Meet Keltie O' Connor: How chasing her passion for sports & fitness inspired her to move to Toronto
Tell us a little bit about yourself – for example, growing up what were your interests? Have they changed or did you always have a main concept/idea in your mind that you wanted to achieve?
Growing up I was always an athlete! That was my bread and butter, it’s all I knew. That was my biggest passion in life. I played mainly team sports, basketball, volleyball, a little bit competitive swimming and track and field as well. My biggest goal was to play university basketball, and I worked really hard. Luckily I got to do that and that was the premise of my life growing up. Sports are such a passion of mine; I still continue to practice. I lost it once university basketball ended, I was stuck, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do! I got a bit more into the fitness world, dabbled in that, I still do that but transitioned back into playing sports again. It's been really exciting to get that hobby back into my life even if it’s not playing at such a high level anymore.
In terms of education, what inspired you to study science, with the addition of the biology and psychology minor?
I studied science originally because I had the idea to go to medical school! I had gotten good grades growing up, I loved health - Grey’s Anatomy and all those, so I naturally thought that I should be a doctor! When I went in that direction, I realized medicine really wasn’t for me. It’s not quite the same as how they portray it on TV but that made me realize that I wanted to be involved with television specifically instead of medicine. So I didn’t want to be a doctor, I literally wanted to be on Grey’s Anatomy.
What’s your day-to-day life like? Especially as a sports model/social media content creator?
My week!? I wish I could just give you an answer, but the cool thing about my job is that every single week is different. It’s a lot of photo shoots, filming for my channel, meetings with clients, writing ideas with other studios I want to work with, businesses, clothing companies, whatever it is! So it would be a mix of that and then obviously I’m working out every day, whether it be for the actual photoshoot, or video project that we’re working on or just my own workouts. I also try to spend time with friends. It’s a lot of computer work at my desk or cafes because I don’t have a home office. I’m usually wandering around somewhere downtown doing computer work.
What inspired you to move from Edmonton to Toronto? What went through your mind in making that decision
So the decision to move to Toronto was always in the back of my mind. I had lived in Halifax and when I came back to Edmonton and signed a year lease I had this idea that Edmonton wasn’t for me. I love it, it’s my hometown but I just never felt like it was for me. So I felt Vancouver was a good fit at first, but Toronto was always in the back of my mind because I hadn’t spent much time there. This summer, the agency that I work with flew me out here. I had a bunch of gigs and it was just mind-blowing! It had all the pieces of a city that I was missing and my agency recommended it because there are a lot more career opportunities in what I do. I distinctly remember where I was downtown. I was just blown away; intoxicated by the city and the people. I always felt stuck in Edmonton and what I wanted to do there, just couldn’t be done. I worked so hard and hit a wall. When I came here, there were many like-minded people looking for similar opportunities and I know if I put in the work here, good things will come. I love this city - the opportunities and the people - and I was just infatuated with everything about it!
What sparked your interest in playing multiple competitive sports, especially basketball?
I come from a from a family of all male siblings and cousins, so I am the only female. Growing up I didn’t really have a choice, I learned to walk and then this basketball was placed in my hands right after. It probably started when I decided I wanted to keep up with the boys, keep up with my cousins and show that I’m not "just a girl" and that I can play sports. It just became a part of me; I find it so much fun; it’s become my passion. Whether it be basketball, volleyball, track, swimming! It’s just so intoxicating, that feeling of being in the zone, taking a free throw, making a shot, swimming in the pool. It’s just pure joy to me. It never really started, it was always just there!
For your sports journey - tell us about it! How did you balance playing varsity sports with academics?
