The Moms

Mary Gonsalves Kinney

StylistPhotography & Story by Lauri Levenfeld

It seemed perfect to feature Mary Gonsalves Kinney, stylist extraordinaire, on the day of Fashion’s Night Out and hours before this talented lady dresses sixty (yes 60!) of Sacramento’s finest. Not only is Mary gorgeous, smart, successful, and loving…she is my partner-in-crime (Style Army-whoop whoop!) and an amazing mom to three sweet children. Every day, I am in awe of this woman’s energy, drive, creativity, and humor. And I think one child and a business (or two) is crazy…Read on, you will be inspired.

My name is Mary Gonsalves Kinney. I am 35 year old mother of three, wife of Jason Kinney and fashion stylist, editor and co-owner of the Style Army. I am a ball of energy – probably, though not entirely, due to the large amounts of caffeine I consume. A girl’s gotta get through a day…

I am a fashion stylist, editor, and co-owner of the Style Army. Since I was a child, I have loved fashion. I love the creativity behind piecing together a look. I love the anticipation of not knowing what you’re going to wear until the last minute and having to rise to that challenge. And I love to push the envelope. I went to UC Berkeley and graduated in Political Science. I deferred law school for a year and pounded the pavement as a lobbyist for 7 years before I decided it wasn’t my cup of tea.

After my son was born, I decided it was time to follow my real passion. It took having three babies to figure out what that passion really was and how to get there. I started in this business with a couple of contacts, 100 dollars in a business account and some pipe dreams. There were loads of folks who were supportive – pumping me up and encouraging me to follow my dream. There were others who were less excited for me, but I think it’s natural for someone to have reservations in this business. It’s not everyday a mom of three from Sacramento ventures out into the world of fashion without the proper credentials.

This job, this passion of mine, has taken me down so many roads that I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I am so lucky to be able to dress people for a living. I am blessed to know designers, retailers, photographers, editors, models from all over the world now. People who have seen my work and believe in my talent and my skill. I pinch myself when I think of where I started and where I have come.To be able to create a concept and watch it come to life in front of a lens. I get excited at the mere thought of wardrobe tape and metal racks. It’s in my veins. Editorial and lifestyle styling has helped me become a better stylist in my everyday life. It has given me the gift of ultimate creativity. To see something in my dreams come to fruition. It’s truly amazing- the whole process. Transforming someone and their confidence through something so material seems shallow and irrelevant, but it’s not.

How one portrays one’s self through their wardrobe defines how they feel about who they are on the inside. I don’t care who you are or what you wear, you are choosing that wardrobe for a reason. It is who you are – for that one moment in time. Not to say that your style can’t change because mine does constantly, but someone who wears black everyday wears black because it makes them feel good. Period. Clothing, jewelry, shoes, it all translates into something bigger.

I am raising three children – Stella (7), Violet (5 1/2) and Dashiell (3 1/2). I have always taken my family life very seriously. I am passionate about being a good mother, a good wife, a good sister and daughter. I make my dad lunch everyday and when I’m working I am sure to have something prepared for him in my absence. I like taking care of my parents, taking them with us on trips, going to family dinners together. It’s important. I make sure that my three brothers and I and their families are together as often as possible.

I love having a close knit family and I think that it is incredibly important that my children learn from my relationships with my own siblings and parents. It helps them in understanding that family is forever and should always be respected and loved unconditionally. My work ethic is a direct reflection of how I was raised. My parents are hard working people – always have been. I am never too tired or too busy. It’s just the way we work– you fill your plate to the point where it’s spilling over, but you manage and you do it with a big smile.

And my kids have taught me everything, I have learned patience and understanding, to appreciate all of the little things, and to move a LOT slower. To take it all in because in a blink of an eye, they will be adults and I will be alone with my husband (who I adore)… but boy, that sounds lonely.What do you bring to the table?

