Kellyn Quinn, 27, can be found at ATC Fitness in Collierville seven days a week, often twice a day. She learned from an early age how important it is to take care of her health, which began with an accident in high school.

Sensitive to needles, Kellyn left the doctor’s office feeling lightheaded and passed out in the waiting area. Her head hit a metal table, and she fractured her skull. She stayed in the hospital for two weeks. Because of her sensitivity to light, she was homeschooled for the rest of high school.

Kellyn got a fresh start studying marketing at the University of Memphis. With encouragement from her sorority sisters, she became a plus-sized model with Allure as her main employer.

“I’ve never been small,” Kellyn says, “but I learned modeling was still something I could do and something I love.”

Modeling was a great job for her as a student. It allowed her to travel to new places like New York, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. However, it was difficult being in an industry that didn’t foster a healthy body image.

“It was also hard,” Kellyn recalls. “A lot of the models didn’t eat. Being around tiny people and former beauty pageant contestants who drank water instead of feeding themselves was challenging. I still ate and took care of myself though.”

Recovering from a brain injury only a few years prior, Kellyn understood the importance of taking care of her body. Despite the pressure to be a certain size, modeling gave her a strong sense of self-confidence.

In 2015, in the midst of her modeling career, Kellyn began having severe stomach pains and felt sick almost on a daily basis. After several misdiagnoses, she learned she has celiac disease—an inability to process gluten.

“A gluten intolerance makes you sick, but celiacs disease destroys your intestines. Eating just a little on accident makes me very ill and fatigued,” she says.

Kellyn had to cut out everything with even the faintest traces of gluten, including certain shampoos, makeup, and perfumes. Although she had gained weight prior to her diagnosis, she lost it as soon as she cut out gluten because her body could finally absorb nutrients properly. She encourages anyone facing stomach issues to get tested for celiac disease.

“I feel so much better knowing what was making me sick. I have more energy and feel like I can fully live now.”

Eventually, she ended her modeling career to become the marketing and event manager at Harley Davidson. Even though she isn’t a model anymore, she still faces pressure from others to be thinner.

“I love the way I look and my husband does too. I don’t go to the gym to lose weight. I’m not putting on a show for anyone.”

Her main advice on staying healthy is for people to take care of themselves and not give in to pressure to be a certain way. “It’s all about pleasing yourself and not other people.”

By Susanna Lancaster

Photo by Tindall Stephens