Interview: Kate Austin

by Ceylan Kumbarji
Interview Kate Austin

Kate Austin has had many memorable moments thus far. She proposed to her now-fiancèe in front of the Eiffel Tower, and they went viral. Then, her fiancée Sarah knew she needed to top it. So, she proposed to Kate on The Ellen Show, and their engagement went viral for a second time. Since then, Kate has been sharing her life and her story, talking about all things LGBTQ+, her experience with coming out, travel, being vegan, and her relationship with her mental health.

She shares openly when she feels sad or low, posts pictures of herself when she’s been crying and is totally raw and honest about her down days – a rarity on platforms that are typically glossy and filtered. “I grew up with my dad being bipolar and a few of my brothers struggling with their mental health, so it was always something we talked about. I can’t imagine not being able to have these conversations. To be able to make it more normal for people to talk about it and be more open about it is just really important,” she tells us. “To be able to make it more normal for people to talk about it and be more open about it is just really important.”

Kate describes herself as a storyteller, and telling her story to inspire others is a huge part of what she does. Whether she’s championing others in the LGBTQ+ community or attending protests to support the Black Lives Matter movement, she is all for speaking her truth, and using her platform to raise awareness and provide a safe space online. We spoke to Kate about being her authentic self, her most amazing moments so far, and what her wedding planning looks like.

“I was planning my life in the waiting of it to all happen.” – Kate Austin

Taylor Magazine: Tell us about you and what you do!

Kate Austin: I’ve made sharing my story a full time job, I would say. I share who I am, and take my struggles and turn that into something that can be beneficial to others! I use my platform to spread LGBTQ+ awareness and it’s been really cool to get to make that my full-time job.

Taylor Magazine: What did you do before you started to share your story and create your own space online?

Kate Austin: I was a server for a long time, and then I worked at a hair salon as their Social Media Manager. I never really loved social media. I just always did it well because I was sharing something from me, and it was easy that way because it was my own story to tell. It was when I was working there that I realised that I needed to do it for myself.

Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

Kate Austin: I always say I think it’s so cool (and weird!) because we’re all conditioned to be a part of social media, but also we’re able to connect with people that we’d never have been able to connect with if it didn’t exist. I love that young, queer kids have a place to go where they’re accepted. They can go online and find a safe corner where they can be themselves. That’s such a cool thing, that’s my favourite part. It connects people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet.

Taylor Magazine: At what point did you realise that you telling your story and having this presence on social media was something you could make a career of, and not just something to continue doing on the side?

Kate Austin: Last June was a big eye-opener for me. Obviously it’s Pride Month, and I just felt like I was able to get out there and work with big brands – getting paid to tell my story was really, really awesome. I got to meet so many people in the community and I just remember sitting back and thinking, “I am doing something so much bigger than I realised before.” I was getting paid more online than I was at my full-time job. I wasn’t happy in my job at the time and I was feeling really drained. I remember being like, “I can risk it all or jump and it might work out, or it won’t but I won’t know unless I do it,” and here I am, almost a year later. It’s been the coolest journey in the world.

“When you become an adult, you realise that you don’t have time or space for those negative or really harsh places. They’re so dimming on you and you don’t realise how badly it affects you until you’re out of it. You know in your heart when it’s time to recognise that and do something about it.” – Kate Austin

Taylor Magazine: Tell us a bit about what your life was like up until your trip to Mexico, where things all changed for you?

Kate Austin: I was living in Ohio, and I was born and raised in a super religious house. My parents were heavily involved in the church, and I grew up going to church twice a week – that was my world. I wasn’t really allowed to hang out with anybody who wasn’t involved in the church. I grew up with 5 brothers and was a cheerleader.

I kind of always knew I was gay. My friends had called me out on it a couple of times in high school because I literally never had an interest in guys. They were all like hooking up or finding boyfriends at that age, and I never was. I had no interest. It was never an option for me to have that self-discovery at the time because my parents were so religious. About 2 years later, after high school I got my first boyfriend and dated him for a year and a half. It was fine, he was a great guy and I have no bad things to say about him. He was so handsome, my family loved him and he treated me like a queen. But, I just couldn’t do it. I talked to guys before him too, and nobody peaked my interest.

