Pushing yourself out of comfort and into the danger zone requires planning and a good measure of strength, but finding your community going in might just make things easier for you. A community can help bring you through so many things; it all depends on what you need. Kelly Bennett is the former Creative Director and co-founder of VegeNation, a community-based restaurant serving 100% plant-based food. Together with Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen, Kelly explores the concept of finding and eventually choosing the community from which you draw the strength and inspiration to do the things you want to do. Stepping outside your comfort zone is a powerful first step, but it also gets lonely. Find your community today!
Listen to the podcast here:
Out Of Comfort, Into A Community With Kelly Bennett
Kelly, I have an important question. Where’s the sloth?
What do you mean? Is there an actual sloth? Please tell me there is an actual sloth.
There is a sloth. He lives in his own tiny house.
Could I meet him?
You could look through the window.
No. What do you mean?
He has his caretakers that go in because he has his own chill life.
You could hug sloths if the caretakers were here?
Yes, if the caretakers were here, but you could look at him.
The caretaker isn’t here, is what you’re trying to say.
They’re not here.
Would they be here before I leave?
You do realize you opened a can of worms by starting that way because I can’t believe you told me that.
I wanted to do a couple of things. Set the tone for the energy of this show because, Kelly, you are one of the most creative eclectic human beings that we both know. I don’t know how you define yourself. It’s such an interesting time on planet earth where we’re examining the meaning and the depth of the terms that we use to describe not only who we are but what we do for a living artistically. The best way I could probably describe you would be a creative chameleon.
I like that.
I don’t know if that resonates but when I think of you, this person who is dynamic, free and fluid. For the years that I’ve known you, you’ve done so many different things and you have such a wealth of knowledge and experience. When I think of you, I think about this amazing rainbow-colored lizard. You do much and you’ve done so much. You continue to do so much. I felt that starting with the exploration of your damascenes here at the property was a good way to open it up.
I’ll go into where I live. It’s a unique situation and I feel grateful to be here because it’s something I’ve never experienced before and probably never experience again. I feel that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’m experiencing. It’s been a good practice of being present because where will this happen again?
For the readers, if you could give, as much as you want to go into, of the environment that you live in, it is incredibly unique, diverse and the energy is electric to me. Talk a little about that and what drew you here. Also, how does this environment reflect your inner life? This is your outer life, where you live, but when I’m here, “It feels like Kelly.” How does that reflect your inner life?
Ferguson’s Downtown is a city block rooted in community. We’re at a tiny house that’s under an umbrella of our gather house. We hang out in tiny houses and Airstreams.
Jason and I love it. It is a big deal to us because Jason is obsessed with tiny houses and I’m obsessed with Airstreams and any type of trailer and livings. There’s a llama and I find out there’s a sloth here. It’s vegan and eco-friendly.
It’s not totally vegan but it is vegan-friendly. Ashley and I are vegan. She’s vegetarian but they always have vegan options for us and all of our events have vegan options.Always lead with what you can share to someone or to a group of people. Click To Tweet
What I’m saying is, if we moved in we’d be even more vegan-friendly and we would start to shift.
One of my neighbors is super cool. He’s into making vegan stuff, so he’s always looking for new vegan products, cheeses, eggs, and meats. It’s cool that he’s supportive of it so there’s always something new and vegan coming in the mail which is cool.
What’s it like being here being a creative dynamo in this community in Las Vegas? What do this experience as an artist, entrepreneur and creative being plugged into this community?
It reminds me of New York back in the day in Brooklyn. We’re in Downtown Las Vegas and there’s already an established community here which is incredible. Part of the growth of Downtown Las Vegas was Zappos moving headquarters. That was years ago and the CEO of Zappos, Tony, created an investment group, The Downtown Project, and invested $350 million in our Downtown area. $50 million of that was for the small businesses. VegeNation was the first big project that I worked on and I’m grateful to be a partner of and help build that. That is a community-based vegan restaurant. We opened that restaurant a few years ago in Downtown. We got the investment from The Downtown Project. Chef Donald is the founder. He pitched the idea and got funded. I moved back to New York City, where I was living on an urban farm.
We hang out with Kelly in New York City. When you and I were dating, we hang out. You were working on an online course. We were with Mike and Ari too.
Where were we at?
We went to the Beyond Sushi place. What year was this?
That was 2013.
You lived in Astoria.
I used to live in Queens in Astoria.
You lived a few steps down from me.
I did. I lived in the Ditmar stop.
It was not at the same time.
I left New York in ‘06.
Apparently, I have a thing for the creative, weird, cool living community. I was living there and Chef called me, I got the money, I moved back. I’ve been in Downtown for the last few years. I haven’t left this block because I’m working so much, which is awesome. Through that, I met my friend, Jen Taler, who is the Cofounder of Fergusons Downtown, and we stayed good friends. She’s like, “I’m starting this project. I want you to come, hang and see what we’re doing.” They invited me to Winter Camp where people were invited to stay for the winter and host gatherings, get to know people and see if it’s a good fit overall or have a cool experience overall for the winter.
