The first day of a new month is pretty fun around here. Not only is the team of writers and editors at The Everygirl HQ excited about starting fresh and planning ahead for a new month, we’re all also excited about our favorite monthly TEG installation: tech backgrounds! (Don’t be shy, you know that’s why you love a new month too.)
The talented designer, hand-letterer, and multimedia editor behind The Everygirl’s now-infamous free tech backgrounds is more than just a disembodied hand drawing with an Apple Pencil—she’s an Online Course Director and Senior Graphic Designer at The Everygirl Media Group, a whip-smart commentator and wordsmith, a hustlin’ freelancer, and a kickass friend. Kelly Etz is all of that and more—and she credits some pieces of her success, confidence, and badassery to one little idea: the courage to reach out to her bosses and say, “I think our readers would like it if I designed some handmade tech backgrounds. Can I give it a try?” (Good thing she did, amiright ladies?)
Here, Kelly talks all about taking that first step with an idea, starting out at an “uncool” job, balancing full-time work and a freelance business, developing and growing The Everygirl’s online course catalog, the rules she most enjoys breaking, and how to break into the design world. (If it sounds like a lot, it’s because she DOES a lot). You’re going to love her advice as much as I love sitting next to her at work!
Name: Kelly Etz
Job Title: Online Course Director and Senior Graphic Designer at The Everygirl Media Group, Freelance Graphic Designer at The Babe Shop
Location: Chicago, IL
Education: University of Michigan, B.A. Communications
First thing’s first—you were the senior arts editor at the University of Michigan newspaper, the Michigan Daily (a real Rory Gilmore moment, if you will). Did you enjoy the typical newsroom setting? How did that experience shape where you wanted to take your career post-college?
The newsroom intimidated me a helluva lot at first. I was shy and green and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Very Rory-pitching-the-music-downloading-story vibes. This one memory haunts me to this day: I went to sit down and open my computer to print out my story for editing and I sat on a chair with a wheel missing and FELL and my computer starting making an insane screeching noise (which apparently it makes if the hard drive skips or something like that) and I literally ran out of the room. I RAN OUT OF THE ROOM. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have the smoothest of starts. But eventually, I grew to really love the newsroom. In the movies, they make it seem all hustle and bustle and “I will not divulge my sources!” but it was really more of a sweaty, we’ve-been-here-for-seven-hours-straight, PBR cans everywhere type of atmosphere.
It definitely helped me decide that a traditional newsroom wasn’t something I wanted to pursue post-college. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I wanted something a little different. It’s also where I cut my teeth on InDesign, which is how we created the layout for the printed paper. It was the first design software I ever used and I was hooked.
I remember being worried when I started college that I had to know exactly what I was doing and there wasn’t going to be room to change my mind. This seems crazy to think back on, because college is all about changing your mind and bringing all these things into focus that you never realized before. I think as I’ve moved on into my late 20s, I’ve started giving myself more leeway for pivots and recognizing that there is a lot of room to grow and change in any circumstances. Room to change your mind within a job or position you already have; room to expand into a slightly different offering in your freelance business. There’s always a place to grow or scale back, which I don’t think I was totally cognizant of when I was just starting out. I find a lot more comfort in transitions than I used to.
As I’ve moved on into my late 20s, I’ve started giving myself more leeway for pivots and recognizing that there is a lot of room to grow and change in any circumstances.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land it?
In my junior year of college, I ended up landing a data entry job at a mortgage company in Ann Arbor that had night hours—you could basically work as late as you wanted, it was built with college kids in mind. I remember late nights working until 1 or 2am, racking up the hours and feeling so jazzed to have more than $20 in my bank account. I didn’t have a car, so I used to ride my bike to the office and then back home, in the middle of the night. It was all deeply college.
I ended up staying at the company for two years and working in the marketing department. While it wasn’t always the most stimulating work, creativity-wise, I actually learned so much and was able to get a start in the “real world” in a place that I felt comfortable, in a city that I adore.
At the time, I felt so embarrassed to not have some fancy job to tote out when friends and family inevitably asked. I hated saying that I wasn’t working in my chosen field (journalism/design) and always immediately qualified the statement with “it’s just for now” because I was worried that people would think I was not living up to my potential. I spent so much time agonizing over this job that wasn’t in my dream field, but now that I’m on the other side with a little perspective, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
I hated saying that I wasn’t working in my chosen field and always immediately qualified the statement with ‘it’s just for now’ because I was worried that people would think I was not living up to my potential.
