She’s known for her roles in The Vampire Diaries, Unreal and as the sassy Cristal Carrington in the hit remake Dynasty, but this Peru-born, Australia-raised actress couldn’t be further from her on-screen persona. We caught up with Nathalie Kelley in her gorgeous Hollywood home to chat all things wellness, tea ceremonies and self-acceptance.
It’s 3pm on a Friday and the sun is glistening over the Hollywood hills. Nathalie Kelley opens the door to the new Hollywood home she and her husband now share. She’s barefoot, wearing a cute, red crop-top that has willowy white straps tied into bows over her shoulders. Paired with high-waisted denim shorts that accent her svelte, bronze limbs; she’s petite and effortlessly flawless.
The effervescent Peru-born, Australia-raised actress is quick to welcome me with a hug. “Hiiiiii, it’s so nice to meet you! Come in, I just need to jump in the shower,” she yells out, walking half way up her entrance, her down-to-earth and laid-back persona instantly instilling a sense of warmth and candidness. “We’ve been unpacking from Burning Man all day so please excuse the mess.”
I look around and the house is spotless. A Moroccan, tribal-inspired interior, featuring brass tones and earthy patterns that flow through the open lounge room – where natural light beams in from the rooftop balcony – imbue her love of travel and unique self-expression.
“I think I’ve put this curtain on wrong, what do you think,” she asks, turning to our photographer Dave, who helps her mount the sheer white curtains. »
Nat has just returned home from Burning Man, an eight-day festival that sees thousands of wellness seekers flock to the Nevada Desert in search of spiritual awakening. Burning Man, where a temporary city is erected in the middle of the desert, sees strangers working together to create an alternative society that eschews traditional reliance on money and social norms. It’s about ‘radical inclusion’ and ‘radical self-expression’ or, to outsiders, radical anarchy. It’s the festival seen sprawled all over Instagram, where extravagant outfits and disco lights reign supreme, and where people stay in Airstream caravans and use silver-painted push bikes as their preferred mode of transport.
After the festival, Nat tells us, she hitchhiked her way to LAX airport – at night – to catch a flight to attend the prestigious Tommy Hilfiger show, before flying to NYC for fashion week, then back to Hollywood to meet us in her home on the one afternoon she had spare. To say we were grateful for her finding time amongst the chaos would be an understatement.
Among her jam-packed schedule of festivals, interviews and A-list events, Nat has also managed to build a flourishing acting career. Her first break came in 2006, when she scored the role of Neela in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Since then, she has appeared in everything from Lone Star and CSI to the film clip for Bruno Mars’ smash hit Just the Way You Are. But it is her roles in Unreal, The Vampire Diaries and, more recently, in the re-booted 80s classic, Dynasty, that have seen her become a household name.
“When you mention them all in one sentence, it’s cool because there is definitely a broad spectrum of characters I have played there,” she says of her Hollywood repertoire.
“I think my favourite so far, surprisingly, would be Unreal. The character I played on Unreal, Grace, even though it was a smaller part, she just had a twist to her. There was a bit of darkness and depth.”
But there is no denying it is her recent role as the seductive and sassy Cristal Carrington that has gained her worldwide recognition and elevated her career to the next level. The characters are electric, the fashion more fabulous than one could imagine, and the commotion exactly what you would expect from a TV drama; hot, twisted and full of colourful cat-fights. “It was a lot of work and it was still a lot of fun, but we definitely let the stunt doubles do the professional part of that,” she says with a laugh.
Wellness is wholeness. It’s the complete integration – checking in with myself in all areas of life, knowing how I feel and where am I stagnant, what areas need more attention.
With such a packed work schedule, it would be easy to get swept up in the madness, but Nathalie says it’s her commitment to living a balanced life that allows her to keep everything in check. Poised on her Moroccan-inspired balcony, glowing from ear to ear, she says for her, wellness is about more than just drinking a green juice in the morning.
“For myself to really feel a sense of whole wellness, I need to feel an alignment of my spiritual, emotional and physical body. It needs to encompass a whole spectrum of things,” she says. “Wellness is wholeness, it’s the complete integration – checking in with myself in all areas of life, knowing how I feel and where am I stagnant, what areas need more attention. It’s important for people to understand there isn’t necessarily one program or one diet or one spiritual path that is going to work for them at all times, and in every circumstance. I’m constantly checking in with myself, constantly adjusting things and fine-tuning what works for me.”
Suffering from psoriasis, an auto-immune disease that can affect her whole body at any one time, means that wellness is the one tool she has to manage flare-ups. She explains that a healthy way of life and a strict, anti-inflammatory diet (“no seeds, no nuts, no grains”) is key to keeping the disease at bay. Despite the unending stream of comments on social media about her weight, Nathalie says she is the happiest – and healthiest – she’s ever been. “It grieves me to think that people think I’m trying to be skinny because I’m in Hollywood” she says, concerned. “That’s the furthest thing from who I am. I would never want to look a certain way. I want to be who I am, I want to be most authentically myself and, right now, being most authentically myself is – sadly – not eating rice or almonds.”
If you are one of the 700,000-plus
people who follow her on Instagram, you may have picked up on Nat’s free-spirited nature. You’ll often see photos of her basking in the sun in her birthday suit, surrounded by nature, or performing her morning tea ceremonies, which she fell in love with as a personal form of moving-meditation. “I never used to be a person who was able to sit down and just do a mindfulness breath meditation,” she explains. “That would always drive me a little crazy, making me a little too anxious. That’s when I picked up my moving tea ceremony practice.”
And, as crazy as life can get living away filming a back-to-back series, Nat is more excited than ever to be back in her sanctuary, her home, where at this point in her life she is focusing on self-love and self-acceptance, with beauty routines she hopes many women can adopt on their own journey of wellness and self-acceptance. “I sit with myself, breathing and connecting. I take my hands and intuitively start placing my hands on all parts of my body. I touch the parts of my body that I really love. Like, I’ll go to my cheek bones and my eyes and I say ‘I’m here for you, I love you’, then work my way to the parts of me that can make me squirm. I hold those parts and say; ‘Hi, I’m here for you, I feel your fear, I love you’.”
Nat says it’s all about trying to rid herself of negativity so that positivity can flourish.
“I send myself a lot of love these days,” she says, holding her hands over her heart as we speak. “We so need it. We don’t have compassion for ourselves. We find it so easy to love other people and have such a hard time loving ourselves. I’ve made a point to love myself this year, in an actual, grounding way, cultivating a lot of passion for myself because I want to give my best service to my work, to my friends, to my husband. I want to be a tool, a channel, and I can’t do that if I’m carrying negativity or self –loathing in myself. So a lot of us need to work on clearing those obstructions so we can flow freely.” Perhaps this may just be the method to get us all on the path to basking nude in solitude? Hell there is no harm giving it a go, right?!
“I send myself a lot of love these days,” she says, holding her hands over her heart as we speak. “We so need it. We don’t have compassion for ourselves. We find it so easy to love other people and have such a hard time loving ourselves.
So as the sun sets on the balcony where we sit, I find myself mesmerised by Nat’s beauty and life-loving ways. We could chat for hours on life, love and listening to our inner critic and pushing that aside for the sake of truly accepting ourselves for who we are. But time is of the essence, I have a flight to catch and well Nat has some more re-decorating to do.
Images: David Higgs
Creative Direction: Brooke Meredith of STUDIO.ACC
Hair: Lauren Mackellar
Makeup: Lilly Keys
Styling: Giuliana Crescentini