Kaya Wilkins sings and writes and songs under the name of Okay Kaya. She is also a model and actress.
Famous for: Model, Actress, Singer
also known as Okay Kaya
Kaya Wilkins is from Nesoddtangen, a small village on the outskirts of Oslo in Norway. She has Scandinavian and African-American roots. Kaya had an interest in music from a young age, listening to Bob Dylan and Otis Redding, and made music with her metal-drummer older brother Sebastian. In high school she also trained as a dancer.
She started modeling after being discovered by scouts at age 15 and landed in the pages of indie publications such as Pop and made the runway of Copenhagen Fashion Week. Kaya moved to New York to expand her role as a model but her interest waned and she began writing music and lyrics. Under the name Okay Kaya she delivers atmospheric melodies and soulful lyrics and started uploading her tracks to web-site Soundcloud. At first she attracted only 11 followers however one of these went on to become her agent and her music career began. Wilkins started playing in tiny venues and in 2017 played at the Øya Festival, alongside PJ Harvey and Massive Attack.
Kaya returned to modelling for designers such as Demna Gvasalia, Raf Simons, and Christopher Bailey. She is signed with agencies around the world such as Elite in Paris, Milan and London, The Society Management in New York and Heartbreak Management in Copenhagen.
As Okay Kaya she is signed to Hot Charity, a Bronx-based record label, distributed by XL Recordings.
In 2017 Kaya made a move to acting and stars in the indie drama Thelma in the role of Anja.
*Photo credits provided in references section below where possible. View a list of photographers here.
Do you think that having an understanding of different forms of art and movement can be helpful when you’re building a foundation in songwriting?
Definitely. I think a lot of mediums go hand in hand that way. To fully understand movement you have to understand sound.
What was it like growing up in Norway?
Cold (laughs). I’m sitting in Norway right now and it’s really cold and I don’t want to leave. But it’s also really nice, I guess. It’s a small country; there’s loads of salmon and trolls and fairies running around, and fjords and stuff like that.
How did you and Jamie xx meet?
He heard my music and was working on a ballet [Tree Of Codes] with Wayne McGregor and Olafur Eliasson, and I flew to London and sang and played guitar in the ballet as he was scoring it. We hung out for 10 days and made an hour of music together and we’ve been friends since. He’s incredible to work with. All those artists were, it was such a cool experience.
Rumor has it he’s collaborating with you on your forthcoming debut album. Has working with a trusted friend made the writing and recording process easier?
I don’t really know what’s going to happen with my album but he’s definitely someone I would work with as I think we have similar tastes. Working with him is easy and I would definitely do it again, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.
Why do you say that you’re not sure about what’s going to happen with your album?
I’m still unsure of how I’m going to do it. This is a really important thing for me (laughs) so it’s taking some time to figure it out, with regards to what I want it to sound like or who’s interested in working with me to achieve that sound. It’s my debut album so I’m just taking my sweet time which is why I don’t know what to say. I’m just trying to figure out what I want it to sound like sonically and who’s going to produce it, if you know what I mean.
So you’ve written everything and you’re just looking for a producer?
I’ve written more than one album, that’s for sure. So now it’s about finding which songs fit together and if the songs will all be recorded in one room or if I’ll record with multiple people and where I would do it, and how I’ll make the sounds compliment each other and so on.
It sounds like you’ve faced a few challenges so far, but what would you say has been one of the biggest ones in regards to putting this debut project together?
I think my own insecurity has been my biggest challenge to be completely honest and that’s something that I’m working on. It’s really cool that people are interested in listening to it, so I should just accept that, but I guess the insecurity stems from having high expectations for myself and I think that’s a good thing. I’m really excited to show people more songs. Believe me, there are a lot!
You often speak of stage fright and nervousness, yet you chose to make a career out of being a performer. Can you explain that choice?
Everything I do is somehow based out of fear and trying to conquer it. Singing about the things I sing about is me trying to deal with my fears, as is trying to go up on stage. I feel like I have to do it. I hoped that I would get better at it, but it seems like this is the way it is. Maybe I’m just a nervous person. Once I’m done with the show or if I can feel the vibes — like someone there can relate to the show or they come up to me and talk about a song — that’s why I do it. It just makes it so worth it. It’s awesome.
How has challenging yourself to face your fears helped you grow as a musician?
It’s helped me grow as a person in so many ways and I guess performing has helped me grow as a musician because I know what songs people will relate to in a live performance and that’s really cool. I know that it’s okay to be me and that people can still relate to it, and I don’t have to try to be something else. That’s a really good thing because it makes me want to keep doing what I’m doing.