Something special and unexpected has happened since I started the blog. People I didn’t know existed 18 months ago are now part of my life having become good friends. This wasn’t my intention when starting out. The truth is, I wasn’t sure of the intention, but it just felt right. Sometimes when you send something out into the universe, magic can happen. And it happened again two weeks ago when Kelsey Johnson and I met for the first time via Zoom (I know, so 2020).
In the space of a few months Kelsey has gone from being a flight attendant living in the Middle East, to finishing in the top ten of Miss Universe Canada.
How? Well, Covid, of course. I mean, don’t forget the year we’re living in! But what struck me was Kelsey’s drive and determination.
Kelsey, better known as Kels, or her Instagram handle and blog name, Lipstick and Luggage, has grown a following of more than 82,000 people. Until recently she has, along with her lipstick and luggage, taken her followers to more than 73 countries as she travelled the world as a flight attendant for Emirates, an airline and brand she adores:
“Aside from the opportunity to visit so much of the world as part of my day job, I was passionate about representing the Emirate’s brand. This made it a very bitter-sweet moment when I received the news that I had lost my job. I was very upset, but I also knew that this wasn’t personal; it is the consequence of Covid -19. I love the Emirates brand as much as I ever did and I can’t see that changing any time soon.”
We are using the past tense here because, like many thousands of people in aviation, Kelsey was made redundant as a direct result of the rapid nose dive in air travel caused by Covid-19.
It was immediately clear to me that Kelsey is the kind of person that can look adversity in the eyes and tackle it head-on, and boy has she proved that, and not just in recent times.
At school, similarly to myself, Kelsey was bullied for being studious, for being her own person. We both talked about how tough this experience was in adolescence, and how the statistic that 64% of children experiencing bullying is shocking. We both felt that this difficult experience had a silver lining. It has made us stronger. For Kelsey, she learnt that believing in herself was something she had to learn to do, and she achieved this by keeping a positive attitude, putting her best foot forward and believing that you can do whatever you want to do in life if you put your mind to it.
Kelsey has proved that in spades, and recently shared this quote:
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of chaos, and sometimes in the middle of chaos, you find yourself”
I see this happening to Kelsey now. She is no stranger to making bold, brave decisions. In 2015 at the age of 23 Kelsey moved from her home town of London, Ontario, Canada, to Dubai. Not only was she cabin crew, she joined the crew promotions team, started her blog, and became involved in charity work. She chose not to highlight her charity work on social media:
“Over the years, I have sought to give back to a world that has given me so much. I have worked with various charities and non-profit organizations across the globe, such as the Maria Cristina Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Rumah Yatim in Jakarta, Indonesia.”
The Maria Cristina Foundation, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh,, arranges for essential supplies such as toiletries to get to children in areas of the world who need it the most. Kelsey would arrange these collections and personally deliver to the children while down route during her trips as a flight attendant, taking time to play with them, with the odd game of cricket thrown in too.
Kelsey didn’t begin her professional life as a flight attendant though. She gained a B.A. (Hons) degree in Political Science and Health Studies followed by a Postgraduate degree in Public Relations, which she put to good use as a public service policy writer, and PR manager.
But adventure was calling, as was her passion for aviation:
“I have always had a thirst for adventure. My strong desire to travel the world, along with my admiration for aviation, was heavily influenced by my grandfather; a Veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Becoming a flight attendant felt like the perfect fit, and it was.”
What did Kelsey love most about her time with Emirates?
“While travelling to 73 different countries I learned to step out of my comfort zone by immersing myself in different cultures. These experiences allowed me to meet new people, try new things and visit unique places, and generally see the world from different perspectives. It also inspired me to share my journey on social media, where I earned the title of #avgeek and built an online audience of over 82,000 people.”
What else did she love? The A380, of course, especially as a customer, ‘It’s a big aircraft to work on, so I always cherished the chance to enjoy it from the comfort of a passenger seat.”
The end of Kelsey’s journey with Emirates wasn’t only the end of a job, it was the end of an entire period in her life, marked starkly by the relocation back to Canada, a transition not to be underestimated.
But in true Kelsey style, she has seized the moment, grabbing the opportunity with both hands and a little dusting of serendipity too. At the top end of the age scale for Miss Universe Canada, Kelsey had resigned herself to the fact that she wouldn’t be back in Canada to take part. However due to Covid, the contest was delayed until August 2020, meaning Kelsey was able to apply and take part:
“I took to the Miss Universe Canada stage in an effort to use my strength, determination and platform of inclusivity to empower others. With only two months to prepare, I raised funds and volunteered for charity Feed It Forward, developed a supportive team of mentors and sponsors, and shared my message of love and acceptance with my community; finishing in the Top 10.”
What an achievement! Although some were less supportive, with a scattering of negative comments about the swimwear section of the contest. She shares her view that:
“There are so many misconceptions about these contests, but the truth is they are way more than skin deep. This year’s winner, Nova Stevens was responsible for co-organising the Black Lives Matter movement in Vancouver. What I loved about the entire contest was that I got to be the best version of myself, whether that was when wearing a bikini or doing charity work.”
I admire Kelsey for her brave and challenging views, and agree with her perspective.
What’s next for this and inspirational woman?
“I am hoping to enrol in the Canadian Armed Forces in early 2021. I am currently taking a number of courses to swat-up my maths in particular, ready for the entrance exams.”
Kelsey is also working as a freelancer in social media strategy, digital marketing, and copywriting.
I have a strong feeling that Kelsey has some big adventures ahead of her.
Kelsey recently shared a Linkedin post that is relevant to us all right now, and brings comfort:
Life may not always work out the way we plan, but everything will come together!”
Kelsey’s Quick Turnaround Questions
Favourite aircraft: I have love for the Airbus A380 because it’s the largest passenger plane ever built. It was also the first Emirates aircraft I ever flew on, and I’m fortunate enough to have operated on it too.
Favourite airport: I’m going to sound biased when I say Dubai International, but its architectural design is really cool, and I know where everything is that I need before a flight!
Favourite holiday destination: That’s hard! Every destination is beautiful in its own way, but I loved my trip to Cappadocia, Turkey and Cairo, Egypt the most. I would go back to either place in a heartbeat!
Where would you like to go that you have never been before?: Antarctica! I’ve researched it extensively, and hope to get there sometime soon. I think it would be amazing to have been to all seven continents!
Take-off or landing?: Landing! I love getting a bird’s eye view of the place I’m visiting.