With 1.1M Views On TikTok, This Fashion Queen Is Reshaping The Industry!
The fashion and beauty industry is changing again. Amid social platforms, movements and louder voices, the industry is listening. The $500 billion dollar fashion industry continues to grow rapidly with each emerging trend. New market reach and opening up to fresh target audiences that may have been ignored in the past has largely contributed to this massive growth. And, social media has everything to do with it. With the rise in popular Vloggers and Influencers from all around the world, the narrative on fashion is taking a new shape. With the likes of beautiful and empowering women like Kari Kemp, the fashion industry is waking up to their narrow views of curvy fashion and the missed business opportunities this audience brings.
I instantly knew we were destined to be friends from the moment I saw her. I mean, her bubbly personality alone was so magnetic I couldn't help but get to know her. Have you ever met someone and instantly knew you'd be friends? I've had the pleasure of having this happen to me a few times, which feels like a miracle of sorts, considering I've been told I have resting bitch face and appear to be extremely unapproachable. Kari didn't let my RBF stop her from introducing herself to me as we stood backstage at a fashion event. Kari was exploding with confidence, beauty and pride and she showed each one of us how living her best life can be accomplished at any age and at any size. Shaking the standards and rattling the boundaries, Kari continues to inspire us all on the runway, in print and at events.
Welcome to The JOLO Lifestyle Blog Kari. Let's start by tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me today. I grew up in a small town 30 minutes east of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan called Elstow – it was so small that I went to school (K-12) in a different small town. After graduation, I moved to the BIG CITY of Saskatoon where I met my now husband Scott. I took a year off to work as a waitress and then went to college and graduated with my Legal Admin Diploma. I then worked the corporate life for about 10 years – I’ve worked in Banking, IT (procurement) and Post Secondary Education. In my last year in Saskatoon, I began my modelling journey with a small agency (it’s now an event management company) called Infinity Management.
Through that journey, I saw my body was relatable! From people coming up to me after I did a runway thanking me for showing them what the items look like on their size bodies to people sending me messages thanking me for giving THEM confidence! I knew I had to follow my heart and move to Toronto to see where this all would lead me and here I am!
That's bravery in itself to move from a small town to a big city. Good for you. Now that you're here in Toronto, what does your typical day look like?
I typically wake up, work out (my workouts are different from day to day, but I’m in there for 45mins-1hour), shower/get ready, post on social media and respond to any messages/comments, work on emails (pitching/answering brands, etc.), shoot content for social media, research, etc. My husband also owns an HVAC company so I do his books, payroll, etc. to help keep him organized! Day to day it’s pretty “boring”, but I’m always working on different projects and with different brands so it doesn’t feel like the same thing every day, you know?
Oh yes, I completely know! I'm wearing 58,764 hats a day so my day never feels boring at all! Between my published books, my blogs, creating content for my courses and workshops, as well as being a wife and raising 3 kids, my day is never boring...and that's only the half of it. Sometimes it feels like social media and all of it's hearts, likes, shares, DM's and pitches can be a full time job in itself. Business (and social) aside, what is your personal mission statement?
Live your life to the fullest – do what you love, go where you love and have no regrets!
I have to completely agree with this. In fact, I post about this very thing on Instagram often. It took me a long time to learn it, but late is better than never. I try to use all my platforms as a voice for motivation. Since writing and publishing my latest book Femme Fabulous, I've been flooded with positive feedback and wonderful opportunities to collaborate with other strong women looking to raise empowerment to a whole new level. Teaming up with other like minded people is one of the ways I keep motivation circulating in my everyday life. What keeps you motivated?
My audience! The more people I meet, whether it’s in person or online, the more I know how important it is to show how important it is to live a healthy and positive life! Today’s day is filled with so many negative events, and yes, not every day needs to be sunshine and rainbows, but I am firm believer in everything happens for a reason – being a Christian woman, I know that God has a plan for each and every one of us and we will grow through what we go through! I do not focus on the past or allow fear to stop me from living my best life – I live in the here and now and cherish today as tomorrow is never a guarantee anyways!
We’ve been friends for a little over a year now. In fact, I first met you backstage at the International Fashion Encounter when we modelled for the Joan Kelley Walker SS19 Fashion show and we hit it off instantly. You are a natural fashion diva. I just adore your empowering energy...and your sass! But with all that greatness, there is always some haters. Recently you had the misfortune of dealing with hate on the TTC. On February 28th 2020, you spoke about this fat shaming incident on your Instagram page (watch it here), can you tell us how you handle these types of situations?
