I’ve always thought the Real Housewives show titles are a little misleading. Yes, the women on these reality shows may be (or have been at one time) married to wealthy, powerful men, but when you get to know the women behind the small screen, it’s easy to see that there is so much more to them than their marital status. That’s exactly the case with The Real Housewives of Toronto star Joan Kelley Walker. This housewife is anything but, and she’s using her fame and platform to make the world a better, and more fashionable place for all of us.
While Joan may have become a Canadian household name through the glitz and glamor of her Real Housewife life, her origin story is a humble and inspiring one. Born and raised in the small town of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, Joan learned early on the value of hard work and giving back. Joan channeled her lifelong love of reading and storytelling into a career in the media, and her love of helping her fellow human into a passion for philanthropy. On the Real Housewives of Toronto Joan wasn’t shy to express her feminist side, and she did so while always looking her best. Along with her girl power persona, Joan’s sense of style was her calling card in the cast of characters of RHOT.
It was clear that, along with philanthropy, fashion was and is Joan’s greatest passion. Joan expresses herself through her sense of style, and that style is impeccable. She uses the platform that she’s built through the show and beyond, as well as her work with different media outlets including Huffington Post Canada, to showcase humanitarian causes around the world, with an emphasis on those that help children. Joan is an ambassador for World Vision Canada, and one of the program’s Joan is most passionate about is their “Starting Strong” Program in Cambodia. This program is dedicated to safeguarding the health of mothers during pregnancy and newborn health and nutrition during the first 1000 days of life.
Along with her charitable work, Joan has now channeled that style savvy in combination with her mission to help women, through her new clothing line. Creating fashion-forward pieces at affordable prices, Joan’s goal is to give women from all walks of life access to great clothing to help them express their own personal style. Available in a wide range of sizes, and in classic cuts and silhouettes to compliment any wardrobe, the Joan Kelley Walker collection was created and curated to empower women to look and feel their best. And, in keeping with Joan’s philanthropic values for every Joan Kelley Walker collection item purchased, Joan will make a donation to another cause she is passionate about, the Breakfast Club of Canada. This organization provides breakfast every day to more than 230,000 children in over 1600 schools across the country. To learn more about Joan’s line and where you can buy her items, click here.
There’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to this Real Housewife. Get to know more about Joan Kelley Walker below!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ever since I can remember I have always been naturally drawn to anything to do with fashion. I flipped through magazines, as a girl, performed imaginary fashion shows and played dress up with my dolls and friends. There were limited options or even sources of inspiration in my small town. We didn’t have malls or boutiques, to visit. This ended up working out in my favor because I had to really develop my own keen sense of personal style. We also didn’t have a lot of money so I was forced to be creative by reusing and reinventing things in my closet over and over. My sister and friends and I swapped each other’s clothes, trading and borrowing constantly and this inspired more inventiveness as I always found a way to make something look like “me”. I always held on to the dream of becoming a fashion designer and seeing my name on a label and ……. Well here we are now. Proof that dreams do come true!
What brought you to the fashion industry?
I started modeling when I was a teenager and the rest is history! I have been blessed to live my dreams and model in print, do red carpet hosting, act in commercials, and film I have experienced all the realms of the industry. It seemed very natural to begin to design and create my own collection. Fashion gets me excited and is an outlet for full expression. I am fascinated by how a good outfit or style can alter my mood. Fashion has the power to CREATE CHANGE. What I truly love about the industry is the PEOPLE. I have met and worked with so many incredible souls throughout the years and as I embark on the business of fashion I can say that the people are what keep me here.
How would you describe your personal style? Is your style inspired by a particular fashion icon?
My personal style could be described as elegant. Well thought out yet simple. My style changes from day to day depending on my mood, the weather, what I am doing and where I am going. I love that style has the power to uplift my mood! I am inspired by everyone I meet. Everyone as their own unique way of expressing themselves and how they interpret trends or the classics. I think that there are many Fashion icons that have inspired me over the years…. Princess Diana is one, my mother and grandmother are also great influences. Real woman inspired my collection. I have so much respect for every woman out there pursing their dreams, taking care of their families, making things happen. They are all iconic in their own way.
Why is philanthropic work important to you?
Philanthropic work is important to me because it is the essence of humanity. To give back. I believe that given the opportunity, most people would choose to help others. Having concern for human welfare should be a way of life. We all desire positive change and a connection to others. It has become my mission to inspire and motivate everyone to give back, do something no matter how big or small because every action counts and does make a difference. I understand that we all have different circumstances but giving back does not have to be only about money, any and every act of kindness is impactful. Just by making eye contact, or holding a door open for someone or acknowledging a veteran or first responder for their service can make a difference in someone’s’ life. I believe that we all have a responsibility to do something especially if we are living good lives. I want to bring awareness to this. I think it is really important right now. Many people are struggling and we may not even know.
How do you balance your work in fashion with your efforts as a philanthropist?
I created a way to unite them. I am so passionate about both that it was only natural to marry the two and create a way for them to come together. For every purchase made of the Joan Kelley Walker collection, I will make a donation to Breakfast Club of Canada. This is my commitment to do my part to contribute in my own way. By making this commitment everyone who makes a purchase is also contributing and we all unite through this! Children are our future and as a mother, I feel a responsibility to ensure that as many children as possible are fed nourishing breakfasts at school.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in your work?
One of the biggest challenges is the ability to keep up! Things move very quickly, timelines are tight especially in fashion when you are always a season ahead. I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and take a breath. Things always work out and it is important not to get caught up with setbacks and to ultimately learn from challenges. I have certainly learned a lot through the process and each lesson is noted which makes room for improvement. We only get better and better if we keep doing!
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
To see my name on a clothing label, to touch a swatch of fabric and say yes, I like this, to answer interview questions like these, to direct my first fashion show and I would have to say that partnering with a huge North American retailer was a huge WOW moment. I am so grateful that they understood my vision. There have been a lot of “I have to pinch myself moments” lately.
What do you wish you could change about the fashion industry?
I believe that there should be more mentorship in the industry. The industry is very competitive however Canada has a different approach. I see so many designers support one another, it is incredible. I would like to see more of the industry integrate a social responsibility, a give back component. I believe that if we all do our part the world can and will change.
What’s piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with a supportive community. If people doubt you or try to discourage you- step around them. Stay focused and make a plan- the plan may alter and that is ok but hold onto the vision. It’s ok if you are nervous or unsure- you are human. But keep working hard towards your goals and put the time into it. Ask a lot of questions and LISTEN. Accept the advice that helps you and don’t be afraid the move on. Respect everyone. Don’t burn any bridges. It is a small world and the most important piece of advice I can offer is to work with integrity.
If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
My one wish would be for every company, brand or business to commit to givingher back at a corporate level. Imagine the world we would live if this were true?
Creative Direction/Photographer Lindsay Anne Delaney
Talent: Joan Kelley Walker
Make-Up: Myles Sexton
Hair: Cassandra Jakubek
Styling: Michael Black
Assistant: Alicia Churilla
Blue outfit: KQK pants jacket from Andrew Majteny
Black outfit: jacket from Hendrixroe, pants, Andrew Majteny
Pink trench outfit: jacket from Hendrixroe, shoes from Louis Vuitton
Snake suit outfit: suit from Hendrixroe shoes from Gucci