I bring positive energy, creativity, excitement. I mean, hell, I bring a rolling rack full of designer clothing to every shoot — who doesn’t think that’s exciting? Ha.I’ve learned that no matter how frustrating motherhood can be, that I am so amazingly blessed to have three healthy, beautiful children to spend my life with…they are perfection.

I would classify myself as urban chic with a touch of glam and a touch of bohemian. I like edgy pieces that are somewhat androgynous, but with just enough femininity to be pretty. I like things to stand out and to draw attention, but not in a “hey, look how sexy I am” way. I like to know the trends, but I don’t necessarily want to wear them. I see so much as a stylist that I kind of get burned out by the revolving door of what’s haute and what’s not. I like what I like and I go with it.

My parents are amazing. They have always been there for me. They are my cheering squad, my spiritual counselors, my best friends. Really. I had the happiest childhood. Sure, there were hard times, but my family stuck together and laughed through it all. Financial hardships, illnesses (my dad had a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side at 46 years old), these things took a toll on all of us, but we made it through them stronger and even more loyal to one another. My brothers are the light in my life. They are all so different and so hilarious in their own way. They make me a better woman because they taught me at a young age to understand the male psyche. To realize that they just think differently than we females. I think I’m exceptionally good at styling men and I credit my brothers for that.

My husband is my partner in crime. He’s hilarious, charming, handsome and big and burly, which gets me all hot and bothered. No, really, he is one of the greatest men I’ve ever met and not because he’s perfect… it’s because he’s not and he never pretends to be. He’s real, he’s honest, he’s self-deprecating and humble and yet wicked smart. Like, he might be the smartest person I’ve ever known and that is very sexy to me.

I like that he can command a room with his booming laugh and his penchant for spouting out random facts and pop culture references. I like the way he throws my son in the air and wrestles him on the couch and five minutes later, cuddles him and lets him cry when he gets scared or has a moment of sweet sensitivity. Or how he tells our two girls daily how beautiful and smart they are…just in case they forget. He’s the perfect balance to my crazy, often anxious and uber bossy tendencies. He puts up with me and not in a “we’ve been married for so long I have to,” but in a “I really like her” kind of way. I truly can’t imagine my life without him. Like, ever.

Stella is 7 and is my first born in every sense of the title. She’s mature, responsible, smart as a whip, passionate and driven and at times, super sensitive. She cares for her siblings like a mother does. She’s beautiful and has so many wonderful possibilities ahead of her. She always has her nose in a book and loves to sing, do ballet and, well, read. She’s a true performer and will most likely, if I could put money on it, end up famous. For real.Violet is 5 1/2 and is feisty, fierce and a pint sized comedian. She’s got the most amazing blue eyes and hair that most girls would kill for, yet she thinks it is “crazy.” Girlfriend has her hair in a ponytail on the top of her head everyday (a phase I hope she quickly grows out of). She’s adorable and gets away with a lot of mischief because she’s so cute. Just when I think I might lock her in a room because she turned the oven on and melted an entire jar of Playdough, she always manages to bring a smile to my face with a “Sorry, dude” (her newest saying) or a “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I love you, I love you!” She loves her “lamby” and being in the middle where she can look up to her sister and boss her brother around.

Dashiell is 3 1/2 and is my charming baby boy. He is sweet and funny and kind. He loves hugs, kisses and snuggles and I honestly hope that never changes. His superheroes consume him and everyday he transforms into one of his favorite Marvel characters. He’s very special and will always be his Mommy’s boy. He sleeps with his big Teddy and two blankets and no matter how big he gets (and he’s big), he always looks like a baby to me. His chubby cheeks and his perfect little boy haircut. I could just eat him up.

My kids have their own sense of style and are very opinionated. I would never hinder their fashion decisions unless I felt they were inappropriate for their age (no crop tops or bustiers or heels!). I let them mix color and prints and pick their hair accessories, hats, nail polish colors….

I even let them wear lip gloss at times (dash, too!). I really allow them to be themselves when they’re not at school since they’re in a uniform during the school week.