Honestly that was the first time I’ve ever truly felt helpless. Typically, with haters online, I block them. If they are a long-time follower, I may message them privately and let them know what they said has been deleted and it will not be tolerated on my page. In person, depending on the situation, I will call it out. It’s not uncommon for me to hear "you’re fat" or "lose some weight" – where I typically add a spin to it and say "you say it likes it bad thing" or "no thank you" with a smile and keep walking. I rarely will give them the aggression that they’re looking for. On the TTC that night, that man was obviously very upset and mentally not in the right frame of mind… I knew that had I said anything, things would’ve escalated fast and potentially got physical – which I believe being physical is never the answer! So I just sat there and pretended like I didn’t hear what he was saying and prayed that he didn’t get physical. I had 911 dialed just in case he stepped any closer than he was.
That's a scary situation to be in and my heart was pouring out to you that night when I watched your InstaStories. I'm not sure exactly when you changed the wording on your Instagram Bio section but I'm really hoping this incident had nothing to do with it. You had “plus size model” listed in your bio and have recently removed that label. Why would you take that down? Did it have anything to do with your recent TTC experience?
I changed my bio as I just didn’t like the format as it looked like everyone else’s and I am not like everyone else… I’m more than just a model and I want to capture that in my bio – there was nothing specific that happened to cause me to take it out – I actually added the "model" part to my name so that when they search me they will just see "model" – if they click on my picture they will notice I am a visible plus-size/curve model.
I’m still working on the bio part – I’ve changed in three times in the past couple weeks!
I completely get that. I change mine often too. It helps keep things fresh and new. How long have you been a model for?
In Toronto, it was just two years, but in total it’s going on four!
Do you do anything else outside of modelling?
Work wise – I do a bunch of odd jobs: I do my husband’s companies’ books, I’ve helped stores I’ve worked for (like Your Big Sister’s Closet) as retail help, I’m a temp at a staffing agency and have worked odd admin jobs through them, I’ve helped people with social media, etc. I’m kind of all over the map when it comes to work!
For fun – I love to travel – my husband and I try to do three vacations per year – most recently we went to St. Maarten for a week! I love sports – we watch: Roughriders, Seahawks, Raptors and Flames and I play: volleyball and badminton. I used to be good at basketball but haven’t played in about 10 years! I love spending time with friends – I prefer hosting or going to someone’s house for gatherings – because I like to travel so much and am a huge budget freak, I’d rather not go out and spend the money at a bar!
I’m pretty easy going and am open to trying anything as long as it’s FUN.
We already touched a bit on social media but girl...... let's talk about your social media some more!! First I want to congratulate you on hitting 1.1M views on TicTok!
(Watch the famous video here). I mean, whhaaaaat???? You get it girl! Move over Shakira, we’ve got a new hip shaking Queen in town!
But, that‘s not the only platform you are crushing these days. Your Instagram page has over 62,000 followers And continues to climb. If my readers could see my eyes right now, they would know that they are beaming with pride for you. I know how difficult it is to gain followers organically. I also know that climbing the social platform status can also come with just as much hate as there is love. But first, who were you before you became Kari Kemp with over a million views and 62K+ social followers?
I feel like I was the same person as I am now. I feel I am able to be ME on just a bigger scale now and have a louder voice to stand up to ignorance as I have the support and love from everyone who follows me. One thing I can say is having that audience allows me to see people who are "social climbers" as I have been ignored until they realize my social media following and then all of the sudden I’m their best friend! – I find it so funny when this happens as it’s something I never forget! "You won’t remember what I said, you’ll remember how I made you feel."
Okay, so I know there are many methods in gaining followers, likes and increasing engagement but sometimes it feels like the process can take a lifetime. Remember follow for follow? It's not a trendy thing to do anymore btw but, sometimes all it takes is a post that hits it viral. How long did it take you to grow your following?
Two years ago I started in the Toronto industry with 753 followers – don’t ask me how I remember that number because I don’t remember what colour my underwear was yesterday, but I do. Last January I had 10,000 and throughout the year magic happened and I have grown about 50,000 since then!
What was the one post that blew your social game up?
I haven’t had "one post blow up", the most likes I’ve had on a single picture was 10.3K back in May of 2019. I think that my social game increased from my consistency, relatability and honesty with my audience. Being an extroverted extrovert, I am just being me and feel like people just like me for me, you know. It’s so hard to explain but it’s the best I can give!
I couldn't find the May post you were speaking about but, I did find a post that has 10.4K views from February. Check it out here. While trolling your Gram, I also noticed you have 337 posts with your earliest post being 2017. Do you delete old post to keep the Gram fresh?
Yes, I’m a post deleter! LOL – The reasoning is because I do post once per day (except on Sundays – unless special circumstance presents itself) – and sometimes I am forced to post something, just to post (as I don’t have the content created for that day), so I will typically go and delete it. Also, to be honest, if a post doesn’t receive as much interaction as I’d like, I’ll delete that too – it doesn’t happen very often, but ultimately it effects my engagement rate so when it could effect brand partnerships (they look at engagement rates), that when it’s gotta go!