She invited me to Winter Camp and I was going through a weird time in my life, which is a whole other story and I was like, “Yes, I would love to go to Winter Camp, please.” She like, “Come,” and I never left. I’m like, “Do you mind if I stay? I like it here. It’s weird and I’m into it.” She’s like, “Yes.” I started curating and she started marketing the Alley which has over 70 local makers, artists, curators in our Alley. I started curating that with my friend Ashley. We started building this relationship. I’m working on this project full-time. We have residential than we have hotel units. We are revitalizing the old motel from the ‘40s into maker spaces, restaurants, artists, studios, and we have a skate park. We have an alley that we activate different events and we have a food park. We’re going to be moving next door to the next project.
I feel that this is all such a great transition into one of the big things that we wanted to talk with you about, which is this notion that a lot of people have about Vegas being not a healthy city and not eco-friendly. When people hear that I enjoy coming to Vegas, which I do love, every time I come to Vegas, I feel that it’s getting better and better. People are perplexed when I tell them this. They don’t know about vegan food options. There are juice bars and they don’t know that there’s this whole eco-friendly conscious community here. I’d love for you to talk about that. For me, I feel that you’ve been so involved with that, Kelly. That’s such a huge passion of yours. You and I met years ago. When I started the Eco-Vegan Gala in 2008 I was big on Twitter, blogging, and YouTube. You and I came across it through your work with Vegan Consultant. We met when I was living in San Francisco at an Earth Day Event. We hit it off and now fast forward.
You bought me to the first Cinnaholic.
I was thinking about that. This is OG vegan talk. It’s cool for me to see what you have done. I’ve always been drawn to you because you’re an eco-vegan like I am. I love that you have helped raise the eco-veganness of Vegas in so many ways. I’d love for you to share with people what’s going on here.
I have to say that there’s a rally of people who are into this. They inspire me. My friend Ashley, who lives here is going to be leading the charge on sustainability. The goal that we’re working through is making this the most sustainable venue space. She’s leading the charge on that. I learned from her every day. I would say, Vegans Baby, Diana Edelman. She’s been doing so much of adding vegan options to the city and chefs are being open to making vegan options. For me, I always want it to make it feel cool, social, approachable, and convenient. Those are always my ethos of, “If I can check off these boxes, we can make it normal.” Through the restaurant, I was able to test those theses. If we do social events that are not even about veganism, but different topics that would be relevant to people who could have some crossover of interests. Environmental people or political activists, people who are artists and musicians.
Maybe they would want to be plant-based or eat more vegan to help them perform it, whatever it is. I’m always finding anything that could help connect those dots. It’s amazing of so many people could rally around it and maybe they don’t do it every day, but making it feel cool to do it once a week or get started. As far as environmentalism, eco, and sustainability, it’s still growing here that we have a lot of work to do. I would say overall, people are super open-minded and they’re willing to learn and willing to sit down and listen to the Why which I’ve never seen before as so open-minded.
You’re saying that about the people that live here. People think of Vegas as a place that you go to visit, not the place that you live in. There’s a whole other side of Vegas of people that live here. I’m fascinated by that too because I know a few people that live in Vegas. It’s so interesting to me the difference between visiting somewhere versus living somewhere, in my head at least. I would think a lot of people think this way. It seems like it’s a tourist destination, not a residence. You see Vegas in a whole different way plus the fact that you live in this area that is this hot. It’s 110 degrees.
It’s a little hot in the summer. I’m like, “We shouldn’t be here. We’ve got to go.” I love what we’re creating and even though I’m hot, I cool down. Living in an Airstream in the summer is a whole other new experience. This is my second summer in the Airstream. My computer was heating up and I was in my house blasting under the AC and I was like, “This is hot.” When I sweat a little bit. I’m like, “I’m detoxing.” I go with it.
It reminds you to be good to the environment because there are a few cities that get that hot. If we’re not careful over time, most cities will be that hot all the time. That’s pretty scary.
I want to jump into something that’s a little more overarching because, Kelly, the whole time I’ve known you, you’ve been such an incredible voice for not only veganism, animal rights, eco-activism, creativity, art, catalyze and community here. Also, women’s rights, Native American rights, and LGBTQ. You are so passionate. Your heart is in so many different things and you’ve been a voice. Even when it’s uncomfortable to speak out, I’ve noticed that you have been at the forefront, whether it’s on social media, in person, or the events you organize. You’ve been willing to speak your truth, speak from your heart and I’m curious in leaning into that discomfort and using your voice and platform to speak out and raise awareness about these things. What’s your why? What is the overarching or underlying fuel or motivation inside of you that you feel compelled to speak out and speak your truth on all of these subjects? What’s deep inside that motivates you to do that?
First, I would say that I have the privilege to do so and recognizing and owning that and saying, “I do have this privilege with my voice with how I present and how easily flow through the world in most spaces. I need to leverage that and get into spaces where maybe some people can’t or don’t have their voices being heard yet and make sure that they are being spoken about. More importantly, being bought to the table too. I was inspired when I lived in China from 2007 to 2008. We had a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Chengdu, China. I was safe. I lived in the basin, but on the outsides of the mountain, 100,000 people died. A lot of kids and a lot of hospitals collapse. We were a safe haven for all the people who escaped and live.
