KELLY KILLOREN BENSIMON AT THE HAMPTON CLASSIC
The Hampton Classic horse show takes over the Hamptons social scene this week as the grand finale of the summer season. While many go to see and be seen, at the heart of the event are the equestrians of all ages and levels, and some celebrities too, that are there to compete. For this installment of “WOW: Working Out With” we caught a ride with one of the more recognizable faces, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, who is showing this week.
For many people the name Kelly Killoren Bensimon is synonymous with the “Real Housewives of New York”, the reality show on which she was a featured cast member for three seasons. Pitted in an infamous battle with another cast member, her story line made for the kind salacious programming that people regularly tune in to reality television. We actually don’t, but google it if you’re interested.
Kelly has been a model since she was 16 years old, having been discovered in Elite Model’s “Look of The Year” contest. Attending Columbia while modeling, it was a college professor that encouraged her to start writing for the magazines in which her pictures were appearing. Starting at Hamptons magazine, she would go on to Gotham and later become Editor-In-Chief of Elle Accessories.
Now 48 years old and the mother of two teenage girls, Kelly is still drop dead gorgeous. Take one look at her and it’s obvious she’s been an athlete her whole life. Hard as we may try, this kind of physique is not made in a gym. A competitive swimmer growing up, she runs, rides (obviously), and recently added SoulCycle to her fitness regimen, primarily to improve her equestrian skills. “It really keeps you grounded on the horse and strong,” she says.
Kelly is the author of a number of books that include The Bikini Book, American Style, In The Spirit of the Hamptons and her just released first foray into fiction, A Dangerous Age, one of the topics we chatted about. Our main probe, however, was trying to uncover some of her age-defying secrets that have her looking so great and keeping so fit. We got together in the stables of Sea-Aire Farm at the Hampton Classic, where she trains with owner, Laura Bowery, a former nationally ranked rider and U.S. Equestrian Team Member.
STYLE OF SPORT: How perfect that I ran into you this morning at SoulCycle! Tell us how you got started riding?
KKB: I started riding in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin when I was 17. I came out to the Hamptons before I got married and my friend Kelly Klein suggested I take up riding out here. I went to the barn wearing Gucci loafers and jeans, and just got on the horse. They were like, ‘Great… but next time you have to have boots.’ I just loved it. It was such a diversion from everything else.
SOS: You have this completely athletic build that you can’t get in a gym. You must have played sports growing up.
KKB: I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger and I ran. When I started modeling I was traveling around the world by myself. I started running because it was a way for me to learn a city. I used to run Paris at 7am in the morning and get the lay of the land so I knew where I was going. It energized me so when I would go on castings they were always like, ‘you’re the healthy American!’
SOS: I always say it’s the best way to sightsee and to keep in shape while traveling too.
KELLY WITH LAURA BOWERY, CHAMPION EQUESTRIAN, TRAINER AND OWNER OF SEA-AIRE FARM IN WATERMILL, NY.
KELLY ON LAURA, “ I LOVE THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY. WHEN YOU’RE ABLE TO RIDE WITH SOMEONE LIKE LAURA IT’S AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY. LAURA ON KELLY, “KELLY IS A GREAT STUDENT. SHE GETS A BIT INTENSE, SOMETIMES TO A FAULT, BUT SHE’S FUN TO WORK WITH FOR SURE.”
KKB: It was a really good way for me to handle that world, when you’re so insecure about people constantly saying, ‘You’re not tall enough, you’re not this enough, you’re not that enough’, I started my day with something positive. Modeling is a tough world because the underpinning of it is insecurity. So it was just a nice balance to that.
SOS: That is so our STYLE of SPORT message. You shouldn’t be working out just to get skinny. You should be working out to feel better — to feel more positive, be more confident, because it really does make you feel that way.
KKB: I’m from the Midwest. We don’t think in terms of “thin”. We think in terms of “hot”. The skinny girl was never the one who could waterski or snow ski or go on a run or play tennis with the guys. That’s what I tell my kids. They’re like, ‘but you’re a model.’ Just because my legs are long doesn’t mean I don’t take care of myself. I have routine. I have what I call a good “food ethic.”
SOS: Tell me about that.
KKB: I wrote this book called I can make you HOT. That’s an acronym for Healthy Options Today. That’s kind of my forte, being a little sensationalistic so people will respond. Basically six days a week you have a food guide, kind of like you have uniform for how you dress for the week. You have a food uniform and then on the seventh day you have fun — ice cream, pizza, make cake for your kids, enjoy yourself.
SOS: As a model it’s your job to stay fit but it’s nice when being healthy just becomes a part of your routine – you’re not just doing it for work.
KELLY AND DAUGHTER, SEA
KKB: I just want to be the best version of me. I’m 48 years old with two teenage girls. I don’t have time to be tired. Or be hungover. It’s just me. There’s no one else. So I want them to be able to rely on me and know that whatever they want to do, we can do this together. I want to be a good role model for them. Being a healthy role model is really important – especially for girls, especially in this day and age.
SOS: Are there other sports in which you’re competing now?
KKB: I’m competing in this sport called… “life”!
SOS: As we all are!
SOS: laughing… It’s a very challenging sport called life.
SOS: There are no winners in that one.
KKB: There are only winners in that one actually.
SOS: So I started reading the book, A Dangerous Age, how much of the lead character is you?
“That’s kind of my forte, being a little
sensationalistic so people will respond.”
KKB: She’s all me. The four friends in the book are all different parts of my personality. When I was modeling, my professor at Columbia said I should start interviewing people and asking the magazines if I could write for free. It was a great opportunity to start doing something else. I say interview people who are interesting to you, tweet at people you’ve always admired. Swim with the sharks, not with the minnows. All you have to do is Direct Message them on Instagram and say, “Hey, I’m doing this… are you interested?” So many times people DM me and I’m usually like ‘sure I’ll do it, no problem.’ If you don’t ask you’re never gonna get.
SOS: People know you because of “The Real Housewives of New York.” Reality shows are edited to create a character and the producers determine who you are going to play. I’ve just spent an hour talking to you and I’ve seen a whole different side. If you were to say here’s the takeaway, this is the message I would have liked for Housewives, this is how I would have like to have been portrayed — what would that have been?
KKB: I’m actually okay with what the takeaway was. If I had just been the nice girl, if I was everything I really am, then you wouldn’t be interested in me. Nobody cares about the good girl. They only care about the bad girl. They only care about the girl with the big mouth who says nasty things about people. America doesn’t want to watch a show about a single parent with a lot of integrity, that has an education, and cares about other people and is a humanitarian. They don’t want to hear that. That’s a different show. Thats called “Miss America.”
SOS: That’s a great line!
KKB: I was actually lucky that I had a producer that pinned me against someone because if he hadn’t people would have been like ‘Who? Oh yeah, I think she was on a season.’ I’m lucky because I have longevity. How many of the Housewives do you remember anything about them? How many of the Housewives that you remember are actually doing things now. A Dangerous Age has nothing to do with Housewives. My jewelry line (Kelly by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) at HSN has nothing to do with Housewives. That has to do with working with Barneys and Bergdorfs and Elle Accessories.
That’s the genesis of the line — working in this incredible environment called fashion. Housewives gave me a platform to be able to scream loud and say read my books, buy my jewelry, and have a little fun with this life!
SOS: That’s an awesome takeaway. Thanks so much, Kelly!
Photographs by Claudia Lebenthal