My sports journey started in high school with me playing pretty much every single sport. I even won athlete of the year because I played volleyball, basketball, handball and rugby - which is not prettiest of sights, but I definitely played it! I raced track and field, but volleyball and basketball were my number ones, and always were! The transition to university was really tough. In grade 12 I remember the volleyball season had ended and basketball season was starting. There was a decision to play club volleyball that year, or dive fully into basketball- and I was having trouble deciding which one I wanted to play in post-secondary. I was training really hard, talking to a lot of colleges and universities and trying to decide. I remember trying to make this decision with my family and I had to decide volleyball or basketball! I knew that if I picked volleyball, I would miss basketball more and if I picked basketball, I wouldn’t miss volleyball more. I loved them both but basketball has my heart so I just ended up doing that! You go through the scholarship process, I.D camps where they scout, and that’s when you get a feeling. So there were a few colleges, but I remember the girls on the team were what really sold the deal for me. The second I got in, it just felt like home! I felt like I had my place with them, and I just knew where I wanted to go and that’s why I picked them. That’s just the process of transitioning from high school sports to university.
How I balance it all is not easy, and I’m going to tell you right off the start that I don’t know HOW I balanced it the first semester...I didn’t. I was a deer in headlights - I didn’t realize how much studying was required to compete in sports. My first semester was god awful, and the worst grades I have ever gotten in my entire life. I reevaluated over Christmas and decided I wanted to do the medical school thing. I wanted to get high academics for scholarship opportunities. It came down to planning, as cheesy as it is. It’s sitting down at the beginning of the week and saying “you have to do this, this and this” and then finding a way to keep yourself accountable. Luckily on a team sport, I find that you feel the pressure of your teammates all studying, so it’s like "Keltie where are you?!". The nice thing about basketball teams is that you have 12-15 girls, so your team keeps you accountable but have to be accountable for yourself and for your team as well. So it just comes down to proper planning as glamorous as that sounds
What led you to pursue sports modelling?
This one was by accident! I remember growing up I always loved the idea of modelling, acting, TV hosting and all those kinds of things but I was just so focused on sports that I didn’t have any time to think about anything other than that and my academics! When basketball ended, and I had to stop playing, Instagram blew up in popularity. I recently was doing fitness-y things on Instagram as funny as that sounds, but then some people started inquiring to see if I’d be interested in modelling. I had the blessing of not only taking the photos, but I could actually take a photo doing a lay-up or whatever sport I was playing at the time! That’s where sports modelling was nice, because I had the skills for it, so it’s a bit more specific. That’s what lead me into it, and during it, I fell in love and the light bulb went off with wanting to be in front of the camera and not caring about medical school.. or the Grey’s Anatomy thing. That’s what got me into the whole YouTube world and sports modelling and everything that encompasses that!
What have some of your favourite collaborations that you have done?
Favourite collaborations? I think my favourite one would be the first ever one that I did with SportChek because that is where I have bought shoes since I was four years old! As cheesy as it sounds, whenever you need a pair of basketball shoes or volleyball shoes- shorts, whatever, you went to SportChek and got them! I'm slightly biased towards Nike, but it was really nice to do that with them. They sent me a package with garments from Nike and SportChek and it was like pinching four-year-old Keltie, like one day you’re going to do do a shoot for Nike. This was my favourite shoot because it was the first and biggest one I had ever done.
What in the city inspires you to create your content?
This is going to be a loaded answer that I am going to have to give. First of all, how hardworking people are. It is true, you are who you surround yourself with and the girls and guys I’ve met that I can call really good friends are so hardworking and driven towards their goals, that it makes me want to drive towards them as well. Also what I love about Toronto is it’s just so diverse, and you’re allowed to be YOU here, there are so many different cultures and personalities and that’s how you can really set yourself apart because we all are unique. We think we have to fit into these specific moulds but the nice thing about Toronto is that it's so welcoming of people that step outside of the box. It’s even allowed me to be fully myself when creating content, Allowing myself to be accepted because that’s who I am, instead of trying to fit into a specific mould!
What constraints have you faced throughout your career?