At that point I thought, “I am going to fall in love with him eventually,” and there was no reason why I wouldn’t. I was planning my life in the waiting of it to all happen. I was ready to settle and I was waiting for this moment to occur that obviously never would have – that’s such a scary feeling and place to be in. So, I dated him for about a year and a half and then I went to Mexico with my best friend’s family. When I was there, I met this girl and we ended up hanging out all day. We had really crazy chemistry and I don’t know if it was actually crazy chemistry or if it was just the chance. Plus, I’d had a lot of Long Islands that day… We ended up kissing and I will never forget that moment. I remember it ending and being like, “Everything is different now.” It’s crazy to think about. But, a simple kiss with some stranger and my entire life changed in that moment. I knew I could never go back because I’d felt more from this kiss with a stranger than I did in 18 months with this guy who I thought I was gonna be with. That’s when everything flipped upside down. I came home and I broke up with my boyfriend. I thought that I was gonna move to Minnesota and be with this girl forever but she ended up screwing me over, which is a blessing in disguise because now I’m with Sarah! After that, I came out and it was just wild.

Taylor Magazine: How did you feel? Was it like a weight had been lifted off your shoulders, and a sort of comfort to know that you were being true to yourself?

Kate Austin: I think it’s a combination. I remember being excited that I could finally feel something with somebody because I’d gone years and years not. On my flight home, I thought I would go home and try to be with my boyfriend but I couldn’t even be near him. Everything had changed. It was good to know that there wasn’t something wrong with me, because I used to literally think I wasn’t capable of emotion. I’d think, “Why is everyone getting to feel these feelings and I’m not?” It was a breath of fresh air for me, but at the same time I lived with my religious parents who would never accept it, and none of my friends at the time knew – all my friends changed after high school. It was a combination of both being afraid and having a new exciting part of my life that actually made me excited. I want there to be a world where we don’t have to come out, it can just be a thing. But, I think about looking at my friend for the first time and being like, “Hi, I’m gay,” and that was so liberating.

“You’re meant to be fulfilled in every aspect of your life and you have to allow yourself to get there.” – Kate Austin

Taylor Magazine: You’ve spoken a lot on social about your parents and how your relationship with them changed. What would you say this taught you about boundaries?

Kate Austin: I guess it was learning that toxic relationships come from anybody and you have to be able to recognise that. It was a 5 year process learning that with my parents and thinking, “You brought me into this world but that doesn’t mean I owe you my happiness or my life.” It was a learning process because I wouldn’t let anyone else in this world treat me in a way that is disrespectful to me. It’s such a rollercoaster and it’s really not an easy path. It’s something I’m going to deal with forever because I can’t have proper emotional relationships with my parents.

My thing now and what I preach to people is that it’s okay to draw boundaries. You don’t have to cut people off. You don’t have to cut people out of your life. You can do whatever is best for you. We all handle things differently, but don’t be afraid to draw the line. When you become an adult, you realise that you don’t have time or space for those negative or really harsh places. They’re so dimming on you and you don’t realise how badly it affects you until you’re out of it. You know in your heart when it’s time to recognise that and do something about it.

Taylor Magazine: Yeah, that’s really good advice. What advice would you give to people who feel like unfulfilled?

Kate Austin: I was so unfulfilled. You don’t realise how bad something is until you’re no longer in it. I always felt like I was missing something and I was never truly happy. I thought something was wrong with me. It’s like any bad relationship or anything you’re doing that isn’t fulfilling – you’re stuck because you don’t know if there’s any other option out there. There for sure is. You’re meant to be fulfilled in every aspect of your life and you have to be able to allow yourself to get there. I can’t believe that I was settling for the relationship I was in. My fiancée is most definitely my soulmate and I almost missed out on this because I wanted to make other people happy and I was afraid. My life is so much better now.

Taylor Magazine: How has this whole experience shaped you and changed you as a person?

Kate Austin: I’ve definitely changed a lot. I was 20 when I left Ohio and I’m almost 27 now. I think that the time between being with Sarah and coming out to my parents… well, it’s a life lesson that has shaped me into being a loving, emotional, understanding, patient person. I’m more emotional now than I ever have been in my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Things that mattered to me when I was younger are so not the same things I care about now. I’m so different, and I’m so grateful that I’m so different. I’ve also learnt that when you live for yourself, identifying who you are and being truthful to yourself, fate just gives you people who live in the same way. I am a big believer in the universe and fate. How can I not be? Things wouldn’t have happened if everything didn’t perfectly align. When you finally start living for your true self and start being unapologetically yourself, you start discovering that you find people who appreciate that and are doing the same or are trying to do the same. I’ve made friends now that I would’ve dreamed of having years ago.

