Kelly Gray: Lifestyle Journalist as seen in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Southern Living and more

Rachel Chang is our first ever guest on Media in Minutes. Her editorial career began chasing celebrities as a magazine editor and along the way turned to chasing passport stamps. She writes for publications such as  Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Airbnb Magazine, The Discoverer, Lonely Planet and The Washington Post. In this episode, Rachel tells us about her emotional visit to a cranberry bog during the COVID-19 pandemic, how a scuba diving expedition didn’t go as planned and what story she has worked on that hasn’t made it into print.

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Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in- depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. In today’s episode, we are talking with author and lifestyle journalist Kelly Gray. Kelly specializes in positive good news stories. She loves writing about anything that could change someone’s life for the better or at least make their day. Over the past 22 years, her culinary, architecture, travel, animals, entertainment and design articles and photos have appeared in dozens of magazines and major daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Southern Living, Forbes Travel, and many others. In her free time, you can find her rescuing and rehabilitating animals. Welcome, Kelly.


Kelly Gray  01:05

Thanks so much for having me, Angela.


Angela Tuell  01:07

Yes. Thanks for joining us. I’d love to start with you walking us through your career and how you became a freelance writer.


Kelly Gray  01:14

Um, it was very, very much by accident. I was in theater school in Manhattan back in the early 90s. And I sure was, and I was going to be a vocalist, an actress. And oh my gosh, I just thought you know what, this is gonna be my future. And I really had a wonderful few years in Manhattan, I lived there for almost 10 years in the 90s. It was just a total blast. And I have a lot of fond memories from that time, but it was equally difficult. And I found that my personal life was constantly getting in the way of my dreams of potentially becoming a vocal superstar. And I was very fortunate to be so poor that I had no choice but to sell my creative soul and work at an investment bank answering the phone. And they had acquired a pasta company and I was given the opportunity to write the narrative copy for this paperwork, this IPO they were doing. And I just said, Let me take a shot of it. You know, I’ve always loved writing. I’ve been writing all my life. And it just kind of connected and I realized, oh my goodness, I this is something I could really potentially do. And so I wound up last year I was in Manhattan and the first year I was moved back to the south. I’m from North Carolina in case you can’t tell.


Angela Tuell  02:44

I was going to say you’re not from New York.


Kelly Gray  02:46

No. But I wound up working on doing a lot of interning and a lot of freelance assignments I got through friends. And I was just very fortunate that when I got back to North Carolina, the US Open was happening in Pinehurst, which was my hometown. And I was hired to write some copy about that because I had grown up in Pinehurst. And I had one other really important factor in that I became an aunt and these years and that became my focal point. And I’d never wanted to do anything where I was taken away from my nieces because I just fell madly in love with them the second they were born. And so I’ve really fallen into freelance by necessity. And, you know, they always say the universe is conspiring to support you. So I feel like for me, it was like a voicemail from the divine that this is what you’re meant to do.


Angela Tuell  03:43

Yeah. And you were a freelance writer before it was popular, you know, now everyone is.


Kelly Gray  03:47

Exactly. We’re all, yes, we’re all food critics and freelance writers and, you know, journalists these days. But um, but you know, I actually think that in my situation, it was, it was a necessity because I wanted it to be available for my beautiful nieces. And also, to do more with my life. I mean, it was it, I had such a case of wanderlust. And I knew that if I was tied down to a job, to a cubicle in an office that I would not produce my best work. And there were some instances where I would meet these fascinating leaders of these companies, Fortune 500 companies in various ways, and I would beg them to hire me. And this one, he actually owns the company called Arthrex, which is an orthopedic arthroscopic surgical instrument manufacturer. And I was so fascinated by that, that I begged him to hire me. And I’ll never forget, what he said, You’re not the type of person that I would feel comfortable. I would love to have you. But you’re so much more than sitting in a cubicle typing. And so I had a lot of those run-ins with people over the years. They knew who I was before I knew who I was, and so being freelance was really the thing that allowed me to have forced as many colors running through my mind as a writer.


