman,” she says. “I want to come out with some fun products and merchandise, and I also want to get into acting.” She recently launched her own YouTube channel, on which you can learn her makeup and fashion secrets, watch her make fun of her grunting puppies (and, sometimes, her boyfriend, actor and host Terrence J) and occasionally spaz out on camera.

There’s more, too, but we might just have to wait patiently for it. “I cannot tell you some of the fun stuff I have coming up, but I can’t wait for you guys to see it.”

Whatever Sanders throws herself into, hopefully it’ll follow the winning formula—namely, an ability to transmit her unabashed personality, remaining equal parts glamorous, goofy and grateful.

Oh, and whatever happens, she’ll want one particular person by her side the whole time. Someone who can remind her that, sometimes, it’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. “I think my mom is one of my biggest fans,” she says. “I cannot remember a day that has gone by that she is not rooting or screaming, or asking me what’s next or pushing me for the next big thing.”

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