Kelsea Ballerini on her 'bare and honest' new book and body-positive campaign: 'You're going to see my stretch marks on my leg'

All Worthy with Hunter McGrady is Yahoo Life’s interview series in which model and body-positive advocate Hunter McGrady speaks with celebrities, influencers and friends about equality, confidence, curves and so much more.

Kelsea Ballerini is a country music superstar, but last year, when the pandemic hit and she wasn’t able perform in front of the masses, Ballerini realized she needed a new focus for all of her pent-up creativity.

"I am a country singer-songwriter. That is what I do. That's my outlet," she tells me in the latest episode of All Worthy. "But I think as I've been blessed and lucky enough to find some success in that, I've kind of had my eyes open to, well, what else? Especially over the last year and a half, as awful as it was, we all had takeaways and mine was finding new hobbies, like painting, which I'm actually not good at. I don't know what's next, but I just have to be happy and make good art that I feel good about."

The 28-year-old was excited to explore a hobby where she didn’t have to excel, but she also turned to a tried-and-true artistic outlet where she could be self-reflective. The "Half of My Hometown" singer just released her new book of poems Feel Your Way Through, which explores intensely personal topics like her battle with an eating disorder.

“There's such a structure to writing a song and in poetry, it's just freedom. This book's the first thing that I've done that's just me," she says of her new work. "It's bare and honest and it makes me more nervous to be that vulnerable and put it out to a world that is not always nice and kind, but it also makes me really proud because it shows me progress within myself that I feel brave enough to put that level of truth out."

Another place she's trying to be more authentic is through her work as an ambassador for Aerie’s #AerieREAL Voices campaign. During a time where social media makes people even more vulnerable to criticism and body-shaming, Ballerini says she sets boundaries to rise above the noise.

The campaign, which features no photo retouching, Ballerini is also showcasing an unfiltered version of herself with her fans.

"You’re in your underwear and you're going to see my stretch marks on my leg. Because guess what? That's normal. I wouldn't have done that two years ago," she says. "Especially while writing this book, I talked a lot about body image and eating disorders and being a part of this campaign was growth for me."

Ballerini is also focusing more than ever on her mental health over the last year and a half — and has no interest in the constant hustle if it means sacrificing her well-being.

"I think our culture glamorizes 'booked and busy' so much that I was in that tailspin for years and then COVID happened," she says. "And I think a lot of people had very real dips — and I certainly did. And I think when I started taking care of my mental health and going to therapy, that helped me a lot.

"Someone asked me the other day, they're like, I want to start a healthy lifestyle journey. What do you recommend? And I just said, just start small, go on a walk, drink a glass of water, roll your windows down, listen to music, do things that make you feel good. And it looks different for everyone and just learning that it is so important and it's such a journey," she says.

—Video produced by Kat Vasquez.

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