Angela Tuell  05:08

Yes. You mentioned it is your job to observe and interpret, understand and inspire, consider and convey. What a perfect way to describe what you do.


Kelly Gray  05:20

Oh, my gosh, you’re so sweet to say that. I mean, I think that to be successful as a journalist, or no matter what you’re doing, if you’re working with the written words, what has helped me the most is to recommend to other writers, and to remind myself that at heart, I’m a storyteller. And if you can feel free to find yourself in the middle of a story, then you become part of whatever story you’re telling. And that has always been enough for me. Like, I’m asked to talk about myself in some situations, and I find it to be like one of the most uncomfortable things to have to write about myself, but I’d love to write about you all the live long day. So there’s nothing to me that is more joyful than listening to someone’s story and having the honor of being able to interpret it for others, because those people can’t be in front of everyone. Whereas in my situation, I might have a million readers who might be reading something. And so it’s, I take that as a tremendous responsibility and a huge honor to help tell someone else’s story. And that really is at the heart of it.


Angela Tuell  06:28

Yes. And I know your favorite part of being a journalist is sharing life’s good news. So what have been some of your favorite stories to write?


Kelly Gray  06:35

It is really hard. But you know, that’s one of the conscious choices. I think we make as writers. I mean, I did have an opportunity early in my career to become a critic. And I felt really uncomfortable with that only because what I think is amazing and not amazing is going to be vastly different from what someone else might think is amazing. And it just meant a lot to me to be inclusive of everyone no matter where they were. And so I made a decision very early on, that I would share what I felt was meaningful to my readers and what I felt deserved coverage. And there have been a lot of times when I’ve been asked to cover places that I didn’t feel I could accurately cover and share that good news of their destination or their restaurant or their chef or whatever. And in those situations, I just declined. But I’d have to say I do have three favorites. One of my favorite places in the world to travel is Canada. I absolutely love Canada and for so many reasons. There’s a place there, not far from Calgary in a place called Prentiss called Azuridge. And this was probably one of my favorite stories. Because when I got there, well, the butler, your butler picks you up in some kind of fancy schmancy car. Mine was a Maserati. And then you have a butler the whole time you’re there. And when you’re at dinner, they come and take your bath order. That’s like how you want your bath flavored. And do you want a cognac? Or do you want you know, hot tea or whatever. It’s unbelievable. And I actually thought that it would be pretentious and awful, but it is the most fun place. And I thought to myself, I love this place, but it’s gonna be too pretentious. And it wasn’t, it was so wonderful. Our Butler and the people who work there and who were so gracious to befriend the guests. And I don’t mean just journalists, I mean all the guests. I mean, they played charades with us until late in the evening, they made s’mores with us, they went rafting with us like we were all and these are this is the head person was a gilded butler, which is a very high, high mark in that industry. And I had more fun with the staff at that resort than I’ve ever had anywhere else I’ve traveled. And then my second favorite story also, totally coincidentally, also was in Canada, at a place called the Post Hotel. And the Post Hotel is in Lake Louise Village. Not to be confused with Lake Louise and it is in Banff National Park, not to be confused with Banff the town. But the owner is basically the godfather of the Canadian ski technique. And he didn’t know me from Adam and we were all just sort of sitting around in the living room or the living room, the lobby, there’s a little ice skating rink right off the lobby. And he was just chatting with some of the guests and we were all having you know, hot chocolate or something wonderful. And he’s like, well, I’m running to go ski and write fast on my lunch hour. Does anyone want to join me? So we just got to go with the owner. Which he’s that that’s how amazing he is. He just like will run up to the slope on the lunch hour. Probably my two favorite travel stories that I’ve worked on. That one was in the Washington Post. And it was all about great places, this place in particular, to go if you need to regenerate your creative juices, and especially if you have writer’s block. So the Post Hotel is almost like a cure for the common writer’s block. It’s just an amazing place. So those are probably two of my favorites.


