What got her to where she is today? Well, first of all, she had a beautiful childhood. When asked to describe it she said, “The truth is, that it is rare these days to have what I did growing up. My parents were crazy in love with each other and that reflected on my siblings and me. We were taught to love fiercely and deeply and to hug often. My parents encouraged me to pursue my goals no matter how big or small. They made me feel like I could do anything.” But, as is the case with most of us, her story isn’t so one-dimensional. When she was 19 years old, she lost her father to pancreatic cancer.
Her world had flipped upside down. The charmed life she had lived as a child was changed forever and now she had to figure out a way to move forward. Coincidentally, at about the same time, she had just begun competing in the Miss America system, which requires young women to have a platform to focus their year of service on. So, Kelly, with all the information and experience she had with cancer over the past year, decided to use her platform to raise awareness. And clearly, her efforts paid off, as in 2001 she won the title of Miss Florida and was able to travel throughout the entire state and speak to people of all ages about prevention and early detection of cancer.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last she would see of the disease, as just a few years after her father’s passing, her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She recalls the period with great detail, relaying, “A few days after my mom’s first round of chemotherapy, when she was having extreme side affects and almost needed to be rushed to the hospital, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve already lost my dad; now am I going to lose my mom too?’ I was terrified. My mom is my best friend and I go to her for everything. But I needed to be strong for her during that difficult time. I never imagined we would have to look cancer in the face again, but we did and that time of my life helped me become stronger than ever.”
This fall, it will be 10 years since her mom’s diagnosis and she is still here to be her daughter’s best friend. Kelly has learned a lot from the experience and has committed herself to the cause more than ever before. Today, she is clearly a successful and beautiful woman, and would like to share some advice
I love running! It clears my mind and helps me release any frustrations of the day and that means it is good for my body, mind and soul. However, if you can’t run I have found that lunges, squats and pushups make a big impact on my body. Plus they are easy to do anywhere, which is an advantage because I travel a lot for work. No matter what kind of workout you like, make sure you do something every day.
When it comes to relationships, I always encourage my friends to write a list of all the things they want in a partner and then do not compromise. I have always loved being in relationships and I wanted to be a wife and a mother since I was a little girl, but I knew the kind of relationship I wanted and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. All my friends were married and most of them had kids, but I was still single. I had amazing role models in my parents’ marriage (married 25 years when my dad passed away) and I believed that the person who was created for me was out there. So I waited. . .and I dated. I was 32 when I met Nick Edwards and I knew within weeks that I would marry him. I am so grateful that I never settled. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve waited forever for him.
ON BALANCING YOUR MIND, BODY AND SOUL
I have set a goal for myself and I know what I want to look like. I work very hard to keep my body in shape. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication. Believe me, there are many days I do not want to work out or eat smart. It is natural to take a day off from the gym or have a cheat day, but try to stay in check because our minds are so powerful and once you indulge in naughty foods or skip a few days of working out it can lead to more days like that and it can be difficult to get back on track. I wake up every day and tell myself that being fit and healthy is more important to me than eating whatever I want. This self-control does not happen over night because believe me when I was in my 20’s I did not have it, but once you decide what you want and set a goal for yourself, it is much easier to commit to the work that it takes to get there. My mom always says that quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I don’t believe it is about being skinny, but that quote is a good motivator for me.
By Andres Portillo