UT honors student takes on professional modeling, 2020 Olympics

Mackenzie Dyer

After her sophomore year in the business honors program and running track and field at UT, Kendall Baisden left her comfort zone to run professionally for Team USA.

After years on the track, she’s back on the Forty Acres.

“Everything that first year was track, track, track,” Baisden said. “But since I was little, I’ve been involved in so many things. Track was where all of my skill sets came out in one package. I went home after that season and told my mom I felt like I was burning out.”

In 2016, Baisden moved from Austin to Los Angeles to train with her new team. While there, Baisden said she felt disconnected from herself and her track performance began to decline. Baisden said she realized she needed to be more than another track star with her eyes on the Olympics.

That was when Baisden discovered modeling.

After her first photo shoot, Baisden decided she wanted to pursue a career in the modeling industry. She reached out to agencies but said she was turned away after they told her, “We don’t know how to package you.” Then, a mutual friend introduced Baisden to Amber Aaron, her personal creative director and Like A Woman art company founder.

“Kendall can do anything,” Aaron said. “I bring out what’s already there and give her a platform to utilize that.”

It wasn’t until over a year after moving to LA that Baisden became confident in her androgynous appearance. She hid her new modeling career from her coaches after being told that she was “too athletic” and “not thin enough” to put her talent in front of the camera.

“Reaching out to people behind (my coach’s) back to do photo shoots was a release,” Baisden said. “You’re not gonna hold me back. I’m still developing and creating in the way I know I can, regardless of what your standards might be.”

After almost another year of balancing track practice and photo shoots, Baisden signed with her first modeling and talent agency, Role Models Management.


“Kendall is her own brand,” co-founder and booking agent Valerie Emanuel said. “After I met her, I waited six months to watch her progression. She proved herself to be unique. She’s an athlete, a high-fashion model and incredibly intelligent.”

With Team USA and a LA modeling agency under her belt, Baisden decided it was time to not only complete her degree but to get a certification in real estate as well.

She compared her return to a concept she learned her sophomore year several years ago — the supply chain.

“Supply chain is where value is added,” Baisden said. “It answers the question of ‘How can I turn my passion into something I can live off of?’ Being away from school for so long, it becomes intimidating to think you can go back. Like my modeling and running, I asked myself, ‘Is it impactful?’”

Baisden’s overall goal is to use her passion and talent to impact others positively. With her business degree and real estate certificate, she hopes to build a new indoor training facility at her high school in Detroit. She also believes her background in modeling will be invaluable when she becomes a business owner one day.

For now, Baisden sticks to her schedule of training with Team USA for the 2020 Summer Olympics, attending her classes in the McCombs School of Business building and flying to LA when she gets booked for photo shoots.

Baisden said she couldn’t explain how she balances it all, but that she just goes for it. She sticks to a mentality that she hopes to share with others.

“Being your best self takes more than just being great at one thing,” Baisden said. “You have to diversify yourself, and you might not have the time to do it. But try to immerse yourself in things you normally wouldn’t do and meet people with who you wouldn’t normally talk. You’d be surprised by what you get out of it.”