The actress and Aerie's latest campaign shares her best advice, for fashion and beyond.

Apr 06, 2021 @ 1:59 pm
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Skai Jackson Aerie
Credit: Courtesy

You might know Skai Jackson from her Disney Channel days, back when she starred in shows like Jessie and Bunk'd. But the child actress you're picturing in your head? Yeah, she's all-grown-up now, and aside from proving her many talents on last year's Dancing with the Stars, she recently landed a gig as #AerieReal's latest ambassador.

Of course, keeping things real is nothing new for Jackson. In 2016, the now-19-year-old was named one of Time's most influential teens, an achievement that might have something to do with her impressively large social media following (she has over 22 million followers on Instagram and Tiktok combined). On these platforms and beyond, Jackson has become an outspoken activist against social injustices, specifically racism, that our country continues to face.

"Speaking up about social injustices is really important to me," she told InStyle over email. Jackson hasn't been shy about calling out online bullies via stories or writing thought-provoking captions. She even uses fashion to her advantage, posting photos in pieces that display bold, positive messages, such as "all dreams are real" and "kindness," and wearing epic designs, like a Martin Luther King Jr. hoodie, that double as conversation starters.

"I encourage my viewers to use the platform they have (big or small) to empower others to use their voice," Jackson says. "A tee-shirt or hoodie with a strong message can speak to so many people without having to say much. The message is right in front of them."

Jackson is also passionate about teaching younger generations to be unapologetically themselves, so it's no surprise that intimate apparel brand Aerie tapped the Reach for the Skai author for its "REAL the Rithm" campaign, challenging social media algorithms that propagate unrealistic standards of not just beauty, but reality as a whole.

"I love the message behind #AerieREAL and think it's super important to showcase your real self," she says of the partnership. "Social media can be very deceiving at times, and makes people feel bad because they compare themselves in their daily lives. But it's not real! Don't be afraid to let people know your true self! They will appreciate it so much more."

In her email, Jackson defines being "REAL" as not being afraid to say what you believe, but also not being afraid to show what you look like  — even when you're not "on." It's a lesson we could all benefit from learning, especially in a world where fashion rules and beauty standards become narrower by the day. For Jackson, this also means embracing her petite stature and frame, despite any — for lack of a better term  — shortcomings it might present.

"I'm small, so almost all of my clothes have to be adjusted, but if I don't want to do that I have a couple hacks. Sometimes I will shrink my clothes in the washing machine and dryer, use a shoelace as a belt, or use clothing tape to make pant legs shorter and fold them up. Safety pins ALWAYS help!"

If you couldn't tell, Jackson doesn't let anything hold her back. She may be small in size, but she has a big passion for life and for fashion. She tells us that she's especially found of vintage pieces; one-of-a-kind items that are hard to find or that no one really has. Browsing thrift stores, online vintage outlets Farfetch and Treasure of NYC, and apps like Depop are some of her favorite spots to browse for hidden gems, like the velour tracksuits she collects (and has in every color).

"I love to play around with my style, try new stuff, patterns and colors," Jackson tells InStyle. "It's cool to follow trends sometimes, but I like to make my own trends."

Currently, Jackson's go-to look is elevated but relaxed, wearing super casual pieces and adding fun accessories to dress it up. "Adding a fun shoe to a chill look is a favorite of mine," she says, swearing by her Air Jordan's sneakers and designer purse collection, to which she recently added a heart-shaped Vivienne Westwood. She's also looking forward to trying a few style hacks she's picked up from TikTok this season, like transforming oversized T-shirts into dresses and skirts.

"You have to use a sewing machine for that, but I definitely want to try it out! It's a cute way of turning something you might want to throw out into a brand new look. I have also been seeing a lot of girls use two bikini bottoms and turning them into a top. That looks fun because you are able to mix bottom prints and patterns and make it look so cute. It's always good to be bold with your fashion, try new things, and serve looks!"