I think back on this now and I’m honestly floored by the amount of stress and heartache I could have saved myself if I just stopped caring so much about what I thought other people were thinking. I was playing some wild mind inception and tying myself in knots for basically no reason. Don’t worry so much about what other people think! I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. It’s something I still struggle with, to be honest.
What did you learn from that job that you still use today?
So, so much! Way more than I ever thought I would. I think I assumed that to learn something, it would have to be a job that perfectly aligned with everything I wanted to do—if it’s wasn’t a “dream job” how could I possibly learn anything? Oh how wrong I was. There is always something, or many, many somethings, to learn.
Working in such a corporate environment (the office had over 400 employees on-site and lots of other branches around the U.S.) taught me a lot about how companies work internally, like salary negotiations, how to talk to HR, figuring out your health-care package, etc. It was also my first “sitting in an office” job, and I learned a lot about the little things like showing up on time, how to navigate vacation so it’s easy for you and your colleagues, how to prepare for meetings, how to interact with your coworkers. All the stuff that you really only figure out with hands-on experience.
After that first job, you made a pretty massive life change—you moved to Chicago to take a position as Editorial Assistant at The Everygirl. How (if at all) did you know you were ready to take the leap?
It is so hard to answer this question; it’s like trying to explain a dream to someone. Inevitably, halfway through, they are going to be all “wait, what?”
It’s just all about gut feeling. It seems silly to say now, but I was honestly terrified at the prospect of this job: At moving to a place where I didn’t know that many people and starting a new job where I was taking a small salary cut and doing work that was so new and different and unknown. I think what cinched it for me is how excited I was. The layers of excitement were all tangled with nerves and doubt, but they were definitely the loudest. I could feel the elation jangling in my veins. It did a pretty good job of drowning out the “can I do this?”
I remember my Dad sent me an email after I had called my parents in a tizzy: I GOT THE JOB I’M MOVING AHHH YAY AHHH. His email was very dad vibes and it was basically all about how I shouldn’t take the job. It was a salary cut and living in the big city is expensive and I would be further away from help if I needed it. All very valid points (love you, Dad!). But I just knew. I knew I’d make it work and if I didn’t, I would figure it out. That’s why I took the leap. I had to. I couldn’t not do it.
I knew I’d make it work and if I didn’t, I would figure it out. That’s why I took the leap. I had to. I couldn’t not do it.
Back in the early days, what did your day-to-day life look like at The Everygirl? What was your domain?
When I first started, my main job was sending out our weekly newsletter and copyediting articles. A few weeks after my first day, the website redesign went live and I took the initiative and redesigned our newsletter layout to match it. It really illustrated how open The Everygirl is to new ideas and creating new work for yourself. Since we’re a small team (we were even smaller back then!), there is room to grow into your position and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I started taking more initiative with the newsletter and also expressing more of my interests and talents and how they could help the company grow. I worked on new video content, I added hand-lettering to our graphics, I pitched the idea for monthly tech backgrounds, I expressed that I would be interested in helping The Everygirl bring online courses to life. That is a huge part of why my position and responsibilities look so different now than they did when I started.
Don’t be afraid to take initiative in your position. Express your ideas. Illustrate them with actual examples. Campaign for them. Make the case for why your idea is going to change the company for the better. The worst thing that can happen is that they don’t go with your idea. And that is okay. That has definitely happened to me before. File that idea away for another time. Maybe it’s something you want to do as a side hustle. Maybe it’s an idea that you can tweak later for a better fit at the company. No matter what you do, keep trying. Keep campaigning for yourself.
No matter what you do, keep trying. Keep campaigning for yourself.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the team to realize that your true talent lies within the realm of design—your gorgeous handwriting, clean style, and minimalistic touch has become something of a hallmark of TEG’s aesthetic brand. How did you begin to curate your personal design style?
It’s all about practice and letting your style evolve to meet your taste level. I love this quote from Ira Glass. “Your taste is why your work disappoints you.” When I was just starting out with design, I knew what I wanted something to look like (the taste was there), but when I tried to create it everything just went wonky and it came out looking a little off (the work needed some practice).
My skills have slowly and surely inched up to my taste. I know how to use negative space and color and layout in a way I didn’t when I started. If you’re a beginner, hold on to your taste. It will get you through. And keep learning, keep searching out new ways of using your skills, until you start to feel like what you’re creating reflects you. And know that it will change and evolve: you can be proud of something now and look back on it later and see how far you’ve grown. That happens to me every year, even every month.