Angela Tuell  10:23

Oh, they sound fabulous. And in your bio, I counted more than 50 celebrities you’ve interviewed, including Ziggy Marley, Kenny Chesney, Tim Tebow, Rudy Giuliani, celebrity chefs, designers, rock band members, and bestselling authors. Which of these stick out the most for good or maybe not great reasons?


Kelly Gray  10:44

Oh, my gosh, you know, I have just been so fortunate to have lived in places where I’ve gotten to work for publications that have assigned me those stories. Like, I wish I could take credit, you know, for them. But really, I just was at the right place at the right time with the right editors. I’ve been extremely fortunate. I had an editor in Naples, Florida when I live there named Harriet Heithaus. And she was the features editor of the Naples Daily News. I believe it’s now owned by Gannet, I’m not, I think, I’m pretty sure that’s Yeah, it was a Script paper back then. But whenever anyone really famous would come to town, I oftentimes got to interview them because I already had so much experience in the entertainment industry. And given my background in theater and even being an extra in several movies and on television shows in New York. You know, I just don’t get starstruck, I would probably be starstruck if I ran into Cary Grant, but he’s not with us anymore. So I just don’t get starstruck by celebrities. Um, I would say my favorite person I’ve ever interviewed, I would probably say, um, as far as like life-changing was probably Rashad Jennings, who has an amazing athletic camp for kids. Um, he is a brilliant author, he was a former football superstar. And what he has done with his life, and in service of others is a total inspiration. I absolutely cannot say enough about Ziggy Marley to interview him was like I opened a door in my house, and led in a universe of sunshine. He was so inspiring and just the way he lives his life and how he inspires others and shares his gift of song. And you know, I’m interviewing Jane Pauley was really, really wonderful. I love speaking with her. She’s such a brilliant journalist and her, the cadence of her speech, and just everything she’s done with her life. I mean, there, there have been a lot actually. It’s funny. I remembered meeting some of these people in person and interviewing them in person and the one who stands out to me the most as my favorite interview of all time, as far as creativity is Heather Graham. She’s a mega best-selling author. She’s written, I don’t even want to say how many books she’s written. But having been able to meet her and interview her in person, I coined the phrase, I admit it. She’s like the Stevie Nicks of authors. She is the most interesting woman. She’s such an inspiration. She’s, she’s devastatingly cool. Her jewelry, just how she dresses, and her appearance. She just looks like she’s not on this earth in the best possible way. And she’s not only inspirational to me as a writer and as an author, but she’s just a fabulous and interesting person. So I would have to say if I could interview the same person over and over again, like a groundhog day situation. It would be Heather.


Angela Tuell  13:51

So my husband will be upset if I don’t ask how Kenny Chesney was one of his favorites.


Kelly Gray  13:56

He’s probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And I did get to meet him in person at the launch of his room in Orlando, Florida. Um, and I was stunned at just the kindness and the generosity that just radiated from him. You know, there are some people you meet, like, if you meet Tim Tebow. Some most of these people would probably not even remember me, by the way, they’ve been interviewed. But, you know, like, when I met him at an event where he was the speaker, there are some people that just have the light of God that just comes through them. And Tim Tebow was one of those people. It was just there was something about them. They’ve just been kissed by Angel, you know, wings or something. And I found that Kenny Chesney was kind of, in a way, um, had a sense of graciousness and gratitude for what he has. There was nothing pretentious or boastful about him. He was, he literally hugged me when we met and thanked me for the story. And because I had spoken with him by phone. And so he just could not have been nicer and very down to earth. And the event, the launch party was at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, and it was this massive space. And I remember him saying, I’m starving. I’ve got to get something to eat. And I thought, you know what? I just love that. Yeah, I’m here and off, he went to get himself something to eat. I thought that was just great.


Angela Tuell  15:23

So how do you like to find your stories? I know you said in the past, they were assigned to you. But as a freelancer, that’s not always the case, right?