Arizona Zervas sings the lyrics “All for the ‘Gram, Bitches love the ‘Gram,” at the beginning of his hit song Roxanne. I’m not sure how accurate that quote is but I know people love you on the ‘Gram. You have a massive following and it continues to grow each day. Can you give us a few tips and methods to help grow an audience on social?
This is a question I get all the time – having your profile as public is number one! Then it’s daily posts (not just selfies; relatable content for your audience) with using hashtags for whatever your posting (googling hashtags works wonders if you can’t think of any off the bat) – the hashtags can be in the comments.
Interact with your audience – show them you appreciate them, connect with other people by commenting on their stuff, sharing someone’s post in your stories (tagging them so they can re-share your share – this still gets your name in front of their audience (trust me, I see how many people will click on the profile of the person who I re shared their story – it works)), networking events – any that I personally support I will share in my stories, etc.
You can also buy sponsored space on Instagram where you pay for Instagram to put you in front of your target audience (I’ve never personally done this so I’m not sure how effective it is for retaining that audience). Do more than "just Instagram" – it’s something I wish I would’ve learned much sooner as I realized Instagram is not as profitable as a lot of people make it look!
Let’s get back to fashion for a moment! It’s one of my favourite topics of all time. Who’s your favourite designer and why?
Right now, I absolutely love Hilary MacMillan and Lesley Hampton!
Hilary MacMillan as she is Canadian, has extended her sizing, has a statement that clear and is just the sweetest person on the planet!
Lesley Hampton as she is an Indigenous Canadian who represents the Indigenous culture loud and clear! She has extended sizing and is simply one of the most humble people I’ve met!
Okay, now I want you to dish! I know you have a whole ton to share but I also know you're going to keep it modest. Who are some of the brands you’ve worked for?
Torrid, Fashion Nova, Walmart (JKW), SportChek and Mac Duggal, to name a few.
I'm pretty sure I saw a wink in your eye when you answered that. I'm super stoked (does anyone even use that word anymore?) about your campaign with a famous Kardashian. You’ve done work for SportChek x Good American and worked with the famous Khloe Kardashian. Tell us more about this exciting collaboration.
I was excited to have been invited by SportChek to help launch the Good American fitness line into their Canadian stores! The fact that Good American is female owned and operated (Emma Grede and Khloe Kardashian) and that SportChek was having a fitness event and included all sized bodies was truly an honour and privilege to attend!
That would be in my Hall of Fame of accomplishments for sure. Part of branding is showing your accomplishments. Branding is all about your name, your logo, the colours you use, your voice, your message and your imagery. How was it building your new brand?
I didn't see it as building a "brand" – I saw it as being me and being relatable to women, inspiring them to go out and live their BEST life! I think that’s why I have such a hard time explaining "why me" because I honestly don’t know! I’m just living my life and having so much fun doing so!
What advice would you give young girls starting in this industry?
Gosh… this is tough! First off, ask yourself why? Is it for fame/money – if so, don’t even begin! You’ll work your ass off and realize you’ve put in more time and energy than what you’re going to receive back for at least the first few years!
This “business” “looks” easy and fun, it’s a lot of energy and sacrifice!
Do your research! Understand this industry takes investment – much like going to college, you need to invest time and money (on shoots, clothes, makeup, etc.) to even get your foot in the door and even then it’s not a guarantee!
Real talk: Don’t trust what you see on social media – a lot of people aren’t making the amount of money you think they are! Unless they have a mega YouTube channel, blog site or have been on some sort of reality TV (Big Brother, etc.), they are not as financially stable as they may portray! (This is something that I was shocked to find out and I only figured it out about a year ago!)
You talk about your looks not being an integral part to how you stand out. I love this so much. Too often we are critiqued on our looks first and our personality second. I love how you are breaking all the barriers and stigma of what fashion and beauty represents, both professionally and personally. Can you tell me how you handle comments of envy or competition?
I firmly tell them that it’s not a competition and remind them that they are beautiful and unique in their own way. I am constantly lifting others up around me, even people who are in the same industry as me, and I think this is why I stand out. For example, if I am at an event with Kaity (kmw_plus) and I don’t feel that she is (for lack of better terms) bragging about herself enough – because she’s flippin awesome – I will brag FOR her.
I feel it so easy to forget why we, ourselves, are awesome, but it’s so easy to see why other people are awesome! So if I can help someone out by saying WHY they are awesome, I’ve done my job right!
As for me and understanding why I’m awesome is because I listen to what others say about me. Instead of saying "stoooppp" or "ya right", I’ll listen and take it in as they see things that I will miss – because I’m me and it’s hard to self reflect when it’s a natural quality.