Millions of people lived on our sidewalks and having that reality check of, “I felt the earthquake.” I ran and our power lines were down. We didn’t know if we were going to have food and water. I couldn’t get in touch with my parents for weeks, but I was able to call my mom. I had five minutes left on a calling card before they shut down all the phone lines. I called her quick, “Mom, I was in an earthquake. I’m sure it won’t make the news because it’s here.” Long story short, I had to live under a kitchen table for a while with twenty different kids in a studio apartment. After that, I was like, “Life is precious and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
I remember that day I was eating lunch with my friends. One of my friends was off to go to Shanghai and we were idly chatting. Pieces of buildings were coming down, people were screaming down the street. We didn’t know if we’re going to live or die. All the Chinese I ever learned flew out of my head because when you’re in such a panic, you freeze and you don’t remember stuff. It was soul-wrenching and with everything I had, I’ve never been that present and inexperienced. All my friends got separated and I only have one other friend who froze. I couldn’t talk anymore. It was intense. I was an atheist before that because I thought I was cool, like, “I don’t believe in anything only myself.” I was on this thing and I prayed to everybody.
I’m like, “Baby Jesus, Buddha, God, I don’t care. If anyone’s listening, I’m going to get a lot of trouble from my mom and dad who didn’t want me to go on this trip. I can’t die right now. This will be bad. My parents will be super mad at me.” I remember sitting by a rock and I prayed to everyone and everything I could think of. I was like, “I swear to God, if I live my friends live, I will dedicate every single day, the rest of my life to doing good in the world. I’ll figure it out. You don’t have to give me much. Let me live. Let me use my voice for good. I promise I’ll speak up for people, animals, anyone that’s being oppressed and anything that I can lend a voice to or shed a light on, I promise I’ll do.” That was in 2008. Honestly, every day I have this feeling of, “I’m alive. We lived. What can I do?” That’s at the heart of why?
I’m taking in the totality of this story because you described it in such a visceral and emotional way. What comes to my mind as you shared that is how a disaster, death, tragedy or these pivotal moments can not only awaken us to something that might be more real or important to us but how it seems like people band together. Sometimes, I’m not saying in every case, but that people catalyze together to human to human, in these moments of tragedy, disaster or things that you experienced in China. It’s interesting that in these types of moments, it seems that humanity catalyzes together to support one another or band together to help rebuild and support one another.
I’m always curious, this is more of an observation and a question of why we have these moments of, “Human, I love you, let me help you.” When disasters not happening, it seems that there’s this stratification we reset back to. In those moments, we don’t think necessarily in some cases about race, creed, color, sexuality that it’s, “I want to help my fellow human.” We have this weird selective amnesia. It’s like, “Back to normal.” Why do you think that is in terms of our human programming or condition?
In those experiences, you realize that you need each other to survive. It’s a survival thing that we get primal because we’re shaken to our core and we’re like, “We do need each other to survive,” but when you’re not looking at surviving, people separate and think about themselves may be moving forward and themselves individually. We live in an individualistic society here in the States. Where in China, they’re more communal and social. They think about the whole family, which I loved. I have to say, when I was in China, people were in situations where their family was maybe on the other side of the mountain or they didn’t know where their family was and they were checking up on me, which I was blown away by. That open my eyes.
The amount of generosity and love that people had for us being foreigners was heart-opening. I’ll always pay that back. That’s something I’m mindful of too because I’ve experienced it. I want to make sure that when speaking of things going on, say out of borders or something like that. We’re all human, if we can lend a hand, a voice or take some small action to help someone live better, of course. I lived in New York, so I’m from New York. I was in New York for 9/11. I was on Long Island for that, which thankfully we were all safe.
That was after the earthquake?
No. 9/11 was before. A lot of people were affected by 9/11. The sky was black and everyone was rallying supplies and food. That was my first experience of people rallying together. Everyone had candles lit, had flags out, everything shut down and everyone came together. That always struck me too, “Why can’t we do this together when it’s good times?” That’s always stuck with me and that’s maybe why I enjoy community living because it’s in the good times and in the hard times we all live together and look out for each other. I lived in London and the bus I rode to work every day was bombed the year after I was there. The bus line and the time I would have been on the bus, when I lived in China with that earthquake.
You were narrowly escaping all of those tragedies.
I told my friends that sometimes like, “We’re not hanging out with you anymore. How many chances do you have?”
You’re looking at your astrological charts.
Also, there was the shooting in Vegas.
That was horrific.
You were here for that too.
I was down the street from that. That was horrific. I’m seeing people band together. My big thing, especially Vegas because there was never anything like that here before and seeing how everyone came together. What I will say, it’s been beautiful. I’ve seen that continuation of people coming together. It’s not only in tragedy. It’s a new city of a lot more people coming and moving here. The more that we’ve been creating community events, speaking on Fergusons or even VegeNation being a community-based restaurant, that’s why I poised and position it in that way because people were craving that. This has been a cool experience of seeing people come together in good times and wanting to build stuff together.
The question that came up for me in all of these outreach programs that you do, events you’ve created, and all the activism that you do. Have you ever had a response from someone where they were, you mentioned privilege before, “You don’t understand. I see you reaching out, using your voice, doing this. You don’t understand what my life is like.” You’re saying, “Totally, yes, that’s happened.” How do you respond to that type of reaction?
