When I met McKenzie Sagan Gordon about eight years ago, it was a trial by fire. I was friends with her older sister Bri (pronounced “Bree” since it’s short for Brianna, though I’d rather it were spelled Breigh) and I came to know McKenzie through her provocations on an old-timey website called MySpace. Back then, I had no idea what to make of it. Today, we have a name for how she was introducing herself to me. We call it trolling.
In the near-decade since, McKenzie has become more serious, grown up quickly and mellowed a bit, but has retained her instigating personality and continues to amuse herself, sometimes at the expense, disdain or confusion of those around her. To those who know her, Hurricane Kenzie is an unpredictable gold mine of entertainment.
Though born in Illinois, her family moved to Louisville when young McKenzie was just nine months old. It has been her home ever since.
McKenzie and I sat down in the boutique where she works to talk about our irregular history as acquaintances, the motivation behind her dispassionate honesty and the few things that actually frighten her.
Born 29 November 1988 in Carbondale, Illinois
163 cm, blue eyes
Favorite Atari game: “I think I was too young for that. And I’m a girl”
Favorite cocktail: Basil Gimlet
PHOTOS BY JESSIE KRIECH-HIGDON
Your middle name: Sagan. You’re named after Carl Sagan?
I think. I don’t know, but I was told when I was little that it meant “princess of the gods.” So I’ll just go with that.
Did your dad pick that name?
I think so, yeah.
And then your first name, McKenzie. It’s spelled M-C-K…
Yes. Not M-A-C…
…like it is for most people with that name. Do you know anything about that?
[sounding a bit disappointed] No? But you can still call me Mac. People still call me that. Or Kenzie. But I don’t know where that spelling came from. I think it was like a Scottish version or something like that. But I may have just made that up. [laughter]
You have a reputation as being a person who says whatever she wants to. And in return, I think, people seem to say whatever they want to you.
Mmm hmm. Yeah.
Is that the way you like it?
Yeah! Why not? Sometimes I just can’t hold back and it just comes right out of my mouth. That’s how my brain processes things.
Does that run in the family?
Yes! Everybody pretty much says what they want, when they want to say it.
Are there any other characteristics that you share with your sisters?
I like to think that we’re all very funny. We have good “sense of humors” … [laughs] I think we’re all pretty outgoing. Very personable.
Those traits come from your mother, do you think?
[three seconds] Hmm. Probably a mixture of mom and dad. Dad’s pretty laid back and mom’s pretty bitchy [laughter] and uptight. But she can be funny and she says what she wants. And does what she wants. Dad thinks he’s funny [laughter] but they’re like dad jokes, you know?
So you gotta laugh at ’em anyway. But yeah, I think it’s a mixture.
They’re not together anymore…
How long has that been the case? How old were you?
I was 14. So it’s been a while. And it was for the best.
You had some time with them together and now you’re used to it being the way it is.
Yeah. I mean, they still hang out. So it’s more like a separation. They just don’t live together. It’s kind of like with some old people where they sleep in the twin beds, but just different houses.
What do you read?
Right now I’m reading Y: The Last Man which is a graphic novel. I usually read books about serial killers like Ted Bundy. I like graphic novels. Magazines.
What do you like about Ted Bundy?
He was just a very interesting man. He was attractive, nice, somebody you just wouldn’t think is a serial killer. Now, I think, anybody that’s nice, “They might kill me.”
[laughter] It’s a cautionary tale.
Yeah! You just wouldn’t think someone like that would do these horrible things.
Is he your favorite serial killer?
What do I totally not know about you?
But I don’t really hold back. I tell everybody pretty much everything. Anything you want to know, so… pfff… [eight seconds] Do you know my favorite color?
Well, I don’t know if I really have one.
That makes it hard for me to know it. [laughter]
I guess if I had to pick one, then red. Or white.
Who are you? I mean, if somebody asked, “Who is McKenzie?”
A hot mess. [laughter] Not really. I feel like I’m actually very put together. 26 and I’m still finding myself. I feel like 30’s is where you’re really gonna know yourself and be set.
