By MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA
The effervescent Evanston Township High School grad, who was attending Robert Morris University, had won the “Mario, Make Me a Model” competition sponsored annually by Chicago’s Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas in September.
And she had just signed her first modeling contract. Her breakthrough came from Factor Women Model Management, and she was expected to return the freshly inked agreement to the Chicago agency on Thursday.
“All her friends were about to graduate from college, and she was like, ‘At first I was feeling left behind, but you know what, Mom? I’m doing it all in my own time,’” her mother, Royce Pryor, 47, said Tuesday as she made funeral arrangements for the youngest of her two daughters at Kaylyn’s home in Evanston.
Her life was cut short Monday night by gang-bangers’ bullets in a drive-by that killed her and critically injured a 15-year-old boy in the 7300 block of South May in Englewood, where she was visiting her grandparents.
“My grandparents live on that block. She was walking to the corner to get the train. She catches the train down there all the time. She was coming back to Evanston to print her contract,” said her sister, Chantal Pryor, 28, of Woodridge. “A 15-year-old kid was walking with her. That’s all we heard. I’m lost right now.”
Police said a passing vehicle sprayed bullets at the two about 6:20 p.m., not far from where a 9-year-old boy was shot to death just two hours earlier in the 8000 block of South Damen.
The aspiring model, shot in the armpit, was pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Police said she was not the intended target of the shooting, and they identified the injured teen as a known gang member.
“You know what Kaylyn wrote on her Facebook page yesterday? ‘Everything’s falling into place.’ Then she took a picture of herself with the sun shining in her face and said, ‘See how God is shining on me,’” her mother said. “This was yesterday! Everybody’s just like, ‘Oh my God.’ As if she knew. As if she knew.”
Family and friends gathered at the young woman’s home, reminiscing about a girl who would dress up in her aunt’s fancy dresses, shoes and furs, and sashay around the house. Early on she developed a love of fashion, but she was determined to become a lawyer.
“My funniest memories are when she would put on my big fur coat that she loved, and it just wrapped around her little body. She’d come to my house and wear my high heels and wigs, and take pictures and pose and model,” said her tearful aunt, Camisha Pryor, 40, who was close to Kaylyn.
They talked of a skinny, gangly girl who learned to love her body and was athletic. She ran track at ETHS, where she won many medals, and was a member of the school’s cheerleading and pompom squads. She entered the modeling competition with a friend on a whim, never expecting to win, her sister said.
“I have a video of it. We’re sitting in the second row. They’re like, ‘And the winner is …’ And one of the other girls is named Kate. So we thought they said her. Kaylyn’s clapping, thinking someone else won, until they came and handed her the award,” her sister said. “She grabbed the trophy, jumped right up and strutted down the runway, went right into modeling mode and got herself a standing ovation. That was who she was.”
Kaylyn had just been hired Friday at a popcorn shop at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, and had a follow-up interview scheduled for Tuesday at Victoria’s Secret in the same mall—excited about adding two part-time jobs to her part-time gig at the Chicago Bears Pro Shop, to cover bills for school and her modeling career.
“We are devastated beyond words. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family. This touches every one of us who knew her and worked with her. Kaylyn will be remembered for her remarkable personality and generous spirit. She was truly beautiful inside and out!” competition founder Mario Tricoci said Tuesday.
“I had just seen her yesterday,” her mother said, tears falling gently. “She left my house in the car with her grandmother, and she said, ‘Well Mom, I’m going to call you once I get back to the house.’ So she called me and said, ‘Well I’m packing all my stuff up. I gotta get back to Evanston before at least by 7:15, to get done everything I need to do to be prepared for Tuesday.’”
“Unfortunately, by 6:20, I got the call. I got myself to the hospital, and it was just sorrow. She had friends from everywhere in there,” her mother said.
“My child was so gifted in so many areas, with a magnetic personality that just drew people to her. I mean, she was truly loved. She and I resemble each other, and one of the boys ran up to me at the hospital and said, ‘Oh, Kaylyn, they said you got shot.’ I said, ‘I’m her Mom. Kaylyn passed.’ And to see this kid crumble.”