Keys Soulcare’s senior director on the rituals she practices to honor her relationships.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Let’s be real: aligning our gifts with our day-to-day actions and rituals can feel like a daunting task. But, all it takes is connecting with someone like Keys Soulcare Senior Director Nichole Kirtley to prove that “walking the walk” while doing big things is totally within reach. (And out-of-this-world inspiring, too.)
Read on for our talk about the rituals and relationships that keep her centered in her body and spirit, both on and off the clock.
First, the question we ask everyone. Who are you and what do you do?
What an important question for us all to ask ourselves. Let’s see. I’m Nichole Kirtley. Daughter of Carl and Gwen. Sister of C. Marsalis Kirtley. I’m a woman from Ohio who is grounded in family, and thinks about her legacy often.
Professionally speaking, I was hired to be the Senior Director of Strategic Extensions for e.l.f. Beauty, and help extend the [company] portfolio from a single brand into multiple ones. It’s evolved so much, and now my role is centered on Keys Soulcare.
What are your day-to-day duties?
Literally everything! Every point of the picture, from the box you open when you receive our offerings to the stories you read on the site. I help test formulas and packaging. I work across teams and projects from finance to media. There are so many spokes to our wheel, and I get to be a part of them all. It’s been an incredible experience.
What’s it been like to work with Alicia?
[In] our initial meeting, I was so excited to tell her that I remembered buying her first album and not skipping a single song. It was so dope. (Who ever listens to an album all the way through, you know?)
Everyone uses the word “real” to describe the special quality that she has… but it’s true. She’s got that quality — like a great homegirl from back in the day who’s so creative, such a hard worker, and grounded in family. She’s called it her “around the world, around the way” vibe. I just really, really enjoy working with her.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Dreaming of and reaching for what Alicia calls the “highest vision.” Putting together a brand is like putting together a puzzle. So, making sure that I have working knowledge of what’s going on and how things fit together is both important and fun. The spirit of connection is so big for us, and creating that is creating community. None of us are islands. We need each other to survive and thrive in this world.
How does connection rituals fit into your personal life?
Prior to the pandemic, one of my big rituals was going to church — particularly a one-hour Wednesday service called “Mid-week Manna” that is the jam. It’s 30 minutes of praise and worship, and 30 minutes of a speaker or sermon. I believe in the power of good messages pouring into me. Yoga is a form of meditation for me. I also take walks whenever I can to close out the workday, decompress, and get some fresh air.
I’m also on the junior leadership board of The Boys and Girls Club of Harlem, and I’m a co-chair of the Fundraising Committee of the Manhattan chapter of [my sorority] Alpha Kappa Alpha. I spend lots of time figuring out how to fundraise and galvanize young people to give and volunteer.
Do you have a favorite Keys Soulcare ritual?
They say you’re not supposed to pick between your favorite children, but I love The Radiance Ritual! I’ve often spoken about how good it feels to put something so positive and powerful out into the world, and this ritual is all about that. I do it daily. Another favorite is our Be Luminous Exfoliator. I use it in the shower, on my decolletage, and under my arms. It’s great for skin tone and can help with discoloration.
You’ve shared in another piece that you’re pursuing a wine education, too. Please share more about that!
Ha! Well, I love to nerd out about things in general. When I find something that sparks my curiosity, I want to dig a little deeper. (For example, noticing a connection between the wine and fragrance world is so fascinating to me.)
I was raised with one foot in the country. My family were farmers in Alabama and we have a huge farm there: pigs, cows, chickens, horses, the whole thing. I grew up going there every single summer. I see wine, history, and agriculture as a beautiful combination of my old life and the life I’m living now. I also have a good nose. I started studying for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust level two certification in 2018.
At some point, I would love to do something in wine, maybe even operate my own winery. For now, I do tastings with friends and, [at one point], was moonlighting at a neighborhood wine shop to help them purchase wine.
I stopped by recently and they said, “Nichole, we have to start tasting again!” That very night, I bought a bottle, sat with it, and started taking notes again. Like so many rituals, it’s like riding a bike: it can feel a little wild when you get back to it, but when you do, it’s so enjoyable and rewarding.
We’re wishing you so many more tasting opportunities! Can you share a particular ritual that has helped you stay connected to friends and family in the meantime?
A few of my sorority sisters and I started a play on Sunday Mass called “Sunday Masks.” One of my sisters did a complete logo design and everything. It started as a way for us to make sure we were each taking time for self-care, and to connect while doing it. Even when we’re not able to connect for a half-hour, we’ll send little masking pictures to each other with the message, “Hey girl, I did mine. Did you do yours?” Basically, we’re saying, “Did you take care of yourself today?” Even as work and life have blended, it’s important to take a moment for ourselves.
I’m also now on a family group text that’s so special and didn’t exist before. My dad, his five sisters, cousins, all the way down… It simply starts with “Good morning,” and then everyone’s checking in. I keep it on mute most of the day, but check in regularly. It feels so nice to get that immediate sense of connection to people you love in such a real way.
What’s your connection style? Phone, video, handwritten letters? Share how you’re staying close to the people and causes you care for in the comments.