Kelly Gray  15:30

It’s definitely not the case anymore because I have to be very proactive. I look at myself very differently now than I ever have before. Because we’ll talk about this later. But I’m very involved in animal rescue and rehabilitation. And I have many, many mouths to feed, I’ve got 11 rescue animals. And so I have to, I’ve got to hustle. And it’s literally a hustle. I love doing people profiles. And I’ve loved when I’ve received those, those are probably my favorite stories to write. And those are the ones that by far and away I’m assigned to do. But as far as food and travel stories, I’m like a pitch maniac. And I pitch and pitch and pitch. And there are some days where I’m like, I just can’t do one more pitch. You just don’t even know like, we’re like we were separated at birth, we’re just like one degree of separation. Um, but honestly, that does help tremendously. I could not do this job without my public relations and marketing colleagues. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received leads from my PR and marketing friends and they have turned into stories. They have turned into entire feature stories, places I would have never known about. So when I see something like that, it’s kind of like in the movie Sabrina, where he said, it’s like I knew fiber optics would change the face of communication, where I can see something and see potential in it. And there might be one little nugget in a lead that I might seize on and be like, Oh my gosh, I love this. And it might turn into something completely opposite to what the story idea was. But I do find myself having a lot of gratitude, you know, for people in our industry, who can put something on my radar. And then a lot of it is just experiencing things. I’m happening upon a trend, happening upon an amazing chef. No one’s ever heard of a dish. That sounds really neat. And then it might evolve. For example, I might have an amazing Caesar salad, which is a true story. I’m working right now on a story. That’s 12 Caesar salads that need a 12-step upgrade. I mean, they’re the best. It sounds so ridiculous. But it’s such an amazing story because these chefs – what they’re doing to liven up this classic and dated – you know, it’s like the shag carpet of salad. Do you know? How do you make a Caesar salad really interesting? But they’ve done it. And um, and I found a chef that makes the most amazing Caesar salad. He’s basically an hour away from where I live. And so I’m building a whole story around that. I’m not sure where that’ll go. But I definitely, I definitely try to take something really mundane and turn it into a superstar story.


Angela Tuell  18:22

Yeah. What other types of stories are you working on now?


Kelly Gray  18:26

Let’s see, I’m working on a travel piece about European Christmas markets, working on a travel piece about the amazing spas. Let’s see. I’m working on a story about the Westminster Dog Show, which of course is my favorite story I’m working on right now. Um, I can’t get enough of that I could write about animals all the live long day. Um, let’s see I just turned in a story on the return of the cruise industry. And I’m praying that that continues you know to employees that’s been in the works a long time. And then I’ve turned in another story on healing waters, which is a travel piece on really like otherworldly somewhat hidden desk, water destinations, lagoons, lagoons that you know, are sort of hidden away from view and really beautiful water, water-focused destinations. So yeah, working on a few.


Angela Tuell  19:25

You’re also an author yourself with two published books, teach writing courses, and help authors write their own books. So what have you learned through that work?


Kelly Gray  19:33

Um, to do something else for a living? Well, it’s funny because actually, when I first met my literary agent, it was back in New York City. And I was up there for a writers’ conference. And I would strongly encourage anyone, any of your listeners, whether you’re a PR person or a journalist, or a marketing person. Go to writers’ conferences. I’ve met every great book lead I’ve ever known at writers’ conferences, and I’m so anxious for COVID to just go away, not only because it’s terrible for everyone, and I don’t want anyone to suffer from it. But also because the damage it has done to our industry is monumental. I’m not sure we’ll ever recover, especially writers’ conferences, because they operated on such a razor-thin margin as it was when they were going on. But I met my agent on a bench, we were eating lunch, and he said, I heard you’re a travel writer, what are you doing at this, you know, fiction writers’ conference? And I said, Well, you know, my, my protagonist is a travel writer and we got to talking, he goes, would you ever consider writing a travel book? And I said, of course, I would consider writing any kind of book. And this was back in 2008 mind you. So he said, oh, I’ve got a client, or you know, or not a client, I’ve got a publisher who’s looking for someone to write a book on Tuscany or Ireland. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, you know, I’m in, well, then I’m the, you know, everything went to pot and the economy went in the toilet, and everything just buttoned up. And I was devastated because I thought I was gonna get to spend, you know, three months in Tuscany or Ireland. So instead, I got The Everything Guide to Family Budget Travel. Well, aside from my nieces, I definitely did not really feel like traveling with, you know, babies, I did not have a baby. And, you know, to me, like, I couldn’t think of anything worse than to be on a budget, because I’m kind of a luxury travel addict. You know, like, the more, oh, man, you know, I’m like, none, none, then no, I don’t do the amazing rubber chicken entree. Uh, nope, back away, you know, would have been like this really, you know, interesting, you know, like, tent village or whatever. Um, but it turned out to be such a blessing because it encompassed so many different parts of the world. And I was able to touch upon so many of my favorite places. And unfortunately, those guidebooks become, you know, unfortunately, outdated very quickly, because places change ownership and they go out of business, or they expand, or they get bought out by a larger company, or, you know. So but it was such a great experience, and I’ll be forever grateful. And then I actually only just recently, finally received my final edits for my second book, which will be coming out before Christmas.


