I met already-famous frosh Kaya Gingras ’16 when she walked into Tunnel City Coffee, bobbing her head to the music on her iPod. I called her over to my table, and we chatted about her first days of college life over iced coffee on one of fall’s most idyllic, warmest days.
Where are you from?
Well, I was born in Brooklyn, and we lived there until I was six-and-a-half. Then we moved to Tampa, Fla., after my brother was born because our apartment was too small, what with a stroller and a young kid. My grandparents and the rest of my family live in Tampa. I don’t like Tampa; I really don’t. After growing up in Brooklyn, there’s just something about New York that makes you biased.
You were here over the summer, right?
Yes, I was here for the Summer Humanities and Sciences Program.
And you turned 17 while you were here?
I turned 17 right before the semester started, on Aug. 2. I’m young, the baby of my entry. Some of the girls in my entry are already having pre-frosh come, and there are pre-frosh who are older than me!
So funny! How did it happen, you being so young and in college already?
When I was five or six, my dad started homeschooling me. And it’s New York, so you can be homeschooled and never run out of things to do. So I was homeschooled, and I worked at my own pace. I actually did go to public school for two weeks when I was seven, and the second grade teacher told me that I couldn’t write in cursive because we weren’t learning that yet. That was that. Done. So I went back to being homeschooled. I skipped an elementary school grade then, and then when we moved to Tampa, I went to a really small private school. For high school, I stayed in private school until my senior year, when I went to the local community college and took classes there.
So what’s your dad like? How was it being homeschooled by him?
Well, he’s an educator by training, so he likes to read up on this stuff – education and gifted education specifically. He took me through all the gifted tests and read all the books and just went with it. He can definitely be intense, but I love him.
How were things socially, growing up as a homeschooled kid?
Well, I’ve always hung out around older kids. Always. When I was eight, I would follow the 13-year-olds around on the playground. And people tell me that they don’t really know how old I am until I tell them.
Yeah! I would have had no idea that you’re only 17.
So yeah, it’s never been a problem. The biggest issue is kids reacting to how young I am. People can be patronizing, telling me that I don’t understand something because I’m young. I’m just like, “I’m not an idiot. I’m just young!” But overall it really hasn’t been a problem.
So moving on to another subject, I’ve been told to ask you about twerking at the gym.
Stop! [Laughs.] It’s really not that big of a thing. It’s not that crucial. I just like to dance around at the gym when I get my iPod on, and I forget that the universe exists, and I just start dancing before I go on to my next workout.
Aren’t you afraid of your professors seeing? [Laughs.]
I should be. That is something that I should learn to fear. I’ve never encountered a professor in the gym, but I need to look out for that.
It’s only happened to me once. Anyway, I’ve also been told to ask you about outdoorsy/hiking-related things.
Well, I did [Williams Outdoor Orientation on Living as a First-Year (WOOLF)]. But WOOLF was me stepping out of my comfort zone. I probably would have been more comfortable with something like Where Am I?!, but I did WOOLF because I figured I would never go hiking again and this was a good chance to try it. And I enjoyed it! There were a lot of times during the trip where I was like, “What the hell am I doing here?” The evening of Day Three, I was totally done. But as we were walking back down the mountain, I felt really accomplished. And I really wanted to shower.
So what is this “Sometimes Kaya” video I hear about?
[Laughs] No! We can’t talk about that!
But it’s my job to ask you embarrassing questions.
So when I was four or five, I was really outgoing. Like sit on strangers’ laps on the train outgoing. I met this filmmaker’s kid on the playground in Prospect Park. The filmmaker had made this script called “Sometimes Louise,” but then she met me when I hung out with her daughter and she changed the script to “Sometimes Kaya” and cast me in it. It’s simultaneously the most embarrassing and the most adorable thing ever. At least it’s no more than seven minutes.
I hear you’re obsessed with the rap album 212?
Oh, my God, I love Azaelia Banks. She’s a rapper from New York. I discovered her on Tumblr, which is one of my other obsessions. She came out with 212, and then this mix tape, which is my twerking music at the gym.
What other music do you like?
I’m a huge fan of Beyoncé. If anyone tells me they don’t like Beyoncé, I will verbally cut them. I also grew up listening to a lot of Haitian music, because my dad is from Haiti. My mom really likes Aretha Franklin. And of course Bob Marley – I was named for his album, Kaya.
Tell me more about your family. How many siblings do you have?
I have one little brother. He’s 10. He’s a nightmare, and I love him. He just started middle school.
So he’s not homeschooled?
No. If you can believe it, I’m the less energetic one. My dad wants to homeschool him, but he’s a force of nature.
And your dad is from Haiti?
My dad is from Haiti, and my mom is from Jamaica. So that’s my cultural background. I like to act like I’m more connected to it than I probably am. My dad is also from Québec. I speak French, and my dad tells me that when I speak it’s a weird combination of Haitian and Québécois pronunciation.
So tell me how your first year is going!
Truth be told, I like it so much more here than I did when I was a pre-frosh. Y’all almost lost me at Previews, to that school with an “A.”
I’m glad we didn’t!
Yeah, I’ve fallen in love with Williams.
What entry are you in? I know Adrian Castro ’14 is your Junior Advisor. He gave me the lowdown on what to talk to you about.
Yeah, I definitely have to give a shout-out to him and to Willy A!
Finally, is it true you taught your summer professor how to wobble?
Oh, my god … yeah. We had an end-of-summer party at [Associate] Professor [of History] Gretchen Long’s house, and it kind of turned ratchet. We were all goofing around and dancing, and we wobbled, and her TV almost fell off of its stand.