My big obstacle is fear. She’s a total nag with a super loud megaphone. It’s hard to silence her sometimes. I think at some level we all experience this feeling. How do you conquer fear when trying something new?
I have seen what happens when I have pushed myself past that fear and the outcome so I just don’t allow it to stop me. Sure I still feel it, but it won’t stop me from being me. I know that I’m not going to please everyone and so I know by me being me that people want to be around me for me and those who don’t like me for me, I’m at peace with as I can’t change ME! – that’s a lot of ME in there! LOL
I love how we can write "lol" to represent someone laughing. When people meet you in person, they get the pleasure of your contagious laugh. It's one of the main reasons I love watching your social stories. You are usually upbeat and I can always count on a good giggle with you. It's inspiring to me and sets my mood in the right direction. Over the years, I've leaned to find inspiration in every corner of the universe. Watching others be happy, smiling and laughing is one of my favouite methods of inspiration. It instantly transforms my mood. I remember when I finished writing my second fictional novel Protect Me Not, I was in such a dark mood. This book is thriller based and has a lot of adult content that deals with abuse; both physical and mental. I had to research mental illness and try to understand the root of the illness. I also spend countless hours learning about psychotherapy and how to make this type of therapy relevant to my protagonist. There was countless months I allowed my imagination to dive deep into what narcissist behaviour would look like, feel like and I even allowed myself to dissect the traits in order to create believable characters. After finishing the book, I immediately dove into all things inspiring in order to lift me back out of the dark hole I felt I was in. The life of an Author can be daunting! Needless to say, inspiration became my main focus to propel me back to the great posibilities life has to offer. It's also the main reason why I wrote Lush & Luxe; Powered by Positivity so quickly. Is there anything that is inspiring you right now?
My audience – they inspire me every day. Something as simple as me talking to them and reminding them of how incredibly gorgeous they are is so powerful!
Who inspires you right now?
Sarah (thebirdspayaya) – she is just a beautiful human who I met at the SportChek x Good American event!
I feel like I have to explain this one because she now has over 1M followers and I feel like people are like "Oh, you just like her because she’s popular" - to be honest, when I first met her, I didn’t know who she was, but we bonded over her earrings (she got them from Uncommon James – Kristin Cavallari (an actress on the Hills) owns the boutique in Nashville and I was just there in August and the event was in September). That day I went home and was bummed that I didn’t get her social media handle; however, she sent me a message on Instagram and when I clicked on her profile I was SHOCKED by how many followers she had because she was SO NICE! I know that sounds so weird to say, but ironically that very same day, there was another person there who I had actually followed for quite some time and had you asked me who inspired me then I would’ve used their name (I’m not going to say any names), that didn’t make me feel like I "belonged" in the "community" – although it may not have been their intent, I can’t help the way they made me feel in that moment.
Oh girlfriend, we will need to discuss this further at a later date. I feel like that convo needs a good glass of wine! What's the biggest obstacle you feel like you had to overcome or are still trying to overcome?
The biggest obstacle is money – there is always someone out there who will do less (or for free items) so no one pays and unfortunately as my landlord doesn’t take free clothes as a form of payment!
I struggle to be taken seriously as a Model – companies won’t hire me because I’m not with an agency and agencies won’t take a chance on me as I’m "too short" and have a visible belly outline (most plus size/curve models don’t have this).
As an Influencer, I struggle to get partnerships with brands as I’m Canadian. Not only is shipping to Canada more (import fees), but a lot of companies have enough American Influencer's with enough of the market that they don’t "need" to use us.
I totally relate to that. But, let me tell you, I have an Agent and the struggle is still real. The competition is fierce and that perfect "fit" for a role is not always what you may think it is. Casting directors have very specific demands for what they are looking for. Not tall enough, not fit enough, not enough experience, hair's too long, hair's too short, nose is too big, eyes are wrong colour and the list goes on. Plus, I'm closer to 50 than I am to 40 so my demand is getting smaller. Yup, we really need a bonding sesh soon!! What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your modelling career to date?
It’s not as easy as everyone makes it look! I literally cannot stress this enough – it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Is it worth it, in my opinion yes, but it’s not going to be for everyone! It looks glamourous and amazing, but it’s a lot of work!
Aside from your continuous work on inspiring and teaching others that the size of their body has nothing to do with beauty, abilities or happiness, what other blessings are you working on right now?
I just am trying to be the best wife, daughter and friend I can be! I want to empower women to empower each other and lift each other up! It’s amazing what we can do if we all just worked together – trust me, there’s enough work for us all!
Thank you sooooo much for being such a great influence to others and an amazing friend to me. There really is something magical when women can unite and lift one another up.
How can others connect with you through social platforms?
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