Joy Corrigan: Living the life she’s always dreamed of

From humble beginnings to traveling the world for her career, model, actress, fashion designer, and philanthropist Joy Corrigan is living the life she dreamed of as a young girl growing up in a small town in North Carolina.

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“At that time, I dreamed of things but never actually thought they would happen, but every day since has led to a step in that direction,” says Joy.

As one of 10 children (she has six brothers and three sisters), Joy credits her tight-knit family for being supportive and encouraging, especially when she took a leap of faith and spread her wings at 17 years old into a world that was unknown.

“My family loves each other and there is nothing we can do wrong, so the real world was a huge shock when I moved out because not everyone is kind and loving, or wants the best for you,” Joy explains. “I had to learn quickly how to navigate through different personalities.”

In spite of the naysayers, Joy’s fierce determination proved successful. Her modeling career has allowed for travels all over the world, and she’s using her platform for causes close to her heart.

BELLA caught up with Joy to talk about the work she’s doing both in front of and behind the lens, and how dreaming big will show you anything is possible.

At 14 years old you had your first taste of modeling when asked to walk in a fashion show. Were you immediately hooked?

I was approached in the mall to walk in a fashion show, and I was so excited. I was able to keep the clothes, and I never had new clothes—only hand-me-downs—so that was exciting. From then on I always had in the back of my mind that I would love to do this for a living. But I was homeschooled and didn’t have an opportunity to do any modeling in my small town, so it wasn’t until I moved to Florida and pursued modeling that I actually start working.

Was it a difficult decision to leave your hometown?

Yes, because a lot of my siblings and most of my friends didn’t leave town. I was the one who was different. I feel like I’ve always been quite the daredevil—I love taking chances and doing things that scare me—so that side of me was excited.

I went to college at Southeastern University, a small Christian university in Florida, but realized it wasn’t for me, so I left and moved to Miami. It was a very hard decision—I had about $400 in my pocket and stayed with a friend until I could find a place. I went there not knowing many people, and I didn’t have a job, but I knew there was more out there. I was going to find out what that was.

It wasn’t easy at first—most [modeling] agencies said no—but one said yes. I worked hard and proved myself. I started traveling the world and would spend a few months at a time in places like Germany, Italy, Australia, South Africa, and then finally I moved to New York.

You’ve appeared on screen with some big-name talent like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. What did you take away from those projects?

The best part of getting to work with such talented, well-known actors is knowing my dreams can come true. A long time ago, these great actors were like me—they didn’t have a lot of experience, and now look at them! That was inspiring.

At what point did you decide it was time to start focusing on your acting career?

Since I left college, I’ve always been taking classes and studying, but when I started getting busy modeling, I put it on the back burner. I wanted to take the opportunity to travel the world and be a model because that career was happening for me, so I thought, I’m going to take this and run with it. But I’ve always practiced the craft of acting. Only more recently, since moving to California, have I really started to pursue it 100% and hopefully will be booking some bigger roles. That’s my goal right now.

Being a part of two competitive industries, how do you handle both the highs and the lows?

I think if I didn’t define my own self-worth from the beginning, I would be lost. And, if I had listened to what other people said to me, I wouldn’t be where I am.

Coming from a very supportive, close-knit family has helped me to remain true to myself. I think everybody wants to tell you you’re only ‘this good,’ or only going to accomplish ‘this,’ or that ‘you won’t get there.’ Some days I would think, maybe they’re right. But then I thought, anything is possible because look how far I’ve come each step of the way. The strongest thing is when you believe in yourself. There were times I wanted to quit, but I didn’t.

You started the fashion brand, “Naked Species,” with your sister, Gina. How would you describe the style?

It is edgy, fresh basics for the conscious man or woman. It’s streetwear with a twist that gives back and has a mission behind it.

How did you come up with the name?

I wanted to have a mission behind the brand—that was important—so before I even decided on the name, I decided I need to pinpoint one area I’m really passionate about. Growing up on a farm, I love animals and I thought, what if one day the plants and animals aren’t around—how devastating would that be?

I started doing research and learned so much. If everyone knew the importance of our earth and the millions of species to be extinct, they would help do something about that. So I thought ‘endangered species,’ and ‘naked’ is the raw form of that species. I saw that the name was available and said this is it and just ran with it.

In an effort to make a difference, 10% of all proceeds are donated to the Wild Tomorrow Fund. What led you to partner with this particular organization?

We chose them because they are an amazing charity making a difference. They are on the ground in South Africa, buying land, employing people to stop the poachers, breeding rare species, and making sure the land is protected. When I found out all of the great things they do, I knew it was a perfect match.

You design all of the clothing; what’s up next for the brand?

Right now I’m finishing the summer collection, which debuts in late spring. We’re launching a new set of sexy swimwear and trunks, incorporating bright colors and edgy prints. I think it’s my favorite one so far.

What other organizations do you work with?

Right now I’m working with amfAR Gala to help with HIV and COVID. I’d love to work with more organizations; any great charity that wants to work with me, I’d love to work with them and do as much as I can with my brand, my voice, and my image. Down the road I hope to partner with more charities for Naked Species.

What new projects do you have coming up?

I’m planning on going to Africa to visit the Wild Tomorrow Fund to see them in action. Once things open up and we’re allowed to travel, I’m going to start planning that. As far as acting goes, I’ve been auditioning for some really cool roles. Stay tuned—hopefully you’ll see me on the big screen this year!


BELLA Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment.

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