Angela Tuell  19:53

So your book that’s coming out – is that a fiction book?


Kelly Gray  22:43

It is. it’s novel, it’s called Flight. And it is been in the works for many years. And I have written it and rewritten it five times. And, I have had quite a journey with this book. But I think it’s finally I think it’s finally ready to rock and roll.


Angela Tuell  23:04

But awesome. So something I was fascinated to learn about was your work collecting journals to donate to children in the foster care system. I love that. What made you start that work?


Kelly Gray  23:16

Well, it’s, again, one of those personal situations that just, it just tugged at my heartstrings. So I’m adopted, and I was in foster care for the first six weeks of my life. And I, of course, don’t remember it, but I have a really soft spot in my heart for foster children. And I just, I just think that they have so few places to get a salve for the circumstances that the adults in their world have put them in. And they have not always had a lot of counseling resources. I was very fortunate that I was adopted into a really great family and I’m very close with my adoptive parents. I’m very close with my birth parents. So I had a wonderful situation where I have I’m surrounded by these amazing people. My birth father is actually a novelist and poet, and a publisher. So it’s really kind of.


Angela Tuell  24:15

Where you got it from, right?


Kelly Gray  24:16

Runs in the family. Um, but I was, um, I was talking with someone and we were talking about the kids in foster care. And in North Carolina, where there’s such tremendous need, and how difficult they have such a terrible time at the holidays. And a lot of times they don’t have access to being able to share their feelings. And a lot of times they can’t even articulate their feelings. And I realized that I can’t really help each of these people. I mean, obviously, I’m not a counselor, and they often can’t even articulate what they, what they need to say and they have nowhere to get that out. And so I felt that if these children had a way to write down what they felt it would be really helpful to them. And so I got in touch with the social services in a couple of different counties. And I said, Would you guys like some blank journals because I had dozens from all my travels? Because you know, as well as I do, when you go on a trip, the first thing you find in your hotel room is a journal with the hotel name on it or whatever. And so, I thought to myself, I’ve got this many journals, maybe other travel writers have journals that they’ve gotten on trips where they’ve gone and done stories. And so I reached out to my network, and I received 100 journals within a week. And so we were able to supply social services in two counties with a journal for 100 different children. And so I’m expanding that this year for the holidays. And I’m trying to collect 500 journals to be able to supply on this social, this social services office with enough journals for a whole year.


Angela Tuell  24:22

And how do we donate journals?


Kelly Gray  26:07

I mean, you can go to my website, And just send me a message. And I will write back with the address. And I am so thankful to anyone who would like to send a blank journal and anyone who would like to send a blank journal and a writing utensil, bonus points because they don’t always have pencils and pens.


Angela Tuell  26:26

I know you’ve taught – you mentioned before that you’ve taught classes for tourism boards and associations. And you have this list of what writers love about PR people and what drives them crazy. I have to hear this.