Constraints - I think it’s just getting back up, as funny as it sounds. In any kind career that it is, whether that be YouTube, social media or modelling. If you are an actor, singer or athlete there is always going to be constant rejection. I thought constant rejection was going to be like “I’m going to apply for this one job, and they say no” but there are so many chronic little pieces of rejection whether it be a YouTube video that doesn’t do well or an email back from someone saying that something wasn’t going to happen, or I go to a casting and they don’t want me, or whatever the case is. You can’t take it personally and you have to take into account that it’s not you, they’re just looking for something specific and you just do not fit it. It might not be the right timing and all I tell myself is, there is no such thing as luck in life. It’s just hard work meeting opportunity and that’s when the magic happens. You’re going to constantly get rejected and you’re just going to have to build up a wall and never take it personally, so you have to keep on working so when your time actually comes, you’re ready for it!
Do you feel anxious or have doubts, where you think maybe I’m just not good enough, I’m not cut out for this, what if something goes wrong? Or is it even possible for me to make a change?
I think anyone who’s a hard worker or has an ambitious personality type will always have this. I’m going to say I’ve had it to the point of crippling and now I’ve just gotten a bit better. I think we always tell ourselves, why me? I can’t do this, I’m not capable. Then you have to tell yourself that everyone else is saying that but why is it that they can do it, and I can’t? Every day you’re going to wake up with those negative thoughts. I think Oprah would wake up some days and think what am I doing?! Imposter syndrome is a real deal, and I think you just have to step back and realize we’re all people with the same insecurities and so even if you’re having those doubts, other people are having those doubts. We’re all in it together, and you just have to push through instead of saying “why me?” you should say “Why not me, Why would I not be able to overcome this?”. Put in the work because that’s all you can do, and if you put in all the work you possibly can, you can go to bed happy because you know you did everything you could. I think the worst thing you can do is not give something 100% because then you’ll go to bed with regret and think: “If I had just done this, maybe it would’ve happened”. At least if I give 100% with everything I do and fully dive into it, I know that it's the best I can do and I'll hope for the best that my hard work is enough - that’s just kind of my motto.
What helps maintain your drive, from preventing burnout, and what helps motivate you each day with what you’re doing?
I think it comes down to finding what you truly love and I think that is where burning out stems from a lot of times. It’s doing something that maybe you like, maybe it’s other reasons- maybe it’s just purely financial, or social status and you decide to do keep doing it and that’s what leads to burning out. In some cases, you may have found what you truly love but there are too many other distractions which also causes burnout. There are so many things in life that I’m passionate about, but to really succeed in 1 or 2 of those areas you really have to push away the noise to eliminate burnout. My recommendation to anyone who’s younger or in university is try everything, those things you think you’ll be good at, try it.. and FULLY try it! Don’t just dabble in it for a week, fully dive into it and see if it’s something that makes you absolutely ...the only word I could think of is obsessed! It’s all you want to do, and then you know that’s your thing. Once you find it, go for it! Put on blinders, put in all the work possible because it’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy but when you find that whatever it is, I find that there isn’t much burnout because you’re so excited about reaching the next step. You have to make sure you mental and physical health is in check so you’re giving 100%.. that’s the trick because strong mental health is a part of the whole spectrum that allows you to really go after what you want. That would be my recommendation. Try everything until you find your thing and then really own it! Own whatever your passion is and go for it. I think that’s really the best way to prevent burnout.
How do you balance relationships- whether that be friends, family or just people in your circle?
What I tell myself is that we only have so much emotional capacity every day, as funny as it sounds! There is only so much you can give to yourself, to others, to your work- and that’s why I think you have to be careful where you spend your energy and that you really spend it on the people that matter. Give everyone respect and be kind to every person you meet but give your emotions to the people that really matter. I have a saying: "Everyone deserves respect but only a few people deserve loyalty".
What advice would you give to a young person who intends to embark on a journey of making a change, as well as in pursuing a more healthy and fit lifestyle- But just doesn’t know where to start?
Try new things, until you find something you actually consider enjoyable. Sticking with a fit lifestyle is way easier when you genuinely enjoy it. There are so many different ways to move your body. Try new things until you find a workout, sport, or type of fitness you love.
To learn more about Keltie visit her website: https://www.keltieoconnor.com/