I work for my mom, which sucks, but it’s an easy job so that makes it a lot… easier.
You work in a little boutique and sell clothes.
Yes, women’s clothes, in the Highlands. I don’t have any pets. A lot of sisters.
What percentage of your customers do you hate?
All of them. [laughter] No, just kidding. Probably like 98%. [laughter] People are so annoying.
Do you feel like you could get a lot more done if nobody came in?
[laughs] Yes. I think I do the same amount of work whether they come in or not. I mean, I think I do a really good job of dealing with them, but there are people I see outside the shop and I think, “Don’t come in here. Don’t come in here. Don’t come in here.” Then they come in here and automatically… [laughter] Ugh!
How honest are you on a scale of 1 to 10? And be honest.
[laughs] In general? I would say an 8 1/2. That just depends on the person. Obviously, if a customer really likes an outfit but it looks horrible, I’m not going to miss a sale. And if they really like it, I don’t want to be the one to break their heart.
And then, you know, with your friends, sometimes you can’t… be… But with my sisters or any really close friends I can just be honest. I don’t care. They all know me well enough by now to know that I’m just going to be straight up.
What do you want to do?
I would like to do nothing. I’d like to retire and just have millions of dollars to travel and do whatever I want.
How will you get millions of dollars?
At this point, I’m looking at probably just marrying rich, but [laughter] I don’t have any prospects. But that’s really my only option right now.
Where else would you like to live?
[twelve seconds] I don’t really have a destination. I really like Louisville. It’s small but it’s still got the city vibe. It’s got little restaurants if you live in the right part of town, like the Highlands.
Obviously, when I want to live in a big city… I’ve been to New York a lot and it’s just too chaotic. People are too rude. Louisville has enough meanness but also the Southern hospitality, so people aren’t rude. I think for now, here.
I’d like to travel to more places. I want to go to Peru and do Machu Picchu. I want to go to Thailand and Vietnam. But I don’t think I want to live anywhere else yet. I haven’t got that feeling yet.
Would you like to be famous?
No. Mmm mmm.
Tell me about your life in the next few years.
[exhales] In my late twenties, it’s going to be scary. Ugh. The future? I don’t know, probably like Botox and more cocktails.
[laughs] You think you need Botox?
Yeah. I’m getting to that age. Maybe not even so much Botox. Maybe fillers.
Yeah. I’ve got the frown lines of a St. Bernard.
No. Just so you know, you’re wrong.
And I’m not saying that to be sweet. I’m saying it because you’re totally wrong.
Well, you know, “society.”
So is it better to look good or to feel good?
[six seconds] Look good. Maybe a mixture. I mean, you don’t want to feel bad. But, have you ever met somebody who had that weird complex where they hate themselves but also really think highly of themselves? They think they’re really hot or something. That’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. So I want a mixture.
Okay, so how do the next few years of your life compare to the past few? What’s going to be different?
I’ll be smarter. Older. Hopefully get paid more. And that’s really it.
Do you want to continue working in the shop?
Yeah, definitely still at the shop. Hopefully it has really progressed by then where I could not have to work every day.
A while back, for about half a year, you and I used to talk every day.
Then one day you were like, “I’m taking a weekend trip to New York, so I’ll talk to you when I get back.”
And then I never heard from you again. [laughs] So… what happened?
Well, you know, it was probably just one of those things where I was just like… [four seconds] I don’t know. Probably just busy, I would assume. Just really busy with life. I was probably like 25. You know what happens with 25-year-olds. They just get really busy.
Yeah? That’s your story? [laughs]
I think… I don’t know. I don’t even remember. Probably, Nathan (boyfriend) came along, and then, I don’t know. You know? Work.
Are you sure?
You didn’t make a conscious decision to exclude me from your life?
Are you sure?
Okay. Okay. I’m glad we had this talk.
