#GorgeousGirl: Kelsey Miller

Posted on March 09 2016

Customer and friend to Hey Gorgeous!, Kelsey Miller is one of our favorite voices on the web. Her poignant and thoughtful responses to cultural phenomena are totally share-worthy (like this, I mean, c'mon), but what really got us is the story of her personal journey with food and dieting. She started The Anti-Diet Project on Refinery29, and has since released a book with the same hilarious wit and fresh perspective that we love from her column on Refinery. The book is a memoir titled Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life (available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble), a brutally honest story about Kelsey's history with dieting, body image, and her new approach to both physical and mental health. After shooting Kelsey in some of her favorite Hey Gorgeous! pieces, we sat down with her for an interview. Love her looks? Shop Kelsey's Picks.

Introducing: Kelsey Miller.


Kelsey is wearing the Charlotte Culotte Jumpsuit by Modamix, and the Silver Geo Linear Drop Earrings by Lucky Brand.


Hey Gorgeous!: Congrats on the book release! What an incredible accomplishment. What did you learn about yourself from writing your first book?

Kelsey Miller: Thank you!! Wow, I learned a lot about a lot of things. About myself, I learned that I’m a lot more capable of hard work than I thought I was. I learned that I’m not as “over” certain issues and parts of my history as I thought I was, and going through this process forced me to grapple with them again (for better or worse). I learned that whether I start working at 5am or 11am, I will always run out of steam when the sun starts to set, so that means getting up early (ugh). I also learned that it’s much easier to be productive outside of my own house, so I spent a lot of time at Starbucks. That’s why I also learned a lot about Starbucks.


Kelsey is wearing the Camila Zigzag Jacquard Vest and the Amber Dark Wash Skinny Jeans by Slink.


Hey Gorgeous!: What is the work environment like at Refinery29? Is it full of positive, supportive women like I imagine?

Kelsey: Let me tell you, this company moves and grows at a pace I've never seen in any other organization. That means that when you work here, you are exceptionally passionate, creative, and collaborative — simply by necessity. As thrilled as I was by the public support for my work with Big Girl and The Anti-Diet Project, I was overwhelmed by the support I got from within Refinery29. They enabled me to become an influential part of our voice as a site, and at the same time that powerful voice became an influence on my own. In short: Hell yes. 


Kelsey is wearing the Camila Zigzag Jacquard Vest.


HG!: In your book, you wrote about how it was not uncommon for people to explain to you how surprised they were to find "someone like you" working at a fashion site. How did you overcome feeling like the outsider? Is what made you different now your biggest asset?

Kelsey: I think I simply realized that everyone feels that way, a lot of the time. Everyone thinks they’re the weirdo. Sure, we all have certain groups or places where we feel more comfortable or accepted, but in general, we’re all walking around feeling a certain degree of otherness. On some level, I think we all know that, but at the same time, we’re scared enough to keep quiet about it. That’s where the shame comes in and then you’re kind of stuck in silence because of that shame. It’s a shitty cycle. In writing my column and my book, I spoke up about the things I felt the most shameful about, in a big, public way. That’s when my life changed. That’s when everything got exponentially better. Maybe speaking up is what made me different (a little different), and it’s certainly been an asset. But I actually think the biggest revelation was that bone-deep understanding of how not different I was. I see stories like mine reflected back at me every day now. People reach out to me with their own experiences, and all of their stories ring true to me. I really do think if we all understood how not alone we were, the world would change, irrevocably, for the better. 


Kelsey is wearing the Seamed Yoke Top by PLY, the Hamptons Striped Palazzo Pants by Shegul, and the Apolena Long Trench Coat by Modamix.


HG!: You spearheaded The Anti-Diet Project and have incorporated lots of new habits while dropping some harmful ones. As someone who has dieted and struggled with body image most of her life, is it scary to write so openly about topics like this?

Kelsey: Sometimes, but that fear is really such a minor hurdle. The actual doing can be scary, and the change is scary, but writing about it is mostly just greatly rewarding. Dealing with food and body image issues can feel like a shameful secret you carry around, and there's an enormous relief when you share that secret with someone else and realize just how not alone you are. That's what writing the book and the column has done for me. 


Kelsey is wearing the Seamed Yoke Top by PLY, the Hamptons Striped Palazzo Pants by Shegul, and the Apolena Long Trench Coat by Modamix.


HG!: Describe intuitive eating. How would you recommend someone start eating intuitively?

Kelsey: I really think of it as diet de-programming (though it’s also frequently used in eating disorder treatment). We’re all born with natural instincts and common sense about how to eat, but it’s easy to lose touch with those abilities because we get so many mixed messages around food almost from the get go. For instance, I think any parent would tell their kid to eat their vegetables, go easy on the ketchup, don’t eat ALL the birthday cake. Of course, that’s rational and understandable, but it’s a slippery slope and so many of us started thinking that eating a “good” food made us “good girls” and vice versa. Then, you grow up and the diet industry is just everywhere. All day long we’re getting messages about how we’re doing food wrong (and psst, here’s how to do it right). Intuitive eating is really an approach that strips away all that garbage and teaches you how to listen to your body and your brain and just treat food like food. It’s really that simple. 

If I had one tip for someone who wanted to try it, I’d say get the book Intuitive Eating first. Not only is it a helpful guide, it’ll make you realize just how common sense this concept is. When you hear the phrase “intuitive eating,” it sounds kind of mystical and fake. It’s not. It’s so utterly simple, but to anyone who’s dieted it’s like a revelation.


