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What I’m Wearing: A Model Who Grew Up Traveling With Her Family’s Carnival

Paris Kissel is now a publicist and writer based in DC.

Photos courtesy of Paris Kissel

Paris Kissel has lived many different lives. Originally from Alabama, the 24-year-old grew up on the road with her family, which owns Kissel Entertainment, a carnival that travels throughout the South.

“Pretty much all I knew was carnivals growing up,” Kissel says. “[The carnival] travels nine months out of the year to a different city every single week. My two sisters still work on the carnival and are poised to take it over from my parents. And whenever I come to visit, it’s whatever city they’re in that week that I go visit. So, pretty great childhood. Very interesting, for sure.”

Right before graduating high school, Kissel was scouted by modeling agents at a music festival—the same agents who discovered Ashton Kutcher and Karlie Kloss, she says. “They were like, ‘Would you like to model?’ And I was like, ‘Interesting—I’m all set to go to school, but continuing to be able to travel also sounds really nice.'”

And travel, she did. Moving between Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo, Kissel modeled and developed her personal style, which she describes as oscillating between masculine to feminine, and trendy to classic. “I believe my style is as temperamental as I am,” she says. “I enjoy having a closet that is incredibly diverse in options and the ability to convey whatever persona I would like to wear for the world for that day.”

Kissel has since moved on from the modeling life and now works as a publicist at strategic communication firm Levick. She lives in Adams Morgan with her dog, Mulaney. In her free time, she writes about domestic violencebody positivity, and LGBTQ+ issues, performs with a sketch comedy group at Drafthouse Comedy, and does standup at the DC Center.

Read past What I’m Wearing entries here.

Fashion icon

Emily Ratajkowski. “Beyond being my celebrity crush, she is also a style icon of mine,” says Kissel. “I love her brand, Inamorata. Her designs always make me feel so confident in myself. She has made it a goal to promote body-positivity, which I believe is incredibly important. I always find inspiration in her words and her street style.”

Interview/big meeting outfit

“I think it is important to always have one token item for these big events in your life that can automatically make you feel more confident in yourself the instant you put it on. It can be a special lipstick, a blazer, a watch, or anything that makes you feel assertive when wearing it. I do not wear my glasses as often as I should, so I save my Tiffany glasses for big meetings. Whenever I have them on, I feel like I can dominate a room.”

Commuting style strategy

“I walk to work daily, so it is important to have shoes that are comfortable and easily convertible from street to office wear. I currently love my Cole Haan Grand Crosscourts. I can easily rush to work in them and they add some edge to my typical business attire. I use my Madewell transport tote to bring with me my laptop, wallet, planner, lunch, and anything else this expansive bag can possibly fit to be prepared at any moment.”

Favorite place to shop in town

“14th street is my favorite area to shop. Some of my favorite stores in the city are only a few blocks from one another, and my favorite restaurants are tucked in between. A newer place I enjoy shopping in DC is La Cosecha’s Nova Bossa. Designers form Brazil and Latin America are showcased. Their items are socially responsible, intricate, and unique.”

Favorite fashion trend

“I really do hope it is not just a trend, but I love seeing informed activism making its way into what people are wearing. Clever, graphic T-shirts and totes that showcase people’s passion and civic engagement can be seen all around the city and online. The Outrage on 14th street is an ethical place to shop for these sorts of item because they make a donation with every purchase made.

Least favorite fashion trend

“I think it is time once again to retire the plain, black choker. I love the nostalgia associated with them, but I think it is best to opt for an intricate, gold or silver choker that is more refined and mature.”

What’s the best bargain you’ve found in DC?

“For those who are wanting to save some money and do some good for the world, I am loving the fashion recycling programs so many stores in DC are now offering. You can drop off any denim you own at Madewell and they will recycle them for insulation for communities in need and give you $20 off your purchase. Marine Layer will give you $5 per shirt you drop off to be recycled.”

Favorite style advice

“If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you won’t be comfortable in your own clothes.” – Iris Apfel

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Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, TheAtlantic.com, and DCist.com, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.