And most importantly: you are not anyone else. I find so much inspiration from other designer’s work, but I always have to forcibly remind myself not to compare my work to theirs. It isn’t about one versus the other. It’s about finding and creating things that speak to you. Forget the Instagram likes (they’re gone anyway!) and all those other metrics of “success.” Instead, I try to create things that I love, that also feel engaging and interesting to my small audience. It’s a work in progress, as is everything.
What’s your best advice for someone who knows they have an eye and passion for design, but isn’t sure where to take those skills?
Having an eye for design is a hugely important skill (am I biased? I may be biased) and can be translated to so many jobs and positions. First things first, hone your skills. Keep developing your taste level and try and search out and consume as much inspiration as you can. Let your style evolve. Secondly, use those skills on side projects. Try work as a freelance designer to see if you like it (start with a really small scale project or do a self-initiated one). Start a blog. Start an Instagram account. Just put your skills out there in whatever way makes sense for you. It will come in handy for interviews later on, when you’ll have something concrete to point to: look at my amazing eye for design! Hire me!
Don’t be afraid to be “bad.” I spent a lot of time in my early days of designing where I was creating all of this content but I was so afraid to put it out into the world because it didn’t look like what my design idols were creating. But now, I look back and I want to shake myself because I was just starting out. Of course it wasn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share it. Getting there is all about starting here, right where you are.
Ask all the questions you can. Never be afraid to ask. Shoot a designer you admire a DM on Instagram, comment on a blog post. Sometimes you won’t get a response and that is more than OK (people are busy, remember to give them grace), but it’s always worth the ask. Search the internet for interviews with creatives whose job or work looks appealing. Put all the information you gather in a Google Doc and then sit down and really think about it. A lot of freelancers say working with clients is like having 12 bosses instead of one—does that sound like something I want to handle on a day-to-day basis? Etc. Ask follow up questions. Rinse. Repeat.
Throughout your time at The Everygirl, your job title has changed a few times. Tell us about your current responsibilities here—and what a typical workday looks like for you.
Since we are a small team, I have had my hands in a fair bit. I create our newsletters, shoot and edit video content, create graphics for the site (like these), work on our course offerings, make our tech backgrounds, and write when I have the time.
These days, I spend the majority of my time managing our current online course offerings and developing new online courses. This means: reaching out to and securing instructors (for example: we worked with a CPA to create our Finance 101 course, etc.); creating course collateral like worksheets, coursepacks, and graphics; marketing our current course offerings; and working on our upcoming course schedule for the year. Who would I be if I didn’t end this question with the truly classic answer: no two days are the same.
Tell us more about that The Everygirl’s online course catalog.
I’ve always loved online courses. The thing I miss most about college is that thirst for learning (I sound like a straight up vampire lol. Or a horse girl). Online courses fulfill that need with such specialized and incredibly helpful content. Bringing them to life for The Everygirl has been a literal dream come true. The other day, I bored my brother and sister-in-law out of their minds by taking them through the behind-the-scenes of compiling career advice from badass women into our entire 100 page Landing Your Dream Job course on my phone at brunch. I am such a treat—invite me to eat with you!
We launched the courses early last year and it was important to all of us on staff to include different voices and experiences in this new avenue. In our Landing Your Dream Job course we pulled from our extensive network of freelancers and industry professionals, amazing women we have profiled over the years, and our cofounders Alaina and Danielle for advice on resumes, cover letters, interviews, networking, and more. I compiled all the information (and made it pretty… graphic designer in the house) and learned a lot as I went.
I taught our Essential Photoshop course because I’ve been using and loving Photoshop as a graphic designer for years (about eight to be exact… where does the time go?!) and feel very confident in my skills in that arena. We’re reopening Essential Photoshop this spring, so make sure you’re following @theeverygirlcourses on Instagram for up-to-date release information.
For our new Finance 101 course, we worked extensively with the hugely talented Erica Gellerman, a CPA and Certified Financial Education Instructor to create a resource for women just starting out with their financial education. And finally, for our upcoming Self-Care Challenge course, we worked with a panel of experts in a variety of fields including therapists, nutritionists, fitness instructors, holistic health coaches, dermatologists, and more.
We’re currently working on new courses to launch this spring, including a few I’m really excited about. Follow along over at @theeverygirlcourses for launch dates and daily inspiration. Also, if you’re reading this and you want to learn about something specific in one of the next Everygirl courses, reach out! Shoot me a message on Instagram, because I would love to hear your thoughts.
