Get to Know Vol. 2 Cover Queen Kerestin aka BigBodyMami
By Jessica Nudo
Some of the most important conversations happening around the cannabis industry involve storytelling. I will never grow tired of listening to how this plant has changed lives and redirected careers.
I recently spoke with Vol. 2 cover queen Kerestin (aka Keke), a diversely skilled advocate for the community. Our conversation took place on a sleepy Saturday morning while most others indulged over brunch. But not us - we had a phone date and I was eager to learn more, especially when I learned of our quasi similar backgrounds in beauty and what brought her into cannabis to begin with. It’s a unique transition, no doubt, but a well-rounded background crafts an informed voice.
Kerestin’s focus is on community, connection and self love and she creates incredible content as a beauty, sex and relationship blogger who is quickly becoming a role model for those experiencing difficulty navigating this complicated dating world (present!). But her work doesn’t stop there, in fact it starts with her full-time hustle as a housing advocate, supporting the cannabis space and beyond.
“I have a huge passion for people and their well-being and try to show that in all aspects of my life. One of the biggest focuses is being able to connect with people, namely those who are in vulnerable populations. Working as a cannabis advocate has allowed me to achieve a balance.”
For Kerestin, everything she does is rooted in empowerment, and it shows in her instagram stories. Whether posing questions for her followers or for the camera, discussing and embracing sexuality has been a driving force in conversations.
Leveraging power of the internet to become social change warrior.
With a diversified experience portfolio, she has managed bring change in all corners of the community, both independently and through collaborations with the well-known Ladies of Paradise. By combining a variety of interests and industries, Kerestin reaches a broad audience through a grassroots approach of just keeping it real, honest and free of sponsorship bias or influences. A rare approach in an online world of easily swayed opinions where many prefer to take the money and run, because above all else, she prioritizes fostering her connection to her follower base.
“Working at Ladies (of Paradise) for me is about connecting women and female identities to an industry that has past been male dominated and creating space. My main focus with Instagram is providing a profile that will inspire people and offer something authentic for them to connect with.”
Ah-ha moment on cannabis and career
So what was the pivotal moment that sent Kerestin on the green path? It started with an injury that left her in a dark place after treating the pain with pharmaceutical medication. Determined to take care of her body in a more natural way, she found herself gravitating to the plant-based remedy lifestyle that yielded many benefits without potential harmful side effects.
Just like for many of us, trial and error played a role in while navigating the overwhelming selections of strains, formulas and other learnings that mama cannabis has to offer. The discovery of products containing CBD and THC not only changed her life, but she felt empowered by her choices by opting to purchase products that were helping her to make a difference instead of just masking the pain.
Top Shelf Beauty
We’ve seen how influencers on social media have an impact on re-defining the beauty narrative, especially within the green space. When Kerestin began working with Ladies of Paradise, it presented more opportunities to discover new products and share her findings with an engaged audience. Her background in hairdressing and aesthetics provided her with the knowledge to cut through the noise of glorified brands and focus on those with quality ingredients and truer brand power.
Her must haves include Humble Flower’s THC lotion with jasmine flower, massage oil and relief balm. As for beauty, she swears by MILK’s CBD mascara (brb, checking out Sephora). To cure what’s on the inside as well as the outside, her daily routine includes a dose of wildflower CBD.
“With LoP, I came into the shop early as a model and just fell in love with the message and social justice piece. I was thrilled to come on board and help the team to apply this in their creative direction.”
She’s worked with companies who exercise a certain awareness when executing a campaign, and if there’s one key takeaway, it’s the importance of being mindful with what you say and how your messaging is presented. “People pay attention to what you say. Whether you have a hundred followers or a million - people are watching.”
Speaking from experience, Kerestin has showed up to photoshoots where the brand has pulled images for where the mood board are from her instagram. “It’s a great feeling when you become part of their mood board and creative direction. It instilled that people pay attention to what you say and what you're putting out there”
‘Body positive’ has become a hot buzz term that’s thought to empower humans in general. We see it in ad campaigns, presented in a way to love the skin you’re in, and other marketing-heavy slogans.
While the concept of body positivity comes from a good place, once you disrobe the term and dissect it for what it’s worth, the actual term undermines the idea behind it. "I don't consider myself a body positive activist, my main goal is self-love awareness and being able to live in your space. We need to allow people to just be in their bodies. That being said, I would like to see more non-able bodied people included in cannabis”
Her key takeaway for marketers: If a company is going to run a ‘body positive’ campaign, please refrain from using a token curvy person as a means to champion your message. “That will turn around real quick. Rather, consider gathering a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and life situations to show the true diversity of who is being represented.”
Instagram, a platform that you either love or hate. Loving it means that you’ve figured out a way to make it work for you. Brands of all sizes rely on it to spread a message, while those who advertise rely on it as part (or all) of their livelihood.
But sometimes that backfires because the internet is riddled with trolls - and I’m not talking those strange plastic dolls with neon hair that dominated toy stores in the 90’s (although no one can prove otherwise since many of them remain faceless).
In order to mitigate the chances of this happening, Kerestin uses technology to her advantage by filtering out keywords and phrases associated with negativity. This has allowed her to curate a positive space for her to share and engage with her audience. “We need to continue to support and maintain that growth of true bodies that we are seeing on Instagram. When I do post a photo, it feels good for me and I'm able to express my sexuality”
Damn right, and nobody should be taking that away from you.
Establishing the Balance and Creating Space in Cannabis for PoC
Then there’s the hot topic that is on everyone’s minds - the elephant in the boardroom that few C-suite execs will acknowledge, but rather grassroot collectives and entrepreneurs are prioritizing.
The ‘elephant’ is a reminder of why those privileged enough to work in the industry need to maintain a certain level of mindfulness while enjoying the fruits of their labor, because those who laid the groundwork (majority being people of colour) cannot because they are incarcerated. What a trip, huh?
Many will claim that we need more feminism to combat the social inequalities faced under these circumstances, but that all depends on how you view feminism. “I definitely consider myself a feminist, but I also try to maintain awareness of what it stands for and how it is portrayed.”
The reality is that we are living in a time where it often feels like humanity is in a regressive state. Human rights still account for something, just not enough. We have seen how taking social justice into our own hands can allow us to make democracy work in our favour, but it’s dependent on awareness, community support and inclusivity,
So how can white women be more supportive in the industry? “I think that there are still conversations that need to be had in order to help support women of colour in business in general, and I think that a lot of it has to do with awareness of white supremacy and it’s values and the way we conduct business. If you’re white and you’re in the business, you have women of colour not just working for you but working with you. Give them the opportunity to take the steps that they need to in order to become successful.”
Being a supportive, strong ally means checking your privilege and exercising awareness that not all opportunities are created equal. So how can white women be better allies? “There’s something to be said about just being aware of the space when you go into it. Working with people of colour means paying attention to how they are being treated in the business. PoC have not benefited from this industry at all and will continue to not benefit from it because they were incarcerated, have fines and can’t work in the legal industry. Ask yourself if you are still being mindful of what this industry was in the past and how to support people who haven’t been able to benefit from it”.