Kelly Gray  26:39

Well, and it’s not just PR people, it’s anyone I mean, it’s really it’s anyone. I tell you, I can say with total and absolute certainty, that my biggest issue is photography. That is by far, what drives me the craziest in my job is photography. Because back in the day, I’m a real stickler for photography, because I went to whatever destination or chef or dish or whatever I’m writing about, I want that to stand out. And unfortunately, not every destination and restaurant is able to invest in good photography. But I would say before anything else, even if they have three dishes, bring in a professional photographer. Because many times I’ve had to not include people in stories because they didn’t have great photography. And if I’m halfway across the world, you know, too, and I think one of the struggles that we have, in this day and age, is and I can’t believe we still have this problem is that so many people in marketing and PR do not understand the difference between low resolution and high-resolution photography. And I mean, I practically throw myself into a ravine every time I read. That’s where your first story, you know, for places because I just begged them, I do everything but tattooed on my forehead. Do not send low-resolution pictures because I look for pitches. I mean, I even look at the size of the emails that come in. I’ve always preferred that they be in a Dropbox folder. When somebody sends me attachments, I cringe. Because I know they’re not going to be high enough resolution for, you know, a Southern Living or Living Luxe or even a Florida Weekly or a newspaper, they have to be high enough resolution or they’ll pixelate on the page. So I’m nine times more likely to click on an email from a PR person when there’s a Dropbox link in that email. Yep, even better – have a photo library that you can send me that I can just click through because I might see something in there that might trigger another story idea. That I’m writing for a dozen publications. And I really love you know, your client, I might be like, Oh, I can put them in this other one. This is another cool story. So that’s probably the biggest thing.


Angela Tuell  28:53

What are some of the things that you love?


Kelly Gray  28:54

Um, well, I think that I think you guys work harder probably than anybody. I mean, I cannot count the times that I’m put in a situation by editors where they have they need a quick change, or they want a different photo, or they need me to fact-check something that I’ve already fact-checked a dozen times. And I’ve had PR people respond to me at 11 o’clock at night. When I know they’ve got kids at home. You know, I mean, and it just I think that I’m so impressed by just the work ethic. I mean, this is not everybody of course, like not everybody is an Angela, obviously. Like if I could clone you, I would. Like literally – and you and I’ve worked together, you know, a long time. I mean, you’ve we’ve worked on a lot of stories now where you’ve been so kind to share inspiring things about your clients. Um, but yeah, I mean, I think just the work ethic, just the ability to be flexible. And, you know, I just don’t think that in this day in the digital age, I don’t think I could do this without that kind of help.


Angela Tuell  29:59

And before we go, we have to talk about your animal rescue work, which I know is near and dear to your heart. You have devoted your life to the rescue and rehabilitation of countless animals. How did you get started in that work?