Readers are constantly blown away by your personal stories and how funny/relatable they are—what’s your process when it comes to writing about yourself? Do you think humor writing is a skill that is inherent or learned?
I am blown away by this question—this is such a compliment! Thank you, Abigail, I love you.
Writing about myself was actually a little bit of an accident. I pitched a story thinking it would be more a surface-level list of helpful points but it poured out of me like a diary entry. I submitted it and it was published and then it all came together like… “oh people are going to read this.” But it was already done and out there and actually way less scary than I thought. The internet is not known for being an especially kind place, but the community of readers at The Everygirl have always been more than accepting of me. They challenge me and support me and are always willing to listen.
Humor writing isn’t something I set out to do. I learned how to write in a very academic sense, which was hugely valuable. Once I learned how to write like the rules told me I should, I started writing for myself. Very stream of consciousness, “this is how my brain sounds,” sentences and weird emphasis scattered about. It’s definitely not for everyone and I’ve had more than a few people be like “oh, no thank you to this.” And that is very fair. You won’t be for everyone and that’s actually a really good thing.
My mom gave me the best advice the other day when I was stressing over negative feedback. She said, “I’m glad you have that. It helps make you the smart, strong, sharp person you are. But you can take what’s constructive and let the rest roll off. You don’t need to change your voice for anyone.” And that simple reframing completely blew my mind. Don’t change your voice because someone doesn’t like it. Someone will absolutely not like it—that’s just the way it is. If you change it to suit them, you’ll just be changing it every day for the rest of your life. Be you and the people that respond will respond wholeheartedly. And that is a beautiful thing to be a part of.
I’m honored and floored and so touched by the people who reach out and say something I’ve written made them laugh or smile or helped get through a tough time. Hearing from readers never gets old.
In addition to the multitude of work you do at The Everygirl, you’re also a freelance graphic designer. When and how did you decide to create your own work under your own umbrella?
I started freelancing in college because I needed a creative outlet. I was learning so much about design and I didn’t really have anywhere to put that knowledge, so to speak. I was just discovering all of these amazing graphic designers—from Pinterest, from their websites, from Dribbble—and I wanted to work on projects like they worked on. In a classic “I’m a new freelancer” move, I started making logos for my family. One for my mom’s Etsy store, helping my sister-in-law with her interior design and architecture portfolio. I also did a lot of self-initiated work like logos for fake businesses, media kits, PDFs, business cards, signage. It was all so much fun. I loved it. It fed me.
I did a lot of this grunt work before I ever actually nabbed a real Client-with-a-capital-C. When I did it was like “whoa, what do I do with this?” I took an online course (it’s no longer available, but the designer has another, similar one out now that I highly recommend) and soaked up as much knowledge as I could from other freelancers, many of whom are so, so helpful. They write blog posts, they answer questions, they give detailed interviews. It’s such a collaborative, connected community. That was a huge part of what helped me take my business online and to the next level. If you’re a graphic designer (or an aspiring one) some of my favorite resources are:
Rowan Made (her classes and blog)
Freelance Wisdom (so many amazing interviews!)
Katherine Corden (I am a card carrying member of the Katherine Corden fan club. She’s not a graphic designer, but an inspiring artist and full of advice for running a creative biz. Get on her email list!)
Use Pinterest, Instagram, and Dribbble to find people that inspire you and then look up their websites, if they have a blog, any interviews they have done. There is so much out there if you’re willing to look for it.
How do you manage your time between your full-time job and your freelance work?
Oooof. This is a sore point for me because I am very bad at managing my time. I am chronically late. I always underestimate everything by a solid 20 minutes, at least. I have much Room For Improvement.
My advice if you’re thinking of getting into the freelance game while you also have a full-time job is to think very hard about the amount of free time you have available. Are you prepared to work an eight hour day and then come home and work until midnight (or later)? Do you want to work on weekends? Could you cancel plans with friends because you need to go home and work? Could you do this every week? If I’m being very honest with myself, I work too much. I don’t want to glorify that at all, because it can be so draining and it isn’t sustainable. You need to take time for yourself to rest and reset and just BE and that is all the more difficult if you’re working and freelancing at the same time. There is only so much of you to go around. Right now, I’m working on scaling back the amount of freelance clients that I have to better serve myself and my amazing clients. I’m learning to not be afraid of scheduling out clients further in advance—you never know if their proposed launch date is flexible until you ask. Spoiler: it usually is.