I love Crewcuts for kids (JCrew Kids), Tala Bee, Luna Leggings, Stella McCartney kids, Splendid, Kitson Kids Beverly Hills, Lisa Kline kids, Puddles, It’s a Small World and Koukla Kids in Sacramento. I love Petit Tresor, and lanvin for kids (amazing!).

Our favorite activities are usually centered around dinner time. The kids and I usually eat together as Jason works late during the week. We review the day, read together, do flash cards (these don’t last long), and laugh about silly stories. I try to do a “story” time in my bed right before bedtime, too. It’s so sweet to smell their clean hair after baths and snuggle in our jammies.

We also like to go for walks or swim at the local club down the street. Some of our best talks happen on our 2 block radius to and from the pool. Their interactions with one another crack me up. Nothing makes me happier than catching them holding hands out of nowhere or kissing each other on the cheek.

My day is crazy. No matter what time of the year, school or no school. There is never a moment of stillness. We are shuttling from art and theater camps to lessons to dance classes to violin and piano to swimming to school. My kids are miniature versions of myself. They get bored when they’re idle so they are always doing something.

I think it is helping them develop into smart, well rounded little people.

They’ve done so much in such a short amount of time and I’m so proud at how well they handle balancing it all. They go to an accelerated school, which can be demanding at times (especially on me at homework time!), but they don’t even realize all that they’re doing. It’s really quite amazing and really goes to show we often don’t give our kids enough credit for all that they’re capable of if given the resources.

The most exciting moment as a mom… giving birth to each of them. Nothing trumps that. It never gets old and it’s always equally emotional and amazing. The most humbling would have to be when my oldest daughter tells me to put my phone down and listen to her. Sometimes I need that moment of reckoning.  She can tell if I’m not fully focused on her and nothing breaks my heart more than her thinking work is more important than her or her sister and brother. It will never be more important.The best advice I received…To take mental snapshots of my kids during those “first” moments. To close my eyes and make it a permanent photo memory in my head.

The other thing is to remember that they’re just kids and that they’ll do really frustrating things, but that you need to breathe through it and teach them how to be better. It’s our job as their mother. My advice…To make time for yourself and your girlfriends. To make it a point to block out even five minutes a day to read or take a bath, chat on the phone with a friend or have a glass of wine. Your sanity depends on it. It’s okay for your kids to see you’re busy and to ignore them once in a while. It’s healthy and part of life. They need to learn to be patient and to leave mommy alone once in a while.

A Day In the Life

Task: Retail pulls for Women, Wine, and Shoes fashion show


Wake up and throw on workout clothes, drink some coffee, down some emergen-c (twice a day), and jam to get the girls ready for school.


Send the girls out the door with husband Jason for school.


Quick five minute emails to vendor visits today


Take Dash to school and head to workout. My sanity


Dress for the day.


Juice, and off to first round of appointments, Julius Clothing, Hamilton Jewelers, and Madam Butterfly.


In route, schedule pickups for model jewelry from Charlene Court, clothing at Elizabeth Charles, and organize the shipments from Beirut designer Lara Khoury and LA designer Louiza Babouryan. These two designers have become new faves.


Back at house to organize and label Polaroids of items pulled including jewelry, shoes, and accessories. Polaroids thrown out all over bed.

Head out to pick up kids


Homework for all three kids


Prepare dinner. I try to make healthy, organic meals with a balance – a yin and a yang. If sugar comes after dinner, I make sure there’s plenty of kale and quinoa going on before that. Life is short so I really believe everything in moderation. Food should be enjoyed.


Bath-time with kids




The real work begins while scarfing dinner with hubby (just arriving home from work). Pin to mood boards for editorials supporting WWS. Brainstorm on editorial ideas. Write story pitch. Invoicing, blogging, social media.


Cocktail and Trashy TV while flipping through Vogue.


Head hits pillow. Lights out!


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One thought on “Mary Gonsalves Kinney

  1. What a lovely article and photos. Thanks to Lauri for capturing my baby girl and her family so beautifully. Thanks to Mary for being who she is and for being such a good daughter.

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