Kelsey is wearing the Seamed Yoke Top by PLY, the Hamptons Striped Palazzo Pants by Shegul, and the Apolena Long Trench Coat by Modamix.


HG!: You've discussed your relationship with food a lot in your book. But what was your relationship with fashion like as a young girl? Has it evolved since?

Kelsey: I used clothes to hide, for the most part. I was still obsessed with the trends of the day, pouring over my Delia*s catalogs and all that. I’d imagine myself in those outfits, thinking how cute I’d be. But then I’d put them on and it was nothing like how I imagined it. I’ll rock a crop top now, but back then there was no way my belly was going to see the light of day. I looked like the opposite of a Delia*s model, and the second I realized that, it was back to hiding in my safe clothes.

Now, my new relationship with style has been one of the most fun parts of this entire journey. It’s a whole new world of self-expression. I honestly feel like I’m in a movie makeover montage every time I get dressed! But instead of trying to transform into someone else — someone “better” — it’s as if I’m transforming more into myself. It’s a blast.

 Kelsey is wearing the Charlotte Culotte Jumpsuit by Modamix.


HG!: Participating in fashion is so much fun! Many women come into the Hey Gorgeous! showroom with their figure in mind, and often have strict rules of what they can and cannot wear. What's your advice to them?

Kelsey: So, I really disagree with the adages of “dressing for your body type” or “flatter your shape.” That’s not to criticize people who abide by that advice, because really, everyone should just dress in the way that makes them the most comfortable and confident. But to me, those rules feel like just another way of saying, “hide the bad parts and play up the good parts.” I’ve been obeying those rules my entire life and it was drastically inhibiting. There’s both relief and revelation in the experience of putting on something I never thought I could wear and finding that the world keeps on spinning. The villagers don’t light torches and chase me from the village just because my belly outline is visible. They don’t even notice! Even more surprising, is the discovery that sometimes I like the way I look in those outfits! I love wearing a pencil skirt now, and believe me, that doesn’t hide anything. You can see the width of my hips and the shape of my tummy, and I still look cute. Seriously. I will send you a picture. So, my advice would personally be to try dressing in something that you’ve always considered unflattering or against your body type. You might hate it or you might really dig it. But either way, I promise that you’ll realize just how silly those rules are and how needless your fear was. And we could all do with a little less unnecessary fear, right?


Kelsey is wearing the Charlotte Culotte Jumpsuit by Modamix.


HG!: Speaking of unnecessary fear, you've spoken about internet trolls that leave you offensive and hurtful comments. Has that ever made you hesitant about writing such personal posts? How have you overcome your trolls?

Kelsey: Honestly, I think I just got bored with it. I used to get hooked on those comments and it wasn’t as simple as having my feelings hurt. I sought them out; amid a hundred positive, glowing comments, I would look for the one that called me a big, fat, ugly monster. I think part of it was that I still had that voice in my head that believed those things about myself. I’d been thinking of myself as a piece of shit my whole life, and there was a kind of sickening comfort there. But, for whatever reason, that voice no longer has much of a hold over me. I do have self-worth, so now I see those comments for what they really are: not worth my time. 


Kelsey is wearing the Charlotte Culotte Jumpsuit by Modamix.


HG!: Now, body positivity is front and center in the media's spotlight, as you touched on in a post about the new Curvy Barbie. How do you think the body positive movement will affect young girls growing up in this environment?


Kelsey: The simple fact that there is more diverse representation, I think, will have a huge impact. We can be blasé about things like Curvy Barbie (and, to be clear, I think Curvy Barbie is really just a first step and we need a lot more progress), but you can’t underestimate the impact of seeing yourself represented in the world. When you’re a chubby kid, a disabled kid, or any kid whose body doesn’t reflect our current standard of normal, you automatically recognize yourself as abnormal. That’s not to say those kids will never have confidence or self-esteem, but they necessarily have to fight for it, when it should be a given. Again, we have a ways to go, but I think hearing us in the media telling them that they are of value helps. I think seeing themselves represented in media underscores that sense of value in an even bigger way. Now we just need more of it.




HG!: Yes! It's so important to see yourself in the media, which is why we love your photos and voice online! Because you are an expert media creator, I assume you are an expert media consumer too. What are your current pop culture obsessions?

Kelsey: Normally, I do like to consider myself pretty savvy media consumer, but I’ve been so wrapped up in book stuff for the last, um, two years, that I’ve fallen behind on basically everything. (I did pride myself on being an early adopter on Serial and I got to do a lot of coverage on the first season for Refinery29.) So, I’m doing a lot of catch-up. At the moment I’m catching up on Veep and Jenny Lawson’s books. I’m still a podcast fiend. I’ve been listening to WTF since it began (also a point of pride) and also love Snap Judgment, Food Psych, Death Sex & Money, Mystery Show, Dear Sugar, Sawbones, and The History Chicks. And, like any red-blooded theater geek, I’m currently listening to Hamilton, like, 80% of the day.


Kelsey is wearing the Camila Zigzag Jacquard Vest and the Amber Dark Wash Skinny Jeans by Slink.


Thanks so much for chatting with us, Kelsey! We wish you success in all you do and hope to see you change our media landscape for the better. You are welcome to come by to play dress-up with us anytime!


Love what she's wearing?

Shop Kelsey's Picks.

Want more from Kelsey? Get her book, Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.




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