Kelly Gray  30:12

Well, I was on my way back from North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina. I was taking classes at the Columbia Conservatory of Dance and I was 18 years old, before New York. Yes. And I stopped at a Huddle House – shocking – to get some pancakes. You know, even back then we knew. And it was late at night it was I don’t even remember what time it was. But it was Sureau, South Carolina, which is probably the Huddle House and is still probably you know, the place to eat there if it’s even still there. But there was the dog in the parking lot starved, starved, emaciated dog. Oh my gosh, it was just – oh, it was awful. And so of course, I gave my pancakes and sausage to this dog. And I started to leave. And I was like, I can’t leave this dog here. And so I asked if I wanted to get in the car with me. And it didn’t have a collar or anything. And I mean, if this job was in terrible shape, and the dog like jumped in the car with me and acted like, no one had ever said a kind word to it. And she was a German Shepherd. And I named her Lucky. And I brought her back to Colombia with me to my little rental townhouse where I wasn’t even really supposed to have pets, I don’t think. Um, and I went to get, you know, some dog food and all of that. And when I came back, the dog was gone. And I panicked. I was like, Oh, my gosh, here, I’ve tried to help this dog and this dog has gone. Well, when I went around to the other door, there was a note. And it was from somebody, I never did know who this lady was. But she said I can’t bear to see this dog in this shape. I’m sorry, but I took it. And I just I’ve my I’ve lost my pet and I need a new pet. And I’m not going to give my name because you know, I don’t want anyone to be upset with me. But I just can’t bear to see this dog in this condition. So I’ve taken it, I’m going to take care of it and love it. And I thought to myself, I couldn’t even believe this. I thought that was a voicemail from Jesus right there. I realized at that moment that I have been put in the right place at the right time in so many situations. And that if I were made open to helping them that whenever I could help an animal in need, I would. And so that was the first and then there have been so many since then. I mean, I could never count how many animals. I don’t keep them. What I try to do is I try to take in emergency situations. And then if I can, you know, foster them for a little while or try to rehab them, and then find them a forever home. That’s what I prefer to do. The animals I have here had nowhere else to go. I even have one doggy who I adopted out to two families, both of whom returned her to me because she has so many problems. She went through horrific abuse. And um, but she just lives her best little life. She does not know she has any issues at all. She is very expensive. Like all of them. And so that’s been kind of a lifelong thing. But the biggest. The biggest thing that happened in more recent years, was when I moved back to North Carolina and moved out onto this land, there was an old, painfully thin horse. And it belonged to some neighbors and they said, Oh, we’ll get that old horse off your land really soon. No, no, no that horse isn’t going anywhere. That horse can stay here forever. Yeah. And I just fell madly in love with her. And I did a Facebook fundraiser and raised enough money to buy her from the people. And the vet came out and said I give her six months. She’s just too far gone. She’s got major injuries, she had been horribly overbred by, another owner a while back. She had been riding long past her prom. And she just said, I just don’t think she’s going to she’s got it in or I said, Oh, she’s got it in her. And so working together and it was a lot. But I’ve said as long as she’s pain-free and happy. And as long as that horse shows up every day, I’m going to show up for this horse. And so she lived for four years.


Angela Tuell  34:32

Oh my goodness.


Kelly Gray  34:33

And her name was Star Dancer. And she really is the inspiration for what I feel is my true calling, which is, you know, to be involved in helping animals and that’s really the only reason I work as hard as I do. That’s the only reason I do this job. It’s the only reason I do anything – is to be able to you know, be there for these animals. And she inspired everything. And as a matter of fact, I’m launching a website, a new digital platform. It’s kind of like a digital magazine, or I guess the website, but I looked at it as a digital magazine. It’s called Hearth and Barn. And the website is And I’m really excited because there’s going to be a whole section on the platform called Matters of the Heart. And it’s all about how pets, you know, are not property. You know, a pet is with you for your life. A pet is not a disposable thing. Animals are not objects for us to have dominion over. We are. We’re good stewards of animals. And there are so many positive, happy stories that have happened when people just happen to be at a Huddle House and say, You know what, I’m going to give my pancake to the starving dog or you know what? I want this horse, I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care if I have to go work as a Walmart greeter. You know, I don’t care if this dog has to have an asthma inhaler. I’ll go without my inhaler so the dog can have an inhaler. You know, there are so many people like me in the world who feel like I do. That’s really what I’m most excited about. I’m excited to launch Hearth and Barn. And then once that’s, you know, up and going, there’ll be a lot of resources for people if they can’t have a pet, how they can get involved.


Angela Tuell  36:22

That is so exciting. We will make sure to share that link with everyone so that anyone can get involved. Thank you for all you do.


Kelly Gray  36:30

Oh, Angela – thank you for this. You know, I appreciate that you’re doing this podcast for everyone. And I love all the guests you’ve had before and it’s an honor to be included.


Angela Tuell  36:42

You can learn more about Kelly at or on Instagram and Tiktok at thekellygray. That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined available anywhere you get your podcasts. You can find more at I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

In today’s episode, Kelly Gray chats passion, purpose and pitches with Angela.  Kelly is an author and freelance writer based out of North Carolina.  She uses her work to support her life’s passions – helping others and animals.

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