I always invite someone for coffee. I’m like, “Coffee on me. When can you meet?” Set up a day in time. Invite them for coffee and listen. I’m like, “Please emotional labor is a real thing. If you don’t mind sharing, how can I listen better? How can I be more of an ally?” Moving forward, it’s not me speaking on behalf of anyone. It’s how can I bring more people into spaces that I have the resources to get into. How can I resource share that? That’s my practice. I always work on it and be mindful of it but that’s what I’m working on.You can meet people online, but you've got to meet them in real life, too. Close the loop. Click To Tweet
I like it when people say that to me. As long as you’re down to have a conversation and share. I understand people who are tapped out in that way. Maybe it’s taking their course or knowing about their classes or, supporting and putting time, money, resources into something they’re already working on. That’s also with this project and being Downtown. There’s already been a lot establish. It’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s more of how can we come together and build better stuff for the community. Not even better, but how can we band together and do more things collectively?
In what you’re doing and everything you’re involved in and how you choose to live, do you feel that this is a microcosm or a blueprint of perhaps how we can move together collectively as humanity with all the challenges we’re facing? In terms of the socioeconomic, climate crisis and racial inequality. We go back to how many subjects and things you’re well versed on. Everything we’re discussing is a blueprint or a microcosm of, “If we’re going to be healthy as human beings, community-wise and health-wise this is what you’re doing, where you’re living.” Do you think that it can be replicated?
It’s a test. It’s like how I lived in China with all these kids from around the world and we all band, live together and a lot of us had different skill sets of language or being able to travel and different privileges. That’s eye-opening. When I saw the privileges that I had, having an American passport is a huge privilege. Being able to travel abroad or study abroad and being a girl that was able to be alive. A lot of the girls that I knew in China, they were like, “Our parents had to make a hard choice to keep us because they only have one child.”
All of that opened my eyes. Living there and living in New York on the community farm was eye-opening. Talk about eco, my friend Rob is amazing. We have compostable toilets. We grew our food on the roof. We had a CSA with bees and chickens. It was a whole thing. I saw that as a blueprint of, “You can live in a huge city like New York City but you could be eco and mindful of how you live.” That was one and being here, it’s more on the creative side of how do we creatively build businesses and help grow a sustainable local economy.
For me, that’s what I’ve been focused on. Building community-based economies and how can we build small businesses. In building those small businesses have part of the blueprint of those being able to be profitable, sustainable, impactful, and teaching people how to check those boxes in the beginning and how building that small business helps maybe that one family. That one family can create more jobs or they can work with other small businesses. When you’re independent and able to make money or have some impact in that way, starting small, you build off of that. That’s what I’m inspired. I see it as a test and a blueprint.
The community part of it is so huge. Jason and I ended up talking about this a lot because it seems when it comes to mental wellbeing, one of the biggest keys to that is a sense of community. That comes up a lot in conversations personally and on the show. Many people feel alone. It seems that it can contribute to anxiety, depression, and struggle. The whole overwhelm and discomfort when it comes to things like a composting toilet or living in a tiny home. Part of that, the obstacle for me is, “That sounds so great. That feels so in alignment with my values,” but I’m overwhelmed by the idea of learning how to do all that stuff. How do I find that a community like this where I can live in a trailer?
For a lot of people, that feels like a huge obstacle because they don’t know where to begin. When you have a community and people that are already experts or experienced in something that is one of the easiest ways to transition. Be surrounded by people who are already doing it. That’s why a community is so huge, for you to come here a few years ago and be able to establish yourself with all these people that already know what they’re doing. You are part of the community. You can bring in other people if you wanted to teach them those things. That’s so huge. Maybe a huge piece of advice for people that want to do something that is to find a community that already exists. It’s like having a mentor or come into space where you’re welcome.
I always lead with what I could share. It’s being like, “I could do this. I see what you guys are already working on, what the goals are. I’m able to do this.” How I got started in the justice environment and this community here was, I was going back and forth from Vegas to New York. I’m from New York. My parents moved to Vegas. I went to school out here too. What do I want to do? I got all these college degrees. How am I going to implement it? Thank you for that title, creative chameleon. I’ve always felt like a chameleon. That’s so funny you said that, but I’m testing ad trying new things. I knew I wanted to build businesses. I knew I wanted to build brands that made an impact. When I’m eighteen years old and now I’m older, that verbiage wasn’t there. Conscious consumerism wasn’t a thing. I only had Whole Foods and Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste as a case study. I’m like, “Do you see these brands?”
Toms Shoes too.
Not even. It was before Toms Shoes. I promise this is going to be a thing. Long story short, I kept trying, testing, and traveling. On one of my trips, I ran out of money in New York. My butt was back to Vegas, knocking on my parents’ front door like, “I’m back. I’ve got all my degrees and I have no job so I’m going to need my old room back.” My parents were like, “One of these days, you’re going to have to get it together.” I’m like, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” You have to accept that because maybe this is it. I ate a lot of jars of peanut butter, watch Bravo TV and had a moment. My dad kept cutting out articles in the newspaper. I was like, “There’s this thing going on Downtown.” He was like, “Go Downtown,” and I’m like, “Dad, you don’t even know what’s going on. I don’t want to go do that.” My dad’s telling me this, I’m like, “It’s not cool. Nothing’s going on there.”
