A new framework that bridges the gap between beauty and wellnessread article
Kellee Kim played varsity soccer while she was in college. One summer, she was spending a lengthy portion of her college break in Korea, and needed to keep up with her training for pre-season back in the US the following semester. Being a country where few women practice and play sports, Kellee knew she needed to get in with the guys. One day, she ventured to the field where she’d heard the young, university team practiced, and did everything she could - step-overs, tricks, dribbles - to gain an invite to play alongside them.
They started doing a shooting game and every time someone missed, they had to do sprints on my side of the field. So I knew they were telling me, ‘Hey, we want to use the entire field to play our game.’ I told myself, ‘They are either going to have to ask me to play with them, or kick me off.’ (...) Eventually, though, they came over and told me that they wanted to use the field, and I said ‘Oh, OK,’ and I packed up my ball and felt I had failed because they didn’t invite me. But then they said, ‘No, no, come over.’ So I ended up playing with them then - and they asked me to continue playing with them every Tuesday.
Kellee even joined the team for an intensive five-day training camp, and made good friends with several of the members over the two months she spent in Korea. While she was aware of the controversiality, she didn’t really care - her focus was on improving, and breaking boundaries had been, and still is, a recurring theme in her life. Where others may see impossible obstacles, Kellee simply sees an opportunity to get better; learn more; become stronger.
I got this compliment from my track coach once, when I’d just had an amazing race and been able to shave off something like three seconds from my personal record. I’ll never forget it. He said, ‘You remind me what greatness looks like and how it comes in all forms, no matter what race, gender, sexual orientation or age you are.’ That was an amazing compliment. And I thought if I could have a compliment like that more times in my life that would feel like such an accomplishment.
Determination is key to Kellee. She does not allow any box or compartment to become a deciding factor where her goals and opportunities are concerned. If she doesn’t succeed at something immediately, she works relentlessly until she reaches the level she wants to be at. When challenges arise, she tackles them. Having spent the majority of her career in male-dominated fields (biotech before business school, real estate now), Kellee has also learnt to analyze and navigate, rather than allow whichever system she finds herself in to get the better of her.
I’m very good at compartmentalizing and turning things off. I want to play this game and part of that is to forget about some of the things that happen or are said in order to survive and thrive (...) Also, being a minority just means being different - however you define that difference.
And oftentimes, there’s a lot of good in being different; it’s actually more of a strength than a weakness, if you just use it right. So I focus on that; on being different and on celebrating that difference.In her early teens, Kellee went to a Spanish language camp. She’d been begging her parents to go for years, and once she got there, the experience was amazing. She remembers her cabin, the other girls, and the community they built together over the month she spent there. She also remembers projecting her insecurities, which manifested in the form of Kellee questioning herself out loud. ‘What do you think about this outfit?’ ‘How do you think I should do this?’ ‘Do you think this is a good idea?’
There’s a lot of good in being different...focus on that; on being different and on celebrating that difference.
We were getting ready one night, and one of the counselors pulled me aside, and this is what she said to me: ‘Kellee, why are you always asking people ‘Do I look good? Do you like this? What do you think?’ Why? Everyone loves you. You look great. Stop always second-guessing yourself, stop asking what everyone thinks.’ I hadn’t even realized how much it was coming off, and it was a wake-up call. So I stopped. I was like ‘Yup, you’re right. I am awesome.’ And I stopped. Of course I sometimes feel insecure or have self-doubt. But for the most part I came away from that experience being confident in myself.
Today, Kellee balances her fierceness and driven attitude with careful navigation of the waters she finds herself in. Although dodging the cultural icebergs in her professional field has become a fun game to her, she experiences the most self-doubt when she’s excluded, whether that be from a professional event or a casual outing. In particular, wondering if she was left out because she’s different. Most of the time, though, Kellee does what she does best: brushes it off, and keeps moving forward. She has ingrained in her an ability to own her peculiarities; the differences that set her apart from everyone else. And the aspect of her personality that she’s most proud of is just that: the fact that she’s genuine.
Of course I sometimes feel insecure or have self-doubt. But for the most part I came away from that experience being confident in myself.
As we grow up we’re sort of taught, and we feel like we have to fit in a box or fit a mold or be a certain way. And what I’ve found is that being weird, being unusual, can attract a lot of wonderful things in your life - and I’ve really found that in every aspect of my life. Being a walking contradiction is one of my favorite things; getting a kick out of surprising people with the unexpected.
It can be difficult to maneuver norms and expectations when you’re fierce. When you know what you feel and want and mean - what your truth is to you. Kellee’s journey is a peek into the walk that is this balance; one in which positivity and resilience clearly dominates. By sharing her #OwnYourGlow attitude of celebrating the parts that are amazing about you and accepting the parts that are bad, she’s making the icebergs and fences a little smaller for all those other unstoppable girls out there.