Leading Lily: Kaelyn McIver

“Always stand on your own two feet. My father told me when I was younger, ‘you can’t rely on anyone but yourself.’ And at the end of the day, when you have absolutely nothing left, you will always have your mind, education and your health.”

We were looking for an element of diversity to add the Fort Lily lookbook model team, and Kaelyn, or "McIver" as she is so aptly known by the other teachers at Ashley Elementary, fit the bill just perfectly. We all watched anxiously as the Morgan (our MUA) transformed McIver's soulful down-to-earth vibes into our glamorous lookbook model; but honestly, I believe she is much more personable and stunning this way.

The traveler at heart sat with us briefly after the long shoot day to give us seasoned insight into her life, her fierce independence, some advice on personal balance how she lets her inner explorer loose! Read on:

What, if anything, is keeping you from being who you believe is your true self? Nothing really. I think sometimes the norms of society impede how I’d like my life to run but there are things that I don't have the power to change. And I figure there are always norms to any society. If I have to conform with them, like, 10% of the time, that's really not horrible.

Name the last song you heard?Just One More Day” x Otis Redding

What do you do? Is there anything else you'd rather be doing?
Teacher by day, bartender by night. I really do love both of my professions. Though I am continuously frustrated by the demise of the public education system, and especially here in North Carolina, I still love to teach. I love connecting with the students and the community. I love getting creative and goofy with my kids, and that feeling you get when a student has a rare and genuine "aha moment;" or when they overcome a challenging problem and are very proud of themselves, that feeling you get is like nothing else.

In the evening on weekends, I bartend at a local craft brewery. I love geeking out over the beer brewing process and talking to the brewers about the different hop varieties they chose for a particular brew. However, if I could figure out how, I would travel. All day, every day. I love exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. But that is one of what I call "the little perks of teaching." We are ten-month employees, so I try to take advantage of those two months in the summer or taking off on some sort of adventure at least every other year. Two summers ago, I drove cross country with my best friend, Jesse. We covered 8700 miles in 23 days and explored 9 different national parks. Plus we were able to visit friends that live in a variety of cities around the country and explore those more metropolitan areas. It was an absolutely amazing experience.

What was the most influential thing to have happened to you?
I think watching my father work so hard, but then still find time for himself. I grew up with him surfing up and down the NC coast and it was always understood that that was his alone time. And then he would save up and travel to Costa Rica every couple of years and adventure for about three weeks. It was his time. His adventure. His three weeks to escape the daily grind, reunite his soul with nature off somewhere in the jungles Costa Rica and really enjoy his time surfing some of the best waves he could find. I think it directly relates to who I am and how I live my life today.

What's the most valuable lesson you've learned, and are you still applying that lesson to your life now?
To always stand on your own two feet. My father told me when I was younger, ‘you can't rely on anyone but yourself.’ And at the end of the day, when you have absolutely nothing left, you will always have your mind, education and your health. So you need to make sure that you always work on those. And it's definitely something I have applied to my daily lifestyle. I'm extremely independent which does sometimes backfire on me. But I also do a lot to keep my body physically healthy and my mind current and calm. I'm currently training for a half marathon at the end of February and practice yoga pretty much daily. I have a lot of interests that I continuously read about. They range from backpacking to education to the occasional random science journal article about a brain study. I find learning about things that you are already interested in really enjoyable.

What is your connection to Fort Lily, and how do you perceive the brand?
I discovered Fort Lily through my friend and colleague, Aria Johnson. And after reading more about it, I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of such a righteous creative endeavor that empowers the collaboration of unique views. In this day and age, it is so common to be competitive in everything you do, especially from the standpoint of a strong woman. You are always feeling the need to prove yourself to society; so to find someone who is promoting the idea that collaboration leads to empowerment and binds like-minded strong independent women together is beyond refreshing.