Would you describe Downtown Vegas? I didn’t know what Downtown Vegas was. I thought Downtown meant the strip, but it’s not.
No. This is the old school Vegas. This was when Fremont Street was the original Vegas and the strip happened. All the old casinos started here, which is cool. There’s a lot of history. This hotel that we’re in is from the 1940s, which for Vegas is historic. Most cities in the ‘40s are relatively new, but because it’s such a young city, it’s still a historic space. My dad told me to come Downtown. I was reluctant, but I was like, “Whatever. I’ll come Downtown.” There was one cool coffee shop that everyone was hanging out at. I went, got coffee, linger around and be like, “I wonder what everyone was doing.” I’m shy.
Are you introverted?
I am a super introvert. I come off friendly and loud, but it’s only when I feel comfortable. I’m super quiet and I was on Twitter looking up the hashtag and I feel more comfortable talking to someone on Twitter like a nerd that I was too shy to talk to people in real life at that time. I would find people on Twitter who are Downtown. This one person hit me back up and was like, “I’ll show you around.” I met them for coffee and it was like this whole little world was being created and manifesting. Everyone was talking about creating businesses and making an impact. It was the first time I heard people speaking this language that I’ve been craving and searching the world for. I was like, “My dad was right.”
I want to say that part of the story of you finding someone on social media is funny.
I found you on social media.
Even though Twitter in 2019 is not as big as Facebook and Instagram in terms of maybe the Millennials. Twitter is still pretty big, but my point is you could do that same thing on Instagram or whatever platform that you’re drawn to. You can use social media in this way that you were using in 2012 or 2013. It’s funny how that feels forever ago in the social media world, but that’s still a phenomenal way to start to build in-person community. If you’re introverted like Kelly and I are, you can go and start a conversation with people online, go meet them and slowly start to build those relationships. You’ll be amazed at how your network will grow and that could change your life as it has with yours.
It’s 1,000%. I tell people this all the time, because one of my business partners, Ashley, who’s also my neighbor and also works at Fergusons is with me too. I met her on Instagram. I remember that I was at a pharmacy because the person that I was dating at the time broke out and horrible hives and we were getting medicine for her. I was on Instagram killing time. I came across this page and she was talking about conscious consumerism, eco, and all that stuff. I was screaming in the middle of Walgreens. I’m like, “I found my new best friend.” The person that I was with was like, “I’m breaking on hives. I can’t even look at you. I have a situation.” I’m like, “I’m here with you but should I message her now or should I wait later?” She was like, “I don’t care.” I’m messaging her and I’m like, “We are going to be best friends. Can we meet for coffee? I want to buy you a coffee. I need to talk to you. When are you free?”
She wrote back and she was like, “I’m free for coffee.” I met her the next day. I remember recording her on my phone. I’m like, “Do you mind if I record you? I feel that this is going to be a good story one day.” She’s like, “Okay.” I still have a video somewhere. She’s like, “I’m Ashley. I met Kelly and she asked me to make this video.” It’s so good. She’s still kids around like that because we start a business together. We teach social media. I tell the story and I’m like, “You can meet people online but meet them in real life too. Let’s close that loop.” We always encourage. We do local creative meetups once a month, and we have close to 80 people come to a coffee shop.
This was happening not in Vegas, LA, and New York. These things are happening all over the country. One thing I love for anybody who’s reading and doesn’t live in a big city, look for those because those are still happening.
Even in a small city, they have closer proximity to people.
They’re happening all over the world. I also say if that is not happening, you can start it yourself. Even if it’s a couple of people at first, that’s all you need to start to build a community. You don’t need 80 people.
It’s true and it’s cool because that’s grown over time. We’ve been working together and she’s still my good friend. That was a few years ago. Shortly after I was like, “Why don’t we throw events together?” She was opening up a store. I rented an office in the back of her store. That’s where she closes. She had a baby and I was like, “Why don’t we keep doing workshops together?” That’s how our business manifests at the workshop Downtown. We were like, “Let’s keep doing it and it’s pop up.” We pop up in different locations, teaching workshops on brand building. It’s creative teaching creatives or whatever your skillset is. As a creative you teach other creatives locally.
Do you still do online versions of that for people who aren’t in Vegas?
Yes, because before I’ve done online classes and it was so much that I stopped. I paused that but we’re going to relaunch all that good stuff under the workshop Downtown’s brand.
I feel that people are probably desperate to start looking you up and find your Instagram, your site, and if you’re not already desperate, become desperate because Kelly’s awesome.
Pine for her. Stalk her the way she stalked Ashley and magic will happen. There was something called community night in LA that started about a few years ago at the Echoplex. Artists, musicians, painters, porn stars, thespians, actors and anybody would get together to talk about when you’re creating, and you’re an artist, making a living in your community. You’re doing these things burnout, fatigue, anxiety, depression, all these things are a real thing in particular in the artists’ community or as a performer. I’m curious because I see you and feel you up to all these things and you’re here. Is this a thing for you? Do you experience burnout, fatigue, anxiety, depression or any of these mental or emotional things? What do you do with that, Kelly?