Me, too. [laughs]
Many years earlier than that, when we didn’t really know each other, when I was running for Senate (in 2008)…
…and I believe you were 17, or some other unsuitable age…
You enjoyed posting things on my MySpace page…
…of an improper nature.
Yes, I recall.
Do you enjoy playing games with other people’s lives?
[laughs] Yes! [laughter] Yes, very much so! [laughter] It’s fun! It gives me something to do. I wouldn’t call it so much “a game” it’s just… Why not put it out there and see what happens?
You like entertaining yourself.
Yeah! You shouldn’t have to rely on anyone else for entertainment.
Do you remember anything that you wrote?
Um, no, I do not remember that far back.
Neither do I.
But I can probably… You know. I’m sure it was something very vulgar, inappropriate, something of a sexual nature. [laughter]
Is that your standard modus operandi?
Yeah! Sometimes I just… me and my friends will get in a group and try to think of the nastiest thing you could say. It’s very interesting.
It was a whirlwind introduction to you as a person.
Well, I just want to let you know that you weren’t the only one that was getting harassed, but you were one of my favorites. [smiles]
Oh good. Thank you. Any other candidates or mostly just normal civilians?
Normal civilians. The ones that deserve a good kick in the pants. [laughs] Sometimes you need to liven people up.
What’s your favorite season?
Fall. It just has better clothes. Here, in the summer, you just want to wear the least you can without sweating your ass off. In the winter, it’s so cold you don’t want to leave. Fall is good. You get the middle and you can layer. You don’t have to carry a big jacket around. It’s just prefect and it’s pretty with the leaves.
Do the important people in your life know how you feel about them?
Yes. Mmm hmm. I’ll let ’em know. And it can change day to day.
What are your biggest fears?
[ten seconds of silence, then whispers to herself] That’s a good question. [six seconds] Not becoming a millionaire. [laughter] I’m just kidding!
I don’t know, but obviously Michael Meyers. I’m still scared of him. But I think what I fear is more of the not knowing. The future is not definite. You don’t really know. Tomorrow I could not be here.
I have the fear of not succeeding in life. Just being a loser.
What is success?
Just having a good job, making enough money – it doesn’t have to be a lot, but just enough to do the things you want to do – not being stressed out, having a great wardrobe…
…and being happy.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Yes. People chewing loud. It makes me want to cut my ears off. Breigh said she saw on Dr. Phil that it’s a disorder. But I can’t confirm that, especially if it’s off Dr. Phil. [laughter] But if people chew loud, it… usch! It makes my ears bleed.
Also, when people don’t use their blinkers when turning. When people wear ill-fitting clothes. You know, when people try to squeeze into something or wear something that’s too big.
I used to work at a law firm at the courthouse. Some of the lawyers would wear oversized suits and it looked so ridiculous. It looked like a zoot suit or something. It was just inappropriate.
What do you regret most in life so far?
[twelve seconds] Not finishing college.
How far did you get?
[laughs] I went for a day.
Well, hey, you went! Test it out! I went for a semester and I just wasn’t feeling sitting in a class. I felt like… ugh. Boring! And now I’m doing okay, so…
Have you ever been in love?
It’s a weird experience. It’s not like you’d think it would be. And really, I feel like I didn’t even know until it was gone.
How long ago was that?
Probably a couple years ago.
Do you ever see that guy anymore?
Yep, we’re together.
Oh! You’re together now?
I get the feeling that some of your friends and family don’t like him.
Um, yep. That’s… pretty correct!
That’s perceptive of me?
Yeah! There may have been some past issues or whatever.
Seems to be cleared up now? Do you think those issues are going to come around again?
I don’t want to put any negative vibes out there, so I’m just trying to be positive about it. I hope not, but always in the back of your head, once you’ve been wrong it’s hard to forget about it.
What’s your favorite emoji?
Probably the gun.
You sent that to me the other day. Like ten of them.
Yeah, it expresses me well.
Are you attracted to danger?
Who isn’t? Don’t you always want to do something that you wouldn’t normally do? Or there could be that risk?