My advice if you’re thinking of getting into the freelance game while you also have a full-time job is to think very hard about the amount of free time you have available.
As a freelancer, my biggest growth point over the past year has been saying “no” to things. I am a people pleaser and sometimes “yes” gets all tangled up with “I want to make you happy” and I get myself into some real tight spots in which I am working so much I don’t have time to read at night before bed (my bliss) and I’m basically those people in the commercials before they eat the Snickers. I try to remind myself every day that I don’t have to say yes to every single thing, with varying success.
I’m also making a conscious effort to be more mindful of not ragging on myself when I actually do take time to relax. I usually feel so guilty that I can’t even enjoy it and who is that helping? Another spoiler: no one. I just want to binge Fleabag in peace and I’m reworking my internal monologue to stop beating myself up when I do that.
All this to say—freelancing is an amazing opportunity to grow your skills and experience, but it’s not easy or “a quick way to make extra cash” or something to jump into without thinking carefully about your time. Just be smart and start slow. Try a self-initiated project to gauge how long things realistically take you. Track all your hours even when it’s really annoying. Scale back if you need to.
What’s something you were more people knew about creative fields like editorial journalism and graphic design?
That they are actual work! Sometimes things like freelancing are marketed as an easy way to double your earning potential and from my experience, freelancing as a graphic designer has not been “easy” whatsoever. It has been challenging and creatively fulfilling and an amazing experience. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Freelancing has been challenging and creatively fulfilling and an amazing experience. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Where do you see yourself and your career in five years?
In five years, I’ll be 32. That is insane to think about. Everything in my life right now is different than I ever imagined. When I was 14, I thought I would be married and have two kids by 26. I thought 31 was “old.” Oh, how the turn tables.
Something that I’ve been putting a lot of effort into recently is letting go of my age. I’m going to be honest: I didn’t want to turn 27. Not because of the number, precisely. It’s more that I have this deep well of anxiety that time is slipping away from me. I’m not sure if I’m making the most of it. Shouldn’t being 27 mean my apartment is guest-ready at all times? Shouldn’t 27 mean that I’m on my way to falling in love? Shouldn’t 27 mean that I have a better handle on my business, that I’m making less mistakes than I used to? And you know what: 27 doesn’t mean any of those things. I’m realizing thoughts like these are really toxic for me.
All this to say: I don’t want to put hard prescriptives on what I’ll be doing in five years. Instead, I want to have grown. I want to be creative and challenged with a whole new set of things. I want to be happy and living a little slower. Who knows what that really looks like? How exciting and also very terrifying. Part of what I want to communicate here is that I’m not perfect (surprise lol). I’m eternally shifting and I’m learning to be OK with holding together all these contradictions and quirks and feelings that live inside me. And I love that there is a space for career profiles on women who are still figuring it all out. Who have answers and questions, advice to give and get. I hope that is as inspiring to you as it feels to me. OK bye.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to take a big career risk (like the several you’ve taken that have paid off!!)?
The reality is you have to try to really drown out the noise (*cough* other people’s opinions) and tap into your gut reaction. If against all odds, you want to do it—then hell yes, do it. Do it with bells on. Do it as much as anyone has ever done anything.
There have been a few risks I didn’t take. I had this opportunity, about a year before I got The Everygirl position, at a company in Boston. They flew me out to see the offices and sent me an offer letter. It felt like a Risk. Like a Big Deal. But I just knew. I wish I could explain it. It would be so much easier if these things were quantifiable. Oh, you felt 30 percent unease and 70 percent unease plus excitement? Our calculations say: go for it. Instead, it’s really just all about listening to yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to do that.
If against all odds, you want to do it—then hell yes, do it. Do it with bells on. Do it as much as anyone has ever done anything.
But remember: try not to get a negative internal monologue tangled up with your gut reactions. I can be really bad about putting myself down in my own head and I have to consciously think about separating that noise from my actual gut feelings about something. If you have trouble with this, I always think in the context of what I would tell my friend. What advice would I give my kickass sister-in-law in the same situation? How would I listen to my best friend? I’m always working to speak to myself with the same kindness and ease as I do with the people closest to me. And guess what lol, it’s a work in progress (are you sensing a theme).
