Model-Slash-Peacemaker: Kyleigh Kuhn
At the young age of 26, Kyleigh Kuhn has brought about more positive change than most can hope to effect in a lifetime, and she’s using her modeling career as a platform to spread the word about her humanitarian works. Hailing from California, Kuhn has shot with top-tier photographers like Bruce Weber and Patrick Demarchelier—she even landed a coveted spot in this year’s Stephen McCurry-lensed Pirelli calendar. But when she’s not in front of the camera, Kuhn is busy following in the footsteps of her philanthropist mother, Heidi, who founded Roots of Peace, an organization dedicated to de-mining, replanting, and rebuilding war-torn countries. It all began in 2003, when Kyleigh launched the Roots of Peace Penny campaign. She asked fellow youngsters to donate their spare change, which was later used to construct a ten-room schoolhouse in Mir Bacha Kot, a small village in Afghanistan located near Kabul.
The model has returned to the Kyleigh Kuhn School (she told Style.com that she was “embarrassed but honored” that they named it after her) several times since it opened in 2007. And she brought photographer Ruvan Wijesooriya along to document its 250-plus students for her new book, Yearbook Afghanistan. “Whenever I’d come back from Afghanistan, I’d try to share stories about the characters I’d met, the beautiful landscape I’d seen, and the cultural experiences I’d had. But I often felt frustrated because most of the time, people would ask me about the country’s violent aspects instead of the things that excited and inspired me. This book was a way to do those parts justice,” Kuhn explained. While flipping through the glossy pages of boys and girls in grades one through nine, Kuhn said the publication helps “an American audience get a sense of the kids I’m interacting with, but also builds solidarity for the school. It boosts the students’ morale and helps them to reflect. The children get to see images of themselves and their peers—maybe for the first time in their lives.”
The book is sold on Kuhn’s ethical e-tail site, Twenty Four Suns, along with products—like hand-woven rugs and, soon, an evil-eye-motif-centric jewelry line—that have been crafted by local Afghan artisans.
It’s quite a feat to balance all her do-gooding with modeling and an active social life (Kuhn is often snapped about town with pals Chelsea Leyland and Kate Foley). But she manages to juggle it all gracefully. Last weekend, she was on the set for an upcoming Gap campaign shot by David Sims (in which she reportedly stars alongside Q-Tip), and also took time to hang out with Anndra Neen’s Phoebe and Annette Stephens, who have been teaching her more about jewelry design. You can bet that we’ll be seeing plenty from Kuhn in the future.