“It’s crazy to me that we have to talk about mental health and how we don’t feel 100% like we’re coming out of the closet with our mental state.” – Kate Austin

Taylor Magazine: That’s so nice! How do you feel now?

Kate Austin: I look at myself now and realise that I didn’t really know that there was an entire world out there. I didn’t understand that there was so much more that the world could offer me. I just had to go out of my comfort zone, which is what so many people are afraid to do. Now, me and Sarah travel the world all year long, we do all these crazy things. It’s the life I dreamed of living when I was younger.

Taylor Magazine: Where have you been on your travels most recently (before quarantine)?

Kate Austin: When I proposed to Sarah in Paris, we did Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam and that was a really cool trip. I love Europe and I would live there in a heartbeat. We loved London, we were only there for a long weekend for Sarah’s birthday. But for our honeymoon, we’re hoping to do a week in Greece and two weeks in Italy if it’s safe to go.

Taylor Magazine: That would be amazing! When you’re away, do you get to switch off from work? Do you feel like you need that time to switch off from social media?

Kate Austin: Yes, of course! I take on people’s feelings and emotions, and it’s a blessing and a curse. I love being able to feel so deeply and to connect with people in that way, but it can be exhausting too. I used to be the lesbian therapist everyone needed when I first started sharing online, but I’ve now realised that I’m not that. I’m not qualified to be that and I don’t have the answers to everything. I’m just doing my best and what might be the right answer for me may not be the right answer for someone else.

Taylor Magazine: What would you say has been the most rewarding thing for you about connecting with people?

Kate Austin: Last year was really, really cool. I went to 3 prides and I would be at a bar with my friends, and people would come up to me and thank me. Because it is all online and you don’t get to see people face-to-face, when people come up to you it’s a whole other experience. It’s like, “Oh cool, you are real. I did help real people in the world.” Being able to meet them and for them to tell me more about themselves is unbelievable. I cry every time, it’s just so cute.

Taylor Magazine: Who are some people who inspire you?

Kate Austin: Okay so… The Birds Papaya, I LOVE her and I’m definitely her number one fan. She’s good at sharing, and she’s grateful and gracious at accepting messing up sometimes and apologising for it. She shares parts of her life and I just think she is the most incredible person. I aspire to be able to share in the same way that she does.

I love Matt XIV. He’s in the LGBTQ+ platform area and he talks a lot about white privilege and Black Lives Matter which is such an important thing to discuss. He does it all through makeup which is amazing.

Ready to Stare is one of my favourites too! I met her at pride last year. Her and her husband are the coolest couple and they do a ton for lots of communities. Everything they say and do is phenomenal.

There’s Raffinee, who is an LGBTQ+ mum. She shares really openly, and shares what it takes to make a family. Her parents weren’t accepting at first either – her wife’s a doctor and she was a nurse, and they’re so cool.

Roll.with.Cole are a couple who are planning a wedding and building a house to meet their needs. They’re so cool, funny, down to earth and amazing. They’re also part of The Knot Influencer Crew.

Taylor Magazine: Speaking of The Knot, what was that experience like for you? It must have been a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment.

Kate Austin: Honestly, unbelievable! It’s weird because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything exceptional, I’m just using my Instagram as a diary. For me, sharing is easy. For me, it helps me heal and it helps me to move past emotions. The fact that people see that and are inspired by that, it’s one of the coolest things in the world to me.

Taylor Magazine: What would you say is your proudest achievement and how do these surreal moments feel for you? Let’s take The Ellen Show for example…

Kate Austin: That… well, that was next-level. It’s just the craziest thing when it’s someone so influential to you. I didn’t think I’d ever meet Ellen DeGeneres and to end up on her couch, across from her? I was literally not okay. She invited our whole chosen family and let us do a proposal on national TV. It was so important for kids to see that. You don’t see queer proposals on national TV, live or in real life. It was really, really awesome and the responses we received from it were so incredible. I had parents reaching out saying, “I hadn’t accepted my daughter before but now I do, seeing your love.”

