Keely on creativity, disability awareness and how to style cute outfits
We chatted to digital creator and chronic illness advocate, Keely about creativity, disability awareness and how to style cute outfits with for bigger busted babes.
"I think what I'm learning about myself is that it's not my job to educate everybody about chronic illnesses and disability."
Hey Keely, please introduce yourself!
Hey! I’m Keely, you probably know me as @k__eelz. I’m 23, from Melbourne, Australia and I'm a Leo. I think that's important, I'm a Leo. I am disabled and chronically ill. I also have four pets. We are a house of chronically ill people and pets.
I love fashion and styling is a way that I get to express myself. It's something that is really accessible to me that is creative. I also love styling my home. I’m home the majority of the time, so it's really important to me to have a space that I love.
I love what I love. And that is fashion and trying to enjoy my life as much as I can in ways that I know how. And that is wearing cool outfits, trying to push people's ideas and educate them on what being chronically ill and disabled is like. I do that through fashion, and being honest online helps people learn. They came for the fashion and now they're learning about disability. I think that’s pretty cool.
What are your styling tips for women with bigger boobs?
I'm going to be honest, I'm very anti bra. I am either not wearing a bra, wearing a bralette or I'm wearing my RAQ bikini. You can't really get bras that are as colourful, cool and as stylish as RAQ. There's so many styles that I love adding to my outfits. So I’ll usually opt for them as my bra.
I am very inspired by 70’s and Y2K sort of outfits. I am very comfortable with showing my bras or underwear in an outfit. I think it's really cool. If you're not as comfortable I would say, RAQ's crop bikini tops that have a little bit more coverage.
A really cool outfit would be the RAQ crop with a turtleneck or shirt underneath. I'm loving layering at the moment [and] we're coming into winter, so it's another way to wear your RAQ bikinis all throughout the year.
Like I said, I'm very anti bra - so I think it's a really good way as well to save a little bit of money. I find the RAQ multiway so much more comfortable than any bra anyway and I'll always grab those over a bra because I love them.
But how do you make an outfit "cute" if you have to wear an ugly supportive bra?
I have one ugly bra that's been sitting at the back of my closet that I just keep just in case. In the past I've worn it with singlets.
I’m very inspired by 90s and y2k and Devon Carlson and I know she wears bras that might have lace sticking out with a singlet or a singlet that covers it just enough.
To be honest, my RAQ bikinis would look even better underneath, just go for your RAQ bikini because you get more colour and style.
You’re an advocate for chronic illnesses and disabilities online, please tell us more about this.
I didn't really get to see many people like me growing up, I genuinely thought that I was the only person that had what I have.
I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Uveitis, which is inflammation of the eyes, when I was eight years old. Having all the symptoms that come along with being chronically ill. Like having that eight years old, it was tough. The biggest problem was teachers and other kids not believing me. I look well, so they all thought that I must be well. So that caused a whole lot of anxiety for me.
I use social media as a way to be honest and to help others feel less alone. Through social media I have found so many people like me that were diagnosed around the same age. It's really nice that I get to utilise that to find other people like me and feel less alone. I started posting about my experience with chronic illness by talking about my mental health struggles.
I've had depression, anxiety and eating disorders. So I was pretty open about that online, and on Instagram. In 2016, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I had my cataracts in both eyes removed, I didn't have a lens replaced in one eye because the inflammation would have pretty much sent me blind so I can't see very well out of one eye. But I started posting photos in the hospital a lot more because I was bored. It was so much fun to me. I was pulling looks when I was in hospital when I was admitted, I really enjoyed it.
I think I've been taking infusion selfies for probably four years now. I kept dressing up because it’s fun for me. And as I got more unwell it was the only time that I would leave the house. the past couple of years. I've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and POTS, which is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, which is the thing that affects me the most these days.
