You might recognize Kate Dillon, she hung out with an "in-crowd" that got a lot of press in the early '90s. NBD, just the first cohort of supermodels, Linda, Naomi, Tyra, Christy, Kate, yeah that crowd.
Or you might recognize her from Ellen or as a judge on America's Next Top Model where she was quite literally the first vocal body positive plus-size model and activist.
Kate has done a lot with her life. Her passions and intelligence (hello, Harvard Kennedy School) have continued to fuel her activist heart. She is currently changing the world as a VP at a social enterprise impact investment firm. Again, NBD, she is totally like the rest of us. PROMISE.
By some stroke of the divine, Kate has also recently joined CURA as an advisor, contributor and #luckyme become a dear friend.
And yes, I recognize a good thing can't be hoarded, there would be some sort of karmic judgment in my future if I did not share her with you all, so please allow me to introduce or reintroduce you to the one and only Kate Dillion.
Kate, though it feels like we've known each other forever, there is so much about your experience that I don't know about and I'm so excited to get to dig a little deeper here in CURA's first interview for our "Women We Love" series.
KEW. If you were writing your memoir in 5 chapters what would you title each chapter of your life thus far and why?
KD. Ha! This is such a good question!
"So I guess I’m fat and ugly"
I never knew I was fat and ugly until I moved to southern California when I was 10 years old. I was teased mercilessly by my peers for being bigger (and paler and chubbier) than the other girls, and that deep shaming contributed to my decision to become anorexic when I was 12. Anorexia was a solution to the problems I was having at school, and even though I knew the risks associated with starving myself, fitting in seemed to be more important at the time. That choice lasted 7 years and would become the defining moment of my life - not just because it set me on a course to fashion modeling, but also because my body would prove to be a lifelong issue, and really the battleground on which I confronted my emotional and spiritual gremlins. We all have our stuff, and food and body are mine. I go through periods where its less of an issue, but being fully candid, I know its always with me, and I have to be constantly vigilant.
"My life is a Lifetime Network made-for-TV movie"
This is kind of a joke, but also incredibly accurate. I was a fat, ugly preteen who got skinny and tall and was ‘discovered’ at a local coffee shop to be a fashion model. I graduated high school and moved to NYC then Paris and was soon on the runways of Chanel, Gucci, Prada, etc. But I couldn’t stay super thin so had to quit… But then I rediscovered myself as a plus size model! And became even more well-known advocating for positive body image in the fashion industry and beyond.
"Turns out I’m rather mathy "
When I was 28, I decided to go to University, and it turned out I was rather mathy. After completing an undergraduate degree in International Studies, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in International Development at Harvard – it was more like an economics degree – so I could pursue a career in conservation and development finance. I have spent the last 12 years of my professional life advocating for tropical forest conservation, sustainable/regenerative agriculture, and market-based solutions to poverty and environmental degradation. It’s a huge passion.
"Whoa, relationships are hard" no explanation necessary.
"Hunger" I’d say the last several years of my life have been in deep inquiry, trying to understand what I hunger for and how to nourish that hunger in a way that is actually nourishing to me.
KEW. It took about 45 mins from the moment we met to the time I decided I needed you to be involved in CURA is some capacity. Would you mind telling our readers about why you are the perfect partner for our mission?
KD. I think it took me less than 30 minutes before I was really, really hoping you’d ask me to get involved. CURA’s mission and purpose are so aligned with my values and the future I want to see in the world – for my friends, my family (my kid in particular), and for all women. Most of my professional and personal life has been devoted to social and environmental justice. Later in life, developing a spiritual community has become of equal importance to me. I observe that many people want this – they want advocacy and purpose and spirituality built into how they live their lives, but it's hard the way our commercial system is set up. The convenience of Amazon.com and the Insta-hit of social media are hard to resist. And yet it doesn’t seem to bring people much joy. I see CURA as my opportunity to extend joy, presence, and positive impact in my community and beyond.
I also know that creative collaboration is how we will fully realize our best selves – individually and communally. Meeting you, Kiko, was this incredible gift because your vision and talent for design fill a huge hole in the conscious lifestyle market. There are so many wonderful conscious brands, but CURA puts the best they have in one place bringing convenience and accessibility to an otherwise esoteric space. I love that my Haiti Design Co Bateau earrings get so many compliments, and people don’t even know they are purpose built. And that is what this segment needs. You are uniquely able to curate and empower better choices, and I’m grateful to contribute and partner with you!
KEW. You spent the better part of your 20's and early 30s in the public eye with the first cohort of supermodels in the 90s. You speak fondly of your experience in the industry despite your experience with eating disorders in both phases of your modeling career. Today, you are (at least the way I see you) calm, kind, humble and so impressively disciplined. You dedicate an hour a day to meditation, work a full-time job changing the world, are a single mother and take great care of your health. Can you share how you've come to this place in your life of dedicated spiritual and physical wellness?
KD. Well, suffering is the mother of wellness and deep presence! Haha. Thank you for saying those kind things about me. I have come to value my mindfulness practice so greatly that it hardly feels like discipline. I get dividends from my daily meditation practice, walking meditation, and mindful eating (chewing!). I am also a great fan of dancing meditation (80s dance party, anyone?) and hugging meditation. It makes me a better mom, communicator, and friend – it also creates deep humility because stillness kind of forces me to see reality, and reality is I am sometimes selfish, unkind, and anxious…
And in my case, suffering and disappointment propelled me along this path which started when I was about 20 years old and coming out of active anorexia. My therapist urged me to read John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Arewhich was my first exposure to mindfulness. My spiritual practice took many forms over the ensuing decades – martial arts, ashtanga yoga, Shambhala, and Interbeing (Thich Nhat Hahn). I got serious about sitting meditation about 4 years ago, and just can’t say enough about the importance of sitting still, however difficult it can be! Chronic health issues like migraine, acid reflux, rosacea, and eczema also forced attention to my diet and exercise routines. It was difficult at first because of my history of anorexia – restrictions can be very triggering, but it's ok. I have also made great strides towards aligning my diet with my values and follow a mostly plant-based diet.
Diet and exercise and meditation practice are all rather easy, tangible things I can do to keep me on a spiritual path – like trail markers. But the most important thing to me is kindness. I spent a weekend at Blue Cliff Monastery in March, and the experience of loving kindness was deeply moving. Words really can’t communicate the feeling I had, but I left knowing it was all about cultivating loving-kindness. And that means starting with loving kindness toward myself. So that’s where I am at right now.
We are just at the beginning of CURA and will be hearing more from you on the regular, but in the meantime leave us with a few light-hearted Kate Dillion get to know yous...