All of the above. I go through waves and it’s something I’m being more mindful of because it used to be in the summers. We talked about Vegas being so hot, that contributed to it because you’re staying inside so much. I love doing things that you can’t do as much in theory in the summers here, so we get depressed. It’s not necessarily burnout. I’ve reached points in my professional career or entrepreneurial career where I need to shift gears. I’ve felt that shift and that gives me sometimes anxiety or feeling that, “Am I copping out? Is this what I need to do?” I’ve worked through that. I’m getting much better with my intuition and taking steps sooner than later.
I’ve dragged things out in the past when I need to feel that shift. Even though in some instances I’m like, “I’ll jump on a plane to China and figure it out.” Sometimes it takes me years to possibly make a pivot or change because I’ll try and test it again wanting to make it work. I’ve experienced all of those. I do have anxiety. I get waves of it. For me, what I’ve noticed is when I am taking care of myself, it’s tried and true with anything. When I’m sleeping, eating well, and working out I feel good. I’ve had times when maybe on paper I looked good and I was in shape, but on the inside, I was crumbling because I think back of one of the best times I was ever in shape. I was thin, cleansing, I went vegan and I was raw with all that stuff but on the inside, I wasn’t out. On the inside, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. It all imploded. At the time, because I invested more time and energy in myself, that’s why my professional career imploded at the time. What it was is that I needed to burn that down because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I’m able to see that. I keep calling it a relaunch that I’m in. I had changed my career, dating, where I live and style.
Transitions left and right.
I like to make it a thing because I need to make things like an event or an experience or whatever. My girlfriend was annoyed at me because she was like, “You aren’t being mindful about going out on dates.” I was like, “You’re right because I get caught up in stuff.” I get caught up in work because I’m so excited. Everyone makes fun of me too because I’m like, “It feels like Christmas morning every day that we get to go to work.” I get excited because every night I’m like, “Santa’s coming.” I genuinely sometimes I get so high on life. It sounds so nerdy but I can’t go to sleep because I’m so excited.
I go in those waves and it’s almost manic-like. I’m always on. I go into the other part where I’m not going outside for days on end. I’m working on finding my flow that’s more sustainable but knowing maybe there are some seasons where I’m on a lot. It so happened that I’m on a lot. I’ve traveled a lot more than I was craving, so it’s cool. Speaking of launching stuff on Thursday nights here, that’s why I have a heart stop at four because I launched something. Our team here is called the Fierce Kitties so we have Kitten Date Nights. You could take yourself out on a date, a date, a Tinder date, a group date or a double date.
You could do any date. It’s almost like The Artist’s Dates, where are you supposed to take yourself out of your date?
That’s Thursday nights here from 6:00 to 10:00. Everyone has to do date. I get FOMO when everyone’s working and I’m not working. I’m like, “We’re all off the grid at this time.” It’s a company-wide policy that I launched. My friend Jen, I’m like, “Are you cool if I launched this?” She’s like, “Get it, girl.” My girlfriend was like, “Did you have to make it a whole thing when we go on dates?” I’m like, “Yes.” I made reservations as an adult online. I don’t like movie theaters. It’s not my thing. I don’t them like them but she does. I bought tickets for a movie at a movie theater that’s nine minutes away from the restaurant that I made the reservation thinking ahead. I already have the movie theater tickets for her to make it back to the babysitter on time. I have a plan. This might work.
It’s going to work. What movie are you going to see and what are you going to eat?
I don’t even know. I picked a random one because it doesn’t matter.
Don’t you remember the name of the movie?
No, I just picked a movie that looks funny.
Was it Good Boys?
Yes. It was something like that. It looks funny. Let’s do it. It doesn’t even matter. It’s more than thought about it.
I want to know about food.
The food is a restaurant. Diana from Vegans Baby gave me a hot tip, EDO. It’s a new tapas restaurant that has vegan options. I made a reservation. I don’t drive. I’m not good at it. I don’t enjoy it. I take Lyft because they launched here. I’m like, “I’ll pick you up in a Lyft.” I’ll do two stops. Go to her house, pick her up and second stop to the restaurant. I have this plan. We’ll see how it goes.
In this denouement of the show, you mentioned something that you don’t like movie theaters specifically. You have taken the initiative powerfully to take this human being on a date, but yet putting yourself in an environment that is uncomfortable and you dislike. In all seriousness, and not to be like, “That’s the theme of the show,” but it stood out in the sense of you choosing to do that when you could’ve picked something else. You could’ve picked go-carts, mini-golf, gazing under the sun under 110 degrees, melting into the ground. You could have done a billion other things in this city because there’s so much to do.
Hanging out with the sloth could have been a great date.Life is really precious. You don’t know what is going to happen. Click To Tweet
It’s sloth hugging and a cuddle fest.
If you want to take me on a date, take me to the sloth.
The point is, you willfully chose something that you’re like, “Not so much,” but you’re doing it because you care about this person. You’re connecting with this person. That’s fascinating to me. I don’t know if I have a question so much as this is an interesting observation. These situations in life of, “I don’t like this, but I like this person and I know they love it.” What’s that like?
