Jordan Emanuel has never been too concerned about playing by the rules — because, the Savage X Fenty model told The Post, for much of her life she hasn’t felt like she fit in.
Which is how she ended up being crowned a beauty queen and Playmate of the Year within the span of four months, even though she had no interest in pageants.
In August 2018, the Murray Hill resident entered the Miss Black America New York contest as more of a courtesy than a lifelong fantasy.
“My cousin is Miss Black America 2014 and she had been on my ass every year to do it,” Emanuel said. “So I finally was like, ‘Okay, all right,’ and I went there kicking and screaming.”
The 5-foot-6 model said she even bombed the interview portion.
“They asked me . . . something like, ‘What is your next chapter?’ And my answer ended up sounding really sexual. I said, ‘I don’t think I’ve reached the climax of my story yet.’ It was so bad,” she recalled, laughing.
Still, Emanuel took home the state crown. A week later, she headed out to Los Angeles for her first photo shoot with Playboy.
“I had never posed nude before so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Emanuel. “But the weirdest part was when the makeup artist would make my boobs glisten.”
Her family, however, wasn’t all on board. “When I told my aunt that I was posing nude for Playboy, she freaked,” she recalled. In response Emanuel filmed a video, later posted on Ebony.com, about how it’s OK to be nude in photos and also be a respectable, caring and successful woman. “I just wanted to get my emotions out.”
At the time, she was working hard to make it — juggling server shifts at Socialista and waitressing at the Playboy Club with casting calls and auditions. Then, “It was like everything was suddenly set on fire,” said Emanuel. In November 2018, she was picked to be 2019 Playmate of the Year.
“When I got the call, I cried,” she said. “Which is very rare for me.” Turns out, the video she had recorded was the winning ticket. Playboy said “really that I was a good brand ambassador and I really stood for what it was that they were trying to revamp the Playmates to be.”
Her journey to success wasn’t an easy one.
Born on Christmas Day 1991 in Baltimore, Emanuel, the daughter of a biomedical engineer and human resources officer, then moved to Basking Ridge, NJ, where hers was “one of the only black families in the suburbs,” she said. There, she struggled to define her identity
“I’m in this environment where there are not that many people that look like me, but when I’m going to visit my family [in Atlanta] they’re like, ‘Oh, you talk different, you dress different,’ ” she said. “I didn’t really know where I fit.”
She was a junior at boarding school in Princeton when tragedy struck.
“My mom was a functioning alcoholic so she had known her liver was failing and we did not,” Emanuel said. “She had a fall and she was just out for the count. They induced her into a coma for a week and then she was gone.”
In shock, Emanuel threw herself into her studies, going on to the University of Miami.
“It was during that time that I realized I had alopecia and started losing my hair,” she said. She developed the autoimmune disease as a result of emotional stress and still has occasional flare-ups.
Emanuel graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism and started gaining attention on Instagram with DIY photo shoots. In February 2018, she booked her first major shoot with Rimmel London.
“I was [waitressing] underground poker games and living that super ‘New York trying to make it artist life’ [so] it was a big win,” she said.
Emanuel has booked many modeling jobs herself, rather than through an agent, including her most recent one for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty, which was shot during quarantine.
“I had to set up in my dad’s garage [and] put my phone on a tripod and use a remote,” she said.
Breaking into modeling as a black woman also has been challenging.
“A lot of difficulty that I’ve experienced has been with makeup and hair,” she said. “Foundation doesn’t match, or the person on set only has experience with straight hair.”
But it’s that experience that drives her to push for change.
“In modeling it was just Tyra [Banks] and Naomi [Campbell] when I was growing up. It’s expanding, but it’s still not representative of our community,” she said. “I just want people to have an easier time than I did.”
Photos: Tamara Beckwith/NY Post; Location: The Montauk Beach House, 55 S Elmwood Ave, Montauk
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