Snowboarding Champ Kelly Clark Is Redefining What It Means To Be Authentic
Kelly Clark is a three-time Olympic snowboarding medalist in the women's halfpipe category. She's an incredibly talented snowboarder and an all-around badass. But even after 16 years competing professionally, Clark still knows how to stay true to who she is. Originally from Vermont, Clark started snowboarding when she was young, realizing in high school that she wanted to go professional. Bustle sat down with Clark to discuss her love of the sport, her openness about her Christian faith, and even her guilty-pleasure TV show — the athlete confessed her love for HGTV's Fixer Upper. But one quality about the athlete was persistent in the interview: Kelly Clark knows what it means to be "authentic." The Olympic medalist used the word frequently throughout her interview with me at the Paul Mitchell Focus Salon, Raika Studio, and it's clear that being true to her values is an essential part of her incredibly busy life.
Clark is a four-time Winter Olympian, and she's won a gold medal in 2002, as well as two bronze medals in 2010 and 2014, in the women's halfpipe competition. Clark also won her eighth title at the Burton U.S. Open this past March. And in addition to her professional achievements, Clark is also an athlete renowned for giving back to the community: in 2010, she founded the Kelly Clark Foundation, which helps children get started in the snowboarding world. One of the most famous facts about Clark, though, is represented in a sticker on her snowboard. Clark is open about her Christian faith, and one of her stickers reads, "Jesus, I cannot hide my love."
It's not every day you see a public figure profess their religious beliefs for the world to see, especially in our increasingly agnostic country. But for Clark, it's the only way to live. "I think in snowboarding, one of the things that’s part of the culture is authenticity," Clark tells Bustle. "That's something that we have a really high value for ... and for me, my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life, so if there was something that was important to me to put on my snowboard, that would be the one thing that was the biggest priority, and the foundation of my snowboarding."
By keeping her faith private, Clark explained, she'd be creating multiple versions of herself, and wearing many hats isn't something that interests her. "I don't separate my life out into who I am in one place and who I am in another," Clark tells Bustle. "It's kind of like, take it or leave it! This is what it is."
Clark's remarkably candid attitude isn't one you'd expect from a celebrity, but it's something plenty of other public figures could stand to learn from. For Clark, faith is the most important thing in her life, and it's not something separate from her snowboarding or her charitable work — it's an essential part of it. Whatever your religious beliefs, it's something to learn from. Clark tells Bustle that being a Christian "isn't circumstantial," so in her mind, not going public about her beliefs was never an option. There's the authenticity factor: Clark firmly believes that who you are as a person should reflect what you believe and feel on the inside.
"It’s not so much about having a Jesus sticker, it's about how I live my life, and putting that on display," Clark says. Her statements about being authentic in various aspects of her life are applicable to far more than just athletes and Christians. Instead of worrying about presenting different versions of yourself with different people, it's a lot easier to create a true version of who you are that spans all of your activities and relationships.
And while Clark's decision to put the religious sticker on her snowboard was based on her own beliefs, she also likes the idea of inspiring other people to be more open about who they are, including their faiths. "I hope it inspires people to be who they want to be," Clark says of the sticker.
"You have to really develop a strong sense of values in the midst of that relationship with God," Clark tells Bustle. "And you can then go impact culture, instead of being impacted by it." Whatever you believe or don't believe in, those are words that anyone can live by.