We had the good fortune of connecting with Kellie Fox and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kellie, why did you pursue a creative career?
The simple answer is that an artistic career pursued me. Growing up I was always sensitive and creative. I drew constantly from the time I was a year old, losing myself to delightful flow. I was drawn to the stage: ballet, singing, and acting. Holding a marker or dancing under blinding lights felt so natural, like I’d done this in countless lifetimes before. However, I was also a “high-achieving” student, and absorbed the messages all around me in our culture about the instability and almost-guaranteed “failure” of arts careers. In high school I scored well on the PSAT and then the SAT, became a National Merit Finalist, and earned a scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. What I wanted was to pursue a career in musical theatre performance (and I auditioned and was accepted to the top program in Texas).
What I thought I needed was a practical path. I accepted the advice that I should choose a “real career” and save my passions for the weekend. I ended up majoring in Advertising at UT, winning a spot in the Texas Creative Portfolio Sequence with an emphasis in art direction. But this, too, was a compromise. What I wanted was to create art “for art’s sake”—not to sell paper towels. After battling post-graduation unemployment in a recession economy, I found myself in an unfulfilling, dead-end job with terrible pay. I pursued a master’s degree in speech-language pathology.
From the very first class in my very first semester, a voice inside yelled that I was in the wrong place; but again I did not listen. I was trapped by fear of sunk costs, a sense of obligation, and a misplaced desire for purpose. I didn’t yet believe that my artistic callings were meaningful or important. I became an effective and dedicated speech-language pathologist. I was fortunate to work with so many wonderful children and their families. I made a difference in their lives. But still…there was something discordant. I lacked passion. I didn’t have any energy left to create on the weekends. I was utterly depleted. I stayed in this career for several years, even as I began experiencing panic attacks and increasing depression.
Quitting my SLP career was the hardest and best decision I have ever made. I am proud of my time spent helping others communicate, but I am even more proud that I was brave enough to choose living in alignment with my highest self. If a creative path came with more risks, it also came with more reward. Today, I am a working artist! I have exhibited my fine art, and create many commissioned portraits and pet portraits every year. I began learning digital illustration during lockdown this year and intend to see my work in a published children’s book one day! When there isn’t a global pandemic, I am also a professional musical theatre performer and theatre scenic artist. I perform improv and have acted in short films and commercials. Sounds like a lot, huh?
When something excites me, I now pursue it with an excitement that outweighs the fear. Why can’t I try that, too? What if it does work out? And most importantly: doesn’t that sound FUN!? Creativity is the clear voice of my highest self. It does not want to be moderated, compromised, or confined to an hour on the weekend. It is a deep, intuitive knowing that underlies all of the limiting beliefs and conditioning of my mind. Throughout my life, the desire to create has dogged me, relentless and inescapable. Denying my artistic nature led to stress, illness, and a nagging sense of discordance. It simply refused to be ignored. Finally, I listened. I was born to create. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I’m now represented by Wilhelmina Denver as a commercial model and actor.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I covered most of this in my first question, but I will share what currently has me most excited. Lately I am feeling called to create an e-course on overcoming blocks to creativity, in the vein of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. So I am sharing this with you now to hold myself accountable in developing it! The biggest obstacle in my creative expression has been my own perfectionism and self-doubt. It can be crippling and paralyzing. I hope to share what I’ve learned and help others break down the barriers that prevent them from expressing what’s inside them. I want anyone with an artistic longing to gift themselves the joy of creation. To create is to be human!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m going to assume this is when there is NOT a pandemic, because it’s more fun that way. I’m more of a “loose” planner but my list would include strolling in the Denver Botanic Gardens (I am a member), lounging at Cheesman Park, perusing books at Tattered Cover and records at Twist & Shout, supporting our amazing local theatre scene with a play and/or musical, a trip to the Denver Art Museum, ice cream at Sweet Cooie’s, mochi donuts at Third Culture, a concert at Red Rocks (obviously), Pablo’s for coffee, beers at Station 26, and of course, lots of hiking!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have countless creative mentors to thank, but nothing can compare to the unconditional love and support of my husband (Matthew Fox). Every time I’ve come to him with some artistic longing or seemingly crazy dream, he’s encouraged me without hesitation. He believes in my potential even in my moments of doubt and helps me shine as my authentic, best self. Plus, he always knows how to make me laugh. Our life together is my favorite creation.
Jeremy Rill Photography Matthew Gale Photography