Taylor Magazine: Amazing! What are the next steps for your wedding plans now?

Kate Austin: We both knew we wanted a late spring/early summer wedding, (which is peak wedding season!) so we picked April because of pricing and availability. We’re getting married at Park Chateau in NJ early next year, hopefully with everything that’s happening but if it does have to change it’s not the end of the world. We’re gonna play it by ear and see how things look. But everything is just amazing, from the venue and florist, to our photographer and videographers. We picked the place because it’s just beautiful and unreal. We’re currently designing our dresses with BHLDN (who helped set up my proposal to Sarah!), and Watters separately, working on the sketches and everything. I can’t wait!

Taylor Magazine: You’re always really open and honest on your platforms about how you feel and your emotions. When things are really busy or stressful for you, how do you wind down and have a healthy mindset?

Kate Austin: I’ve always been a pretty open person when it comes to anything I’m feeling. I grew up with my dad being bipolar and a few of my brothers struggling with their mental health, so it was always something we talked about. I can’t imagine not being able to have those conversations. To be able to make it more normal for people to talk about it and be more open about it is just a really big thing. I think it’s so important to have friends who you know understand how you feel. That conversation too where you’re afraid to tell someone after you’ve been MIA for a few days, and you have that anxious feeling of having that first conversation. When you have someone who understands and doesn’t hold that against you, it’s such a relief. It’s also really nice to have a partner that gets your ebs and flows. It’s different for everybody, and it’s crazy to me that we have to talk about mental health and how we don’t feel 100% like we’re coming out of the closet with our mental state. We have to tiptoe. No-one should invalidate your feelings, whether it’s with toxic positivity or however. It’s okay to not feel okay and to just feel how we feel.

“There doesn’t have to be a place or starting point for your emotions. I get random emotions all the time that come out of nowhere and I just have to feel them out and let them go.” – Kate Austin

Taylor Magazine: And if you’re feeling anxious or low, what do you do?

Kate Austin: I disappear and lay on my couch for as long as I need to, and my dog helps too. One of the biggest things is to have someone there to listen. Plus, we’re so consumed all the time by social media. Even aside from it being my job, everyone is always on their phones and connected to other people constantly. It can be exhausting. Being able to put my phone away and have some time where there’s a bit of balance helps. It’s a great feeling to remember that we can disconnect if we want to.

Taylor Magazine: What does support mean to you when you feel anxious?

Kate Austin: It’s so key to feel safe, no matter what. When I have anxiety, I get anxiety about having anxiety. To have Sarah there and to know she won’t judge me is a big thing. She’ll make sure I’m comfortable in whatever is happening with what I’m feeling. To know that whatever your anxiety or feelings bring, your partner is there to help you deal with it as it comes makes a huge difference. When you’re feeling what you’re feeling, the worst thing is being too anxious to say it. It took me until this year to understand the signs of my anxiety. I know when I get really snappy and short-tempered, I’m anxious and there’s something happening there. When my anxiety is really bad, my brain feels numb and it just all feels too much. I’m overstimulated and can’t really think. I also don’t necessarily need the same thing all the time.

Taylor Magazine: What’s one key thing you want people to know when it comes to mental health and feelings?

Kate Austin: There doesn’t have to be a place or starting point for your emotions. I get random emotions all the time that come out of nowhere. I just have to feel them out and let them go. Another key thing is that we don’t owe people explanations for feeling a certain way. You want to be able to feel whatever you’re feeling in front of your partner and know it’s not going to be a problem or an issue. You want to be safe with your whole self, even the parts that don’t make sense. If I’m on my period, I feel like a completely different person. I don’t know how to describe it but I can’t control my emotions during that week. If I feel I’m getting more intense, I’ll try to just leave the situation. My thoughts are way clearer afterwards, and I’m also way more likely to say sorry and take accountability if I’ve been able to relax and had time to process. You have to figure out what’s best for you – if you feel like you can’t talk about it calmly or properly when emotions are high, do what works for you. If you don’t know how to communicate, just say, “I’m not 100% myself today.” Honesty and communication will be your best friends.

Taylor Magazine: How would you describe yourself?

Kate Austin: I would say I’m definitely an open book, super emotional, super fun, and I’m always down for anything.

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