Twitter Queen Kelly Oxford On Writing and Raising Kids in LA
The writer swapped prairie landscapes for a Hollywood backdrop, and her major success story is far from its final act.
Kelly Oxford’s brand is built on sharing stories from her life
“When I was a kid I wanted to write novels, and make things up, then as I got older and actually started writing I found my life was full of stories, as it was, and I started telling them,” says the Edmonton-born writer.
Oxford has been blogging and tweeting since the early aughts, and she developed an international audience while living in Calgary as a stay-at-home mother of three young children. Her witty insights on pop culture and her own daily happenings caught the attention of celebs like Jimmy Kimmel, Diablo Cody and Seth Rogan, and Hollywood started to beckon.
Today, two best-selling books and 897K Twitter followers later, Oxford lives in Los Angeles, raising her kids while writing TV and film projects that A-listers such as Jessica Alba and Drew Barrymore have attached their names to.
But even a dream job comes with a learning curve. “After writing so long for myself and self-publishing online, doing it for someone else and being on their schedule was probably the hardest part of it all,” she says. “When you’re writing for other people or for work you never really feel done. You can keep going and rewriting, it’s almost a matter of you giving up and saying ‘OK, now I’m done.’ When you self-publish and post things yourself, you feel a sense of completion.”
While contemplating the vital lessons from her rocket ship career ride of the past few years, Oxford is quick to identify areas of growth. “I’m just an impatient person when you get down to it. And writing is probably one of the worst professions to have when you’re impatient,” she says. “Unless you’re writing for a late-night show and every day whatever you write gets on the air that night and then you get to start over the next day — that’s a different thing.”
Living the good life
Whether for work or at play, Oxford’s reality has its fair share of glamorous moments. You’ll find her on Instagram crowdsourcing her footwear choice to accompany a designer frock. Or you might catch her on the feed of a well-known actress, reciting a haiku during a play date (while poolside, no less). But being situated in LA hasn’t made Oxford immune to the everywoman challenge of making time for personal health and wellness. For her, it’s an on-going journey that’s included some temporary roadblocks, like the task of moving her family in the summer of 2017.
“I was exercising regularly at the beginning of last year and now I’m not anymore. I gave up because we moved. The process of the move, the month leading up to it, I just totally gave up,” she says. “Exercise definitely makes me feel better, I just need to get back into the regularly scheduled program.”
A fan of Tracy Anderson Method workouts, the Hollywood body guru of Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross, Oxford enjoys staying toned at home. “I like all the weight resistance stuff, and the small muscle exhaustion movements,” she says. “I watch stolen YouTube videos on the internet. I don’t go to Anderson’s class even though the studio is only a few blocks away from my house.”
On the fuel front, Oxford isn’t immune to junk food cravings. For her last birthday, her loyalty was even hilariously morphed into a mini Happy Meal box made of crystal. But she’s also developed a track record of gravitating towards a diet rich in vegetables and grains for the past year. “I eat vegetarian most of the time, and I cut out milk products. If I go out somewhere that’s a farm-to-table restaurant with organic meat then I’ll eat meat, so I’m not strict,” she says. It’s a shift propelled by self-awareness. “I find it makes me feel a lot better when I’m not eating meat, I find I get a little slower if I do.”
The foundation of Oxford’s allure lies in the proof that she’s a multidimensional, non-perfect person, and she’s not afraiding of showing it. Yes, she’s writing an upcoming ’90s-era teen TV series for Hulu. And, yes, she’s written about her experiences with mental health. In her second book, When You Find Out the World is Against You, Oxford details being diagnosed with a panic and anxiety disorder as a young adult.
“Sharing things that are scary, like having an anxiety disorder, at the beginning is scary,” she says, “And sharing normalizes it. You actually see how many people are in the same boat as you, too.”
Starting a dialogue about mental health is part of Oxford’s big picture, and she’s discovered some benefits in the process. “It really helped me to open up to people and made me less anxious in the end. I’m going to keep trying to figure out what stories I want to tell. Even if it’s not a specific story about anxiety, I think there’s always a sense of anxiety in anything that I write because that’s how I think,” she says. “It’s not even that I’m fighting it anymore. I’m not trying to not be anxious, it’s just the way I am.”
When stress levels max out, Oxford turns to meditation and yoga to calm her. And she utilizes a code among her inner circle that helps to succinctly communicate a rough day. “Saying today is a 3 out of 10, being able to just text ‘3’ to a friend, and they know what you’re talking about really helps. Talking about anxiety takes away the anxiety a lot of the time.”
In late 2016, Oxford played a pivotal role in one of the year’s most viral social media phenomenons. Upon hearing the now legendary audio recording of comments made by then US presidential hopeful Donald Trump about grabbing women by the you know what, she took to Twitter. What began as an expression of outrage at the blatant perpetuation and reality of rape culture quickly became a movement. A big one. Sharing her own experience at 12 years old on a bus as ignition, Oxford created a call to action which asked women to tweet their first assaults, along with a hashtag. The result: MILLIONS of #notokay stories being shared from around the world.
“That conversation made people feel a lot stronger in their sense of self,” says Oxford. “It made a lot of people realize that things that had happened to them, sexual or verbal assaults [that] we have lived with being the norm, are not OK.” It also kicked off the fact that we do have voices, no matter who we are, and we can make a difference by joining together and raising them, she says.
Being a megaphone for a collective of so much pain, shame and, as she has put it, white-hot rage, Oxford continues to take it all in stride while remaining hopeful. “It hasn’t been easy. I can’t rely on myself to be able to change everything, so I’m letting myself off the hook a little bit in being able to change the world. I believe that whatever I am doing, whatever stance I’m taking really is enough. And that’s OK.”
Wonder what a day in the life of Kelly Oxford looks like?
I usually set my alarm for 6:11 so I don’t feel like I’m getting up at 6 o’clock. Then I start taking the kids to school. They all go to different ones. I take Bea to her school for 7:30 a.m., then I come home and take Henry to his school for 8:30, and then Sal gets picked up by a friend.
Between 9 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. I write, I work. Then I go and start picking everybody up again.
While the kids are doing their homework, I’ll try to work and finish stuff up, whatever I was doing that day. I see what my day is like for the next day, and I make dinner.
If I’m going out I try to go out early-ish, like 6:30-7 p.m., and hang out with friends and be home by 10:30. A lot of the time I have people over at my house and I usually do that at 8 or 8:30 p.m. when Bea’s in bed.
I go to bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m. every night. It takes me 10 minutes to get ready: washing my face, taking my vitamins. I sleep pretty well. I don’t need any pills, which are very common here in LA. Almost everyone I know has a sleeping aide, I’m very lucky I don’t need one.