And you won’t always know if it was the “right” decision. Does the “right decision” even exist? I’m not sure. It’s all just choices and movement and new sets of experiences. What I do know is that not taking the Boston job meant I could take The Everygirl job. And the difference between what I felt when I was offered the Boston job versus The Everygirl job was so subtle and yet so huge. Because both were scary. And yet I only took one of them. Doesn’t that say it all?
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
At 22, I was putting all this pressure on myself to make big changes right away. I wanted the perfect job and the nice car and the beautiful apartment and the doting boyfriend and all those outward markers of “success” I had deemed important. Instead, I had an old IKEA couch that my cat had torn up and a lot of anxiety. And now I look back and wish I had spent more time luxuriating in that unknowingness and freedom and transition.
I’ve always had trouble feeling comfortable where I’m at; trying to breathe deeper into a moment of life instead of rush, rush, rushing toward a point or purpose I’ve rationalized is “the thing.” If I could go back, I’d try to take it a little more day-by-day and focus on looking around more; on noticing it all.
But I’m actually really glad I can’t go back and fiddle with all my decisions. I think I want to change things, but it always leads to more and more and more things I would change. It’s all me. Maybe that’s the best and worst and most challenging and interesting and defining thing in the world.
Kelly Etz is The Everygirl…
Go-to drink order?
In the summer: The biggest iced chai it is humanly possible to consume (my work wife Abigail likes to make fun of me for this drink and to be fair, it does look like an enormous glass of milk)
In the winter: Mocha anything. I am ⅔ chocolate at this point.
Most embarrassing song on your heavy Spotify rotation?
“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer or “All or Nothing” by O-Town, probably. But I’m not embarrassed. I would, and have, done karaoke of both of these. I also frequently listen to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack (2005 version) while I’m working. It makes me feel like I’m about to be asked to accompany a young gentleman in a sprightly country dance.
Last book you read?
I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron. I re-read this all the time. There’s this part where she talks about never putting her credit card back in the appropriate place in her wallet and I feel like it defines me as a person.
I also read a little bit of a romance novel every night before I fall asleep. I love a good nighttime ritual.
Last three pictures on your camera roll?
I was just at my parent’s house for a visit and I took a photo of an old photo of them when they were dating. My mom is wearing the chicest leather-coat-plus-white-jeans outfit. Looking at it makes me happy.
The other two: a screenshot of this all-red Villanelle outfit from Killing Eve (the style of this show is beyond) because I want to wear more monochrome looks and am always hoarding inspo, and a screenshot of this poem by Kate Baer, which I read whenever I’m having a tough moment. My camera roll is 95 percent screenshots.
I am not a morning person, so generally I wake up one minute before I’m supposed to start working like “oh shit” and then flail about while I try to start my day. Even though I know this about myself, I always set an alarm for 6:20am and think, “right, I’ll just wake up early tomorrow and have a leisurely morning, make a beautiful breakfast of eggs Benedict, and then sit in my robe reading a paper copy of The New York Times.” This has never happened.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
I think about this question all the time. It changes seasonally, so I am going to be one of those annoying people and make it a dinner party. Let’s start with Amy Sherman-Palladino because I watched Gilmore Girls so many times when I was growing up that I think it irrevocably changed who I am as a person. The zippy dialogue, the generational bonds and struggles and heartaches, the coffee—it all feels lodged unquestionably in my soul. I want to talk to ASP in that ultra fast, ultra satisfying, wish fulfillment kind of way. The way you dream people talk in real life—references and quips and zing-y moments back and forth.
My next invite goes to Lupita Nyong’o because I am absolutely in awe of her talent. I remember first seeing her on a magazine cover many years ago and being awestruck: Who is this goddess?? I have watched Black Panther 84 times this year alone. I recently saw 12 Years a Slave and was completely blown away. I even broke my no-scary-movies-for-Kelly rule and watched Us, which was absolutely terrifying and soul-searing and proves I will do anything for Lupita. In addition to being wildly talented, she is also an advocate for women’s rights and animal rights; and a huge style icon; and basically the coolest person on the planet, ya know?
Last but never least, I always want to have lunch with my mom. We have had lunch in every possible iteration at this point—fancy lunches, fast food lunches, lunches where I am crying over something silly that happened with a boy, lunches with just us, lunches with everyone else, lunches at chemo, lunches with homemade omelettes (the only food we can both make). We have invented and reinvented lunch with each other, and I’m still never bored.
At this dinner party, we will converse. One of those real, meaty, endless conversations. When I think about what I want to be when I grow up, I imagine being a person who others want to have long, meandering meals with. Let’s hope these three are up to the task.