When we asked Jackie Kai Ellis what she does for a living, she was stumped: “That’s like, the hardest question! I do a lot of things!” Jackie was once a graphic designer with her own design firm. Compelled by her passion for baking and fight against depression, she shut down her practice and studied pastry-making in Paris. The bakery she opened afterward was wildly successful, and that one decision to follow her heart opened her work to a multitude of other roles: writer, lifestyle expert, media personality—all manifestations of her love for life, food, and travel.
The bakery has been long sold, and Jackie can now add book author to the list. In The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris, she writes about living a life that was not her own, and the journey to becoming her most authentic self. In between takes at her True Calling shoot (watch her episode here in December), we talked to Jackie about what she would never do again, what people don’t know about her, and whom she calls the love of her life.
If you weren’t doing this, what job would you most likely have?
I do what I want. I’m in kind of a lull, between jobs. So I’ve been thinking about what I want to do next. The only other things I would consider doing would be something to do with fashion, and something to do with psychology. But I’m already working on doing those things.
When are you happiest?
When I’m with my friends.
When were you most miserable?
About 10 years ago when I was going through depression and I was living someone else’s life, not mine.
What is your daily practice?
I try to wake up every morning and start being grateful for everything.
What is your vice?
I drink so much wine, I love wine.
What was your first job and how did you get it?
I worked at the Gap when I was 14 years old. They didn’t want to hire me because I was 14 and I went back over and over again until they hired me.
What brings you comfort?
Sometimes at night time, I put my dog on my chest and then I tuck us both in, and I fall asleep. That’s the best.
How would you like to die?
I don’t care.
What do people not know about you?
I’m a real spiritual nerd. I read tarot cards for myself, I send people their horoscopes regularly, I have crystals scattered around my apartment, and I regularly sage.
Who is the love of your life?
Is it narcissistic to say me? I am the love of my own life.
What’s in your freezer?
Bread, dog food, coffee, goji berries, dumplings, ice.
What is your power song?
You know that DJ Khaled-Justin Bieber song, “I’m the One”? I have the worst taste in music. I have run to that song so many times.
So surreal to me, I’m so excited to share this announcement with everyone! My book is available for pre-order now on amazon.com (☝️link above) Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk!- – Writing this memoir has been both incredible and scary. At first I had declined the idea because I was simply too afraid to be so open and vulnerable, to share all the parts of my life, not only the beautiful ones. But I also knew that it was the hard moments, the not so pretty ones, that made us into the people we are today, people who can both create and appreciate those very beautiful moments. – – And I also understood that accepting all parts of me and being vulnerable enough to share my story was one of the braver things I could challenge myself to do…so I did, and here it is. I hope you enjoy it…I really do.
Who is your mentor?
I didn’t have one growing up. Instead, I read a lot of books about women I admired: Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Anaïs Nin, even Oprah and Martha Stewart. I read books because when I was growing up there weren’t enough female role models. They taught me a lot more than anyone.
What are you most insecure about?
I have moments when I’m insecure about my body.
What is your favourite scent?
Lily of the Valley.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love potato chips. Especially when I’m drunk.
What is your favourite swear word?
I think “fuck” is still a good one.
What is your favourite book?
The book that I wrote was based off of M.F.K. Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me. That’s one of my favourites. Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter is still one of my favourites because it’s so powerful.
What is your favourite film?
Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
What is your after-work drink?
I love a glass of champagne as I’m going into dinner. If it’s at the end of the evening, I like something with whisky, like an Old Fashioned.
What would you never do again?
So many things! I would never want to be 20 years old again, I’d never try to be someone different in order to make someone love me. I would probably never go live at a Buddhist monastery in the middle of France again. I would never get engaged after a month again—I’d never do that again!
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the person that I am today, because I worked really hard to be a pretty honest, authentic, and true-to-myself sort of person, and that takes work and courage. I think that I’m most proud of that.
What do you feel like for dinner tonight?
I kind of feel like Vietnamese pho.
Do you love what you do?
Yes. Hundred percent.
Photos by flytographer and courtesy of Jackie Kai Ellis.