This the new Kelly. This is part of the relaunch because I’ve never done that. I’ll be honest. I may have been told I was selfish in the past. Maybe a time or two, maybe often. Selfishness is a bad thing at all. I am selfish in the sense that my main priority is me. It’s my happiness, fulfillment, health, wellness, mind, body and soul. That’s what I have somewhat control over. In the past, I wasn’t super negotiable on stuff that maybe I didn’t want to do or felt uncomfortable because I’m like, “It’s not my thing. Sorry.” I have that horn, which is still good, but at the same time when I’m also like, “This isn’t my thing but it’s an hour and a half. Worst-case scenario, I got to sit and hang with her for an hour and a half interrupted.” For $18, for two movie tickets and if that makes her happy and has a moment, that’s what I’m shooting for.
Who knows, you might realize that maybe you’ve changed or maybe you like movie theaters with her. It could be very situational.
It could be situational in the context of the situation. In the past, to be honest with you. I would have been like, “No. I’m not doing it. You could come over to my house and watch Netflix,” but I’m like, “No, try something a little bit different.” She also inspires me to do that, stuff like hanging out with a baby. In the past, I’ve been like, “I would never date someone with a baby.” I told her this too. I wrote a list of who I wanted to date. A lot of things I wrote, she’s the complete opposite. I looked at the list and I’m like, “I am open to this.” I realize that that is cool, which was totally out of my comfort zone.
My sister, I saw her in LA and she’s like, “What’s going on? You’re cooking dinner. You’re hanging out with a baby. I don’t know what’s going on. Who are you?” Even my mother, she’s like, “You held the baby? She trusted you. She went to Target and you went home with the baby.” I was like, “Mom, I’m not a mutant. I am 34 years old. She trusted me with her baby for ten minutes.” She’s like, “Call me because I’m not far away.” My mom does live down the street. She’s like, “I can’t picture you doing this.” I’m like, “I know it’s different, but I like it. It’s cool. Let’s not talk about it too much because it’ll get all weird in my head.”
Before, I would’ve been like, “This is so weird to me.” My whole thing is I’m uncomfortable. You have to be uncomfortable. I always tell people, “If you want to poop your pants or throw up because you’re excited, that’s a good place to be.” I’ve had that. I didn’t fully poop in my pants, life changes and explosive diarrhea. I live in an Airstream and that was a whole thing. I had to alert people about my plumbing and it was embarrassing. I told the repair guy, “Sorry, I’m relaunching. I’m going through these stages. I need a new toilet.”
What was it called?
The P gas. That’s a whole other situation.
I didn’t know there was something called P gas.
Imagine that in front of your new girlfriend when the repairman comes and says, “Your P gas is making your Airstream smell like eggs.” It’s so embarrassing. I was like, “Please stop saying the word P gas.” I’m trying to look at him, “Don’t you see this girl? She’s my girlfriend.”
This is what you learn when you’re in an Airstream. Talk about uncomfortable.
It makes for a good story.
It’s a great story being uncomfortable and that grows you closer to people, especially in relationships. If you can make it through P gas, that is the sign of a solid relationship.
She did agree to go on a date with me.
If you survive and go through challenges from that because there’s this thing in the beginning of a relationship, “We’re going to make this perfect and it’s going to be the thing. We’re curating this and the experience,” and the life are like, “P gas. Sorry. We’re actually not going to have this be perfect for you with this new person. We’re going to throw you in the fire immediately.” To Whitney’s point, doesn’t that create an opportunity for realness and bonding maybe where this person is like, “This is real life. It’s not some fantasy land.” Sometimes we date people. It’s this fantasy land. It’s this projection of like, “I’m this perfect person and here’s my resume.”
Which I used to lead with, I’ll be honest.
Didn’t we all? Most of us.
I’ve picked up people at the restaurant line. I’m like, “I’m one of the owners. How do you find the food?”
That’s a mature part of growing. I feel that I’m at a stage in my life that when I’m dating somebody, I’m looking forward to the realness more than the fantasy. Wouldn’t it be better if you had the realness upfront and the fantasy later versus the other way around where you get the fantasy for a month, a couple of months, and it’s real the rest of your life?
You need a mix of both. Fantasy is being mindful and light enjoyment because I’ve been in the trenches with them. One relationship in general where it was real from the jump, but it stayed in that heavy space. For me, I’m looking for that grounded-ness, but I also love having these fun adventures. We’re going to San Diego. I’ve been working lunch, “I already booked the hotel, be ready at 4:00.” We met through her best friend who’s also one of my coworkers and friends. She didn’t meet me in a situation where I was presenting like, “I’m Kelly Bennett and welcome to all these things.” She knew me as, “She’s one of her coworkers who’re funny or that loud girl who always laughs a lot.” “I remember her.” It was cool. I like that’s the dynamic that we met under. The night that she asked for my phone number, she asked our friend for my phone number, and she was a Lesbian Lube Wrestling Event, which is a classy place to pick up women. That’s a whole other conversation.
Maybe that’s part two.
What if we ended the show with no further context and be like, “Thank you all so much for reading.”
We’ll leave the theater of your mind without event.
One of my coworker’s best friend won a lesbian lube wrestling champion.
How much lube do you need?
It’s a lot of lube.
Is it a coconut oil lube or is it bottled lube?
It’s an industrial tube lube.
It wasn’t organic, natural and sugar-free?
You won’t approve of this. It came in buckets from Lowe’s. I don’t think it was purchased at Lowe’s, but you can picture the orange buckets from construction sites. It was like a Disney movie.
