What's Her Secret: Kelly Bensimon

The model, author, fragrance designer and mother of two talks exercise, inspiration, mental stimulation and doing what you love.

Art by Tanya Leigh Washington

Kelly Bensimon has been a model, muse, fashion editor, Real Housewife, author and now, fragrance designer and writer––she's a columnist for amNewYork. We spoke with the busy mother of two about staying energized, inspired and mentally stimulated while doing what she loves.

What are some of the things you do to stay well? "I call it promoting wellness and one way I do that is, I have teenage kids, so our routine is to get to bed before 11pm, drink a lot of water. I don't skip meals, I'd rather eat three healthy meals than one bad one. I believe that your body is a Ferrari––and I treat my body like a Ferrari. I'm 46, and I definitely have always been mindful of what my body needs. I was an athlete as a young girl and I was always trained to eat a certain way and live a certain lifestyle, and that's translated into my adult life."

It's great to start young. The body can give us a lot of information, even emotional stuff. "It's funny, I'm reading two books that are super popular right now. One is called The Power of Habit and the other is called Ten Percent Happier, and the takeaway from those two books is that people are starving for ways to enrich their lives. I tell my kids, 'Six days a week you're working, you're in school working, you're exercising just like I am, and the seventh day is our fun day and we can do whatever we want.' If you think of it in terms of planning out your week, being respectful of yourself and the people around you and the job that you do, you're going to be successful. If you're not successful, that's something else; there's something wrong. But if you have integrity and you're trying to be the best you can be, there's no reason why you shouldn't be happy. If you're eating well, sleeping well and doing what you love, you have passion. And you can't have happiness without passion."

So I said, 'I'm just going to start doing what I love, and stop doing what I don't love.'"

What are some of your passions? "My girls are obviously two of my biggest passions. And my work, I love writing and interviewing different amazing trailblazers and mavericks in New York, I  love being exposed to all different kinds of creative people. I love interviewing people who are interesting, evocative and innovative. Some people talk the talk and don't walk the walk, and I feel I've been lucky to interview people who have inspired me on so many different levels, whether it's to be more athletic, to be more courageous with my children, to be more open with my boyfriend, and whatever it is, when someone's an incredible person, it just seeps out of them. I work to give my girls all the opportunities they deserve, to give them every single possibility so they can be the best version of them. And I'm also lucky that the work that I do is inspiring to them. If I go to a party or a dinner, I'll bring my kids with me. So for them, my world is not a separate life from theirs, it's something they have access to if they want––and they've met some really interesting people who have inspired them."

What's Her Secret: Kelly Bensimon

What's your workout routine? "Everybody knows that I like to run, I have run for charity. I mean, I will run across the country for charity. But for every day, for my own sense of self, whether it's for, as I tell my kids, 'getting the bad stuff out of my head' or just getting my blood moving, I will do the simplest thing, of doing 30 squats and a headstand, to going out on a 20 minute run, to spending 45 minutes in SoulCycle, to riding a horse with my friends for an hour. It really runs the gamut. I love sports. I love tennis, I love golf, I mean, I hit golf balls by myself all the time off Hudson Pier and people think I'm an idiot. I'm just a very physically and mentally active person, I don't know how to describe it any other way. I love to be stimulated."

How about diet? "Well, I wrote this book a couple of years ago called I Can Make You Hot. And 'hot' is an acronym for healthy options today. [Because] your perception of your body and the reality of your body are two totally different things. If you just recognize what kind of body you have and are aware of what your inherent body should be and eat according to that, there is absolutely no reason you should not be a well-oiled machine. There are people who are so obsessed with their bodies, and they're not recognizing that they should be obsessed with their ability to have an amazing life! So many women have come up to me and say, 'Oh you're a model, you're so skinny,' and I say, 'I'm not so skinny. I'm 5'10", I eat really well, I take care of myself, I exercise a lot, because that's my job.' It's my job to look and feel good and have as much energy as possible so I can provide for my kids."

Do women come up to you and share their stories? "One of the most startling things I keep hearing over and over is, 'If I just lose ten pounds, then he'll like me. If I just lose ten pounds, then I'll ask that man on a date. If I just lose, if I just lose, if I just lose. These words are a crazy excuse that is so debilitating, it makes me so incredibly sad. I say to them, 'What if you don't? Does that mean he's never going to like you? Put on a belt, wear a jacket. I mean, seriously?' I always tell my kids, 'Today is never going to come again.' So if you're not going to have a good time with it, then don't do it."

Yeah, living in the present moment is the way to go. "I'm the kind of person who, if I'm standing next to you in the elevator, I'll probably be like, 'Oh, it's cold in here' to start up a conversation because you never know what people are going to say, and everyone has a story. I always feel that if I don't say something to someone randomly, I've missed an opportunity for someone to tell me something. And ironically enough, I could be in the strangest places and people will tell me the most obscure stories, in the line at CVS. And I really enjoy that, I've met a lot of interesting people, not just celebrities, but people who are really thinking out of the box and who are pioneers in their own way. To me, that's the ultimate stimulation."

What's Her Secret: Kelly Bensimon

You must have long days, how do you make that work? "I have really long days. I don't make it work. I wake up at 6:30am and I'm in bed by 11pm. Everyone else is like, 'Oh, that was really fun, let's go get cocktails,' and I'm like, 'No, I have to go write this article,' or whatever it is. I don't have that luxury. But on the other side of that, which I love, is that my day is always evolving. You never know who you're going to meet. It's fun. Life is short, why not have fun with it?"

Finally, speaking of passions, you have a new fragrance, called In The Spirit Of. How did you get into fragrances? "I [always] had an obsession with scent and after being on TV for a long time, I started getting my MBA and dabbled in story and I'd written some books but I wanted to really create amazing products that I was obsessed with and wanted the whole world to celebrate with me. And all of these courses were always saying the same thing: if you have passion and you love it and you want it so badly and you know a lot about it, that's a recipe for success. So I said, you know what? I'm just going to start doing what I love and stop doing what I don't love. And fragrance is something I'm obsessed by, and I buy it all the time—I've been layering fragrances since I was 20 years old. I always believe when you do things organically, it's the best way. When you force things, it's like 'ugh.'"

Pick up a bottle of Bensimon's fragrance, In The Spirit Of, for $60 at cakewalkstyleshop.com.