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After Touring For 20 Years, Kelis Bought A Farm To Own Her Story

"It kind of restores you to get back out there and do more."

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Some dream about a mansion with marble floors and columns to match. Some dream about a penthouse with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city skyline. Some hope for a luxurious villa retreat in a faraway land. But for me and my house, it's bountiful green acres and chickens and cattle. And apparently, singer turned chef Kelis agrees. But for her, it's not just a dream, it's the life she gets to wake up to as the owner of her very own 24-acre farm.


Kelis recently took Harper's Bazaar on a home tour of her Temecula, California farm and once again proved why she is the living breathing rendition of her ancestors' wildest dreams. In her waking life, her farm is a reality that feeds her just as much as she feeds it.

"It's peaceful. I think for me one of the biggest things was that I have been on tour for the past like 20 years and it felt like, I'm in a big city every second of the day, and it I just felt like when I come home, I don't want to come home to the same bustle and kind of same thing.
"...being able to just have ground to walk that's mine and to be able to be outside. And, I think it's just super important to, I don't know, like get your hands dirty, your feet dirty, and just kinda really absorb all of it. On your off time, especially because it kind of restores you to get back out there and do more."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

As accomplished as the 41-year-old has been in the music industry, Kelis has shown that there is power in the pivot by reinventing herself in ways that spoke to her most. Her most prominent shift professionally came in 2006 when she first got her feet wet in the culinary world as a part-time saucier before graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. Since then, the "Milkshake" artist has released cookbooks, a sauce line, and has even taken part in cooking series.

Through her journey as a chef, Kelis has been able to see the true power of food and understand that it is a power that can be regained.

"It's pretty crazy to be in major cities and still have food deserts and the fact that like, you know there is still so much poverty and there's still so little when we know that there is actually so much. And that was one of the big, really large driving forces for us I think. Not just as a chef but as a mom, as, you know, a black woman. Like really wanting to control our story.
"And so for me, it was really about finding ways to kind of regain the power, right? Take back our power and be able to grow what we want to eat, the way that we want to eat it. Hopefully, as we get our farming together, be able to share more of what we're learning and what we're growing with others and not just family. But that's the idea."

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

And now, sis has a barn (that she mentions is the last thing she has to renovate), a turkey named Bob Marley, chicken, goats ducks, cows, sheep, and a budding garden on 24-acres to show for it.

Perhaps, the most impressive feature is the olive trees she grows from which she and her family press into their own olive oil that she coined as "Liquid Gold." In addition to a lot of the fresh offerings from her farm, she sells her cold pressed unfiltered olive oil too underneath the umbrella Bounty & Full. (You can find that here.)

Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

During the pandemic, Kelis noted that her ideas for Bounty & Full expanded even more as she was able to spend time on the farm and figure out what was next. And though it took the form of Gold Mine boxes that consisted of everything from food and sauces to healthcare and beauty, Kelis notes that everything she is doing connects to a bigger purpose.

"I would love to open a farm to table restaurant. But really, my real goal is to do sort of a retreat. To do like a restaurant retreat where you can stay and just rejuvenate and eat and learn and just relax."

R&R plus intentional living sounds like the move.

May we all aspire.

Featured image via Harper's Bazaar/YouTube

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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