I've also been diagnosed with PMDD. I started getting more unwell and throughout lockdown styling was the way that I got to distract myself being an at risk person. It was able to take my mind off things and the only time that I was able to leave the house was to go to the hospital for my infusion. So going to the hospital is just the time that I get to dress up, be myself and express myself in such a way that I get to feel like myself.
Being chronically ill, there aren't many things that I get to do that are still me. So dressing up and wearing clothes that I love, being creative and just expressing myself. I still create content, even on the days where I feel really average because I enjoy it a lot. I try and incorporate my mobility aids into my outfits and my IV poles with my infusion selfies, because it's still part of me.
What are you learning to accept about yourself?
I think what I'm learning about myself is that it's not my job to educate everybody about chronic illnesses and disability. There's some weeks and months on Instagram that I just go without talking about my chronic illnesses, because I experience it every day, every hour, every minute, every second. I'm living with my chronic illnesses, and sometimes I just want a distraction from it. I'm allowed to do that.
I felt like I owed people like updates about it and even with my mental health I owe people. When my weight fluctuates and people comment on that I feel like I owe people an explanation, when I don’t. This is my life, this is what being chronically ill is like and I'm allowed to tap out of it sometimes and just focus on creating outfits because that's what I enjoy and love. I'm just accepting and learning that that's just how it's gonna be now.
I need to start giving myself more time to do other things and prioritise rest and taking breaks more. I do this more as work, which is really good for me, and it works well for my chronic illnesses. It's really cool that I get to speak about my chronic illnesses when I want to as well and I think I'm learning that too.
What do you think people misunderstand about you?
I think people have an idea that disabled people "can’t" do things. When I see other people that are also dressed up like me, it makes me feel really amazing and if I get to help somebody else do that, or inspire somebody else to dress up for their infusions, that’s really amazing.
I think people have a narrow idea about what hospitals are like, that they're meant to be bland and boring and you can't dress up. I've even had nurses say "why aren’t you just wearing trackies?" like, I'm comfortable. Trust me, I'm just wearing a really colourful outfit. It makes me feel more like myself. And I think that's pushing the boundaries. So it's always a priority to me to do that, it just makes the appointment go a little bit faster, it's a little bit more enjoyable.
I take photos of my infusions, because it's something to do, as I’m there for four to six hours. I take photos at home every week, and I wear outfits that I love. I'm going to be doing it when I leave the house too. It's who I am. It's what makes me feel amazing and it's how I feel like myself.
How do you look after your mental health?
First of all a psychologist, it's expensive and I respect and understand that, I also only see mine when it's deemed really necessary, or I’m having triggering moments and I'm really struggling. Medication, I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. I am on medication for my chronic illnesses to manage them and am also on a contraceptive pill to help my PMDD. I’m very open about being on medication on social media.
Being chronically ill, I still get mental health problems and I still have flare ups and things like that. And that's normal. It's hard. It’s really tough. I had a really long time where I felt very alone. Like probably a good two years where I just felt like I had no friends. I only had my family and other people close to me. But I think I'm learning a lot more and also having community online has helped. I am in Facebook groups for every one of my disabilities and chronic illnesses because it's really nice having people that understand what I'm going through. I've met so many people, and I've made so many other chronically Ill creative friends online. And that's really cool.
I have an inner circle that understands my abilities and limits. I'm still learning how to be open about that. Being open from the get go that my friendship isn't normal. I can't always go out because my chronic illnesses can change so quickly. Like I can be out feeling fine, enjoying myself and I just crash and need to leave straight away. I shut down because I get so brain foggy and tired. So that's still a learning experience, but prioritising people that understand me is really helpful.
Also, wearing outfits that I love and enjoy, and doing things that I love and enjoy is another way I look after my mental health, having time to rest and [doing] things that I want to do.
We have loved chatting with you Keely! Can you please curate a playlist for us?!
[These are] all the songs that get me up, moving, dancing and singing, like no one is watching. My favourite song on it... all of them. Immaterial by SOPHIE makes me feel a different kind of way, like I can take on anything.
You can keep up with Keely here.