Last year, Amazon Prime teamed with The New York Times and released the Modern Love series. The second episode, When Cupid is a Prying Journalist, is based on Kate’s story. Admittedly, her story does have a fairy tale flair, but, as she says, ‘darkness begets light. There is a low for every high and an ebb for every flow – it is the way of the universe.’ The former pastry chef turned beauty founder shares her journey towards the everyday magic of self care and the launching of her eponymous brand.
Have you ever woken up and wondered, how did I get here? You rationally know that you were an active participant in creating your reality; you made the choices, but it doesn’t feel like you made the choices. You know in your bones that this is not you. You have forgotten you. This isn’t your path. You’re not living your truth. I have been here; I know intimately well what this feels like. Being in this place is a part of my story. My story, a love story, is one in which a guy enters as the catalyst to me falling in love with myself. Creating the Body Stone and launching Kate McLeod are threads inextricably woven into the fabric of this journey. They are the parts of the story where I learned how to take care of myself – how to embrace my fear, how to lovingly accept it, how to live with it, and how to grow.
When I was a little girl, I felt a deep pull towards movement. I had to dance, everyday. An only child, my imagination ran wild. I acted out my world famous routines across the living room carpet – bending, pulsing, jiving to the beats of La Bouche, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Reba, and Toni Braxton. Though I didn’t know it as such, this was my first self care practice. This was the ritual, the everyday magic, that got me through playground bullying and all the other anxieties of adolescence. I took dance breaks while doing homework. It was instinctive, and I wisely listened to my body.
In my twenties, this shifted. A newly minted adult in the working world, my body’s desires and needs took a back seat to the bulldozing of my mind. I made choices that looked great on paper. Happiness was never a consideration. It happened slowly, but little by little I was completely lost and actively hurting rather than taking care of myself.
On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, it came to a breaking point. That year, I left a life. Literally. In a week, I packed up, called a mover, called off a wedding, ended a seven year relationship, bought a one way ticket, moved across an ocean, and decided I was done. And I refused to imagine the future because I was so f*cking scared of the uncertainty staring me in the face. At the same time, I knew in my bones that these choices were unequivocally right.
Long story short, my first love showed up unannounced. I had not seen him in nearly eight years, but I knew I was still deeply in love with him. It was a dramatic cataclysmic moment, but I needed a dramatic cataclysmic moment to shake me up and break the cycle. I had to choose, but this was not a choice between two men. This was a choice between living and dying. Trusting or suffocating my spirit. That might sound dramatic but that is how it felt. My soul was dying and it showed physically. I was ‘muscling’ myself through life. I believe that the body keeps the score. And I believe living a lie will eventually kill you.
What I could not put into words at the time was that I had manifested my worst fear. I was abandoned. Through years of clinging to others, I had abandoned myself. I did not believe that I was ok alone; I did not believe that I was worthy of care or love; and I had completely given up on myself. The abandonments I saw in the world were mirrors. I was either going to double down or figure out how to show up for myself. I had to show up for a person I hated.
Calling off the wedding and moving from Switzerland back to New York into my new boyfriend’s studio was an emotional whirlwind. At first, it really did feel like a fairy tale – it was a clean slate with the literal man of my dreams. But we had been estranged for eight years, and all honeymoon periods inevitably end. Eventually, distractions vanished and I sat without a job, without a community, without a sense of myself–and I cried.
Months into the tears I was visiting my future sister in law for some time in the sun. She spotted me applying lotion and took the bottle out of my hands. ‘Do you know what you are putting on your body,’ she asked. Truthfully, I had never thought about it. She handed me cocoa butter, looked me in the eye, and told me to go spend some time with myself. She was thirty years my senior, she had also had a life shifting turn at my age, and I had no idea what she meant.
I looked at the cocoa butter and tried warming it in my hands. It didn’t melt and it tugged at my skin but slowly I was able to work it onto my body. The overnight physical transformation was remarkable. Scales and flakes had healed, bumps and irritations had calmed, and my dry feet felt nourished. It was easily the best moisturizer I had ever used. But there had to be an easier way to apply it. I wanted it to glide on smoothly – no harsh rubbing.
A former pastry chef, I took it into the kitchen and began to play. I love creating recipes but had never thought about making something for the body. I was curious. I started playing with mixtures and potions- testing them, sharing them, tweaking them. What I discovered along the way was that days I used my creations, days I ‘accidentally’ took care of myself, were better days. I began to understand what my sister in law meant. It was similar to my childhood dancing.. These moments, these pauses, they made everything clearer.
There were highs and lows to this part of the journey as well. When something is in focus, it can appear far more terrifying. But the Body Stone was with me during these times. I would turn to it on mornings when I wanted to produce a shift, when I wanted my day to go differently than the day before. My intention combined with my own physical touch was like putting on armor, a self-care body shield. And things did begin to change. I fully believe that my new ritual enabled me to embark on the spiritual journey that brought me back to myself. My self care practices keep me tethered; they keep me grounded and aligned with my truth.
Eventually I started to think about sharing the Stone with others. As I hinted earlier, I’m a daydreamer, and I had lofty dreams but when it came time to act, I was terrified. Taking the Body Stone out of my home and into the world was about taking myself out of my home and into the world. Launching this business was taking a bet on myself, on daring to believe I could do it. Staying with this business has been a practice in not abandoning myself.
It is a journey, an ever-evolving, shifting, changing, ebbing and flowing journey. There are so many emotions, so many states – a rainbow of them – and I’ve found that the trick is being okay with experiencing the whole rainbow. You might really love indigo, the state of indigo might feel phenomenal, but if you’re enamored with indigo, when red shows up it is going to feel tragic. All the colors, all the emotions, all of our states are always with us. Taking care of myself has revealed a well of strength. It’s profoundly different from the strength that I relied on in the past, the fear-fueled force that kept me muscling through life. This strength is rooted in softness and stays with me, breath by breath, helping me embrace the whole rainbow. We all have this within us. Strength from softness. I am honored to share the practice that has helped me tap into that strength, that has led me back to my dancing self. It’s self care; it’s ritual; it’s everyday magic.