This wasn’t an eco-vegan event?
That’s a whole other thing.
Every once in a while, we need to take a break from being the perfect eco vegan to enjoy these types of experiences. I’m okay with that.
This is something being uncomfortable. When you’re being curated and being someone who works at branding and I do at any title like a curator. I take pieces of all different things and I put it together to create experiences. That’s the gist of what I do. I put so much pressure on myself because growing up I’m dyslexic. I never did well in school. I worked hard for a B. Tested horribly on standardized tests. I couldn’t get into any school except for the one school to let everybody in. I always had this chip on my shoulder that I wasn’t smart and mindful enough.
I wasn’t going to be able to make it, but I had this chip on my shoulder that I’ll prove them wrong. I’ve been on that hustle and making it, “I’ve traveled, I learn a foreign language. I have five college degrees.” I felt like I kept meeting things to validate my ideas and I’m like, “I could be myself, do my thing, invest in my creativity, health, and wellness, new relationship, my community and that’s good enough.” I don’t have to curate it. The more that I’ve been stripping it away and I do goofy things on Instagram. I’ll be like, “I got dressed.” Part of it was my pajamas because I didn’t do my laundry. I had a winter hat on 115 degrees. I had on my sister’s flip flops that I stole from her. It looks like I got dressed because I did my makeup, but I didn’t. My clothes are dirty and my underwear is inside out. That’s real.
This is part of the reason why people are going want to follow you on Instagram.
It’s so funny because out of all the things I’ve done, people are like, “Kelly Bennett, you got dressed and people are making their own episodes of, I Got Dressed and tagging me.” It makes me happy that I’m like, “Yes, you did get dressed or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’re still in your underpants or no pants. I support you. You have your life together.” I did that one too. I have my life together because I had an epic day at work. I paned and my Airstream looked like a tornado had blown through. Every pot and pan was used. There was stuff everywhere. I’m like, “I’m showing you earlier of all the business I was doing, but look at my house, and I have it together.”
Later that day, that’s the night when my girlfriend’s like, “You haven’t taken me on a date. What’s going on?” I’m like, “True. I have this relationship thing going.” I started the company-wide policy of Kitten’s Night Out. The more I’ve been honest about having it together and some days I do have it together. I did get dressed because I was on TV until I was like, “I did get dressed, everybody.” Behind the scenes, my mic got stuck in my bra, my skirt flew up and I tripped coming in. I’m like, “I’m trying to have it together.” The more I’m honest on that, the more people are cool like, “We have it together too.” We all have it together and being more honest and real and making that approachable.
I love that Kelly and I love you. I love your depth, realness and your heart. I know we don’t see each other a ton, but every time we do it’s like, “I love this woman.”
The same to you too.
If people want to sink into your realness and become desperate for more of Kelly Bennett, where can they find you? Where can they cyberstalk you?
On Instagram. That’s where I hang out the most. It’s @WithKellyBennett. WithKellyBennett.com is my blog. That’s always been in the making that I’ve had for years. We’re doing that and the Workshop Downtown @TheWorkshopDowntown on Instagram, Facebook, and website. That’s all the workshops that we’re doing and Fergusons @FergusonsDowntown are all the things that we’re doing here and all the different projects that we’re working on. I appreciate it and I was excited to talk to you guys too. It’s such a full-circle moment because I’ve known you guys for a while. I’m starting a blog and meeting you guys and I interviewed both of you for my blog back in the day because I’ve always admired what you both are doing. The generosity and kindness of you guys sharing stuff.
I remember when you tweeted out a blog post or you coming to the restaurant and doing events. It meant the world to me and I’ve always remembered that and I always appreciate and I hold true to the people that I know that they’re down to share stuff or show up for you and you’re willing to sit and down to share it. It means a lot, especially in what could feel like an overturn of people in humans in a lot of information. When you find the real ones that are down for whatever you’re up to and reinvented myself. I can’t even count how many times since I’ve known you both. It’s so cool and refreshing to have those people around. Thank you guys for inviting me on and being here in my new season of life.
Speaking of which, I want to make sure that we wrap on time because you need to go on a date and I need to meet that sloth off before you leave.
If you go to Wellevatr.com. You may see a video clip of us meeting the sloth or seeing the sloth through the window, sadly. As much as I’d love to hold that slot in my arms, it might be through the window, but that’s better than nothing. I didn’t even know that there was a sloth here. I didn’t know that there was an alpaca here until I arrived. This is a pretty big deal.
- Vegan Consultant
- Vegans Baby
- @WithKellyBennett – Instagram
- WithKellyBennett.com – Blog website
- @TheWorkshopDowntown – Instagram
- @FergusonsDowntown – Instagram
About Kelly Bennett
Kelly Bennett is the former Creative Director and co-founder of VegeNation, an award-winning, community-based vegan restaurant that began in the heart of Downtown Las Vegas.
She is a passionate, social-cause-focused entrepreneur who shares creative, positive insight through her media channel @withkellybennett (on Facebook and Instagram) and her co-created business workshop series, @theworkshopdowntown (Facebook, Instagram).
Although she’s originally from Long Island, Kelly is a true Las Vegas local and pioneer in the conscious consumer movement, wholeheartedly invested in “change for good” in our city.
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