Written By: Rose Fong
Photography By: @KarloGomez
Kortney Olson grew up feeling isolated, “a typical kid with an alcoholic parent, a product of divorce… we don’t understand that through ages zero to eight years old, we’re creating the majority of our beliefs of ourselves... We create these beliefs about ourselves that are limiting and not true… stuff like that has a massive impact on our future.”
“On the outside, I was completely all put together [in high school] -- going to Stanford on a full ride scholarship, I was in a Christian rock band, started the first all-girl golf team -- but what was really going on was that I had developed anorexia and bulimia in my sophomore year. By my senior year, I found speed, and because I lose weight doing it, I thought I found the Holy Grail.”
Kortney made it through a year of college before being called out for her drug addiction by a teacher. She met a drug counselor and resolved to get clean. And things were looking up as she caught the eye of a boxing coach who wanted to mentor her. He called her to his house when she was three days clean. He told her that she would be his next prize fighter, and he offered her alcohol and weed. When Kortney woke up, her world spiraled upside down.
“I assumed it was my fault, I must have led him on, I’m a bad person… it was a massive struggle.” For the next eight years, Kortney battled alcoholism, addiction, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Her self esteem took an unconventional turn when she discovered a plane of the internet that loved women with strong bodies like hers. She hosted an adult-only website with clips of herself flexing her muscles for her viewers. The appreciation of her body was exhilarating.
Her world spiraled again several years later, when her newlywed husband hired her to assist weight-training his national Australian rugby team. Her clipstore of adult-only videos, though not pornographic in itself, was discovered by a reporter, and a global smear campaign was launched against her. “People from Denmark were sending me pictures of their newspaper.”
“I got mad, because when a New Zealand football player married a pornstar a year before this happened, everyone was praising him and high-fiving him… And then when this came up, I was the worst woman in the world… I didn’t even have any topless videos, I was just associated with [fetish videos].”
“I started to question the media and why women are pitted against each other… Fortunately for me, I’ve got a very thick skin. I’ve experienced all my experiences for a reason. I am who am today because of it. I know who I am, I know where I’m going. When I put my head on my pillow and go to bed, I know I’m a good person.”
After her application to be a mentor was dismissed by the Boys and Girls club because of the media smear campaign, Kortney spent five months building Camp Confidence. “I’m gonna create a program run by women who’ve been there and done that. And not just talk the talk, but walk the fucking walk.”
“It was basically a roadmap to avoid all the shit I went through as a kid. I’m gonna teach them the tools to learn to love themselves. And once they love themselves, they’ll stop seeing each other as competition... In the program, we did this thing called The Pledge: they were not gonna be judgemental toward themselves or other women to the best of their ability… By the end of the weekend, they had eight to ten new best friends.”
“The vision and the mission of Camp Confidence rolled into Grrrl Clothing.” Grrrl clothing is unique in not only its mission, but in how the company chooses to size their clothes. Instead of using the archaic S through L and XL labels, Grrrl clothing names their sizes after world-class athletes who wear the same measurements as the customer.
“Most companies use the 5% body type. If we don’t see ourselves, then we don’t feel like we belong. The root problem of everything is isolation, not feeling good enough. That’s when you start to self harm.”
“We need to normalize that [we have dimples and cellulite].”
To stay positive, Kortney says, “I do my best to be of service to other people. That makes me feel whole, that makes me feel useful. When I’m not, I’m in my head and I start to negatively self talk. As long as I actively remain in the moment to help other people, that helps me.”
“We have a closed Facebook group with 5000 women. And that’s where the magic happens. We make clothing, but we really want to create a sisterhood. Having real, live relationships is really important. That’s the big vision.That’s what keeps me motivated, seeing people post their pictures saying, ‘I’m comfortable in my own skin.’ It’s so cool.”
“We’re not born as backstabbing jealous bitches, we’re born as loving souls -- society pits us against each other as competition,” but with Grrrl, Kortney builds a world where women support each other. “Being of service keeps us grounded and makes us whole.”