Q&A with ‘Beautiful Scars’ Author Kilee Brookbank

Kilee Brookbank was just sixteen years old when she suffered severe burns in a house fire that would change the course of her life forever. Now nineteen, Kilee is a college student, author, speaker, and philanthropist who has found the beauty in her scars and uses her story to inspire readers and listeners of all ages. Get to know the brave young woman behind Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined.

What prompted you to share with the world your personal story as a burn survivor?

I wanted to share my story because I realized there are plenty of other people in the world who have gone through the same things as I have or who could relate to my story in some way. I want to be someone for those people to look up to and to look to for guidance, and I felt like my story had a way of helping people get through any issues that might come up in their lives.

As you wrote the book, did you learn anything new about yourself? Did the writing process give you an added perspective on what you had been through?

Writing the updated edition of Beautiful Scars was something I felt needed to happen. A lot of things have gone on in my life since we wrote the first book. I have changed as a person, and so has my entire life. While going back through and rewriting it, I kept thinking about everything I have been through. I have always appreciated what has come of my hard times, and the writing process has helped me to get where I am today emotionally.

In what ways has being a survivor caused you to redefine your life?

Being a burn survivor has made me want to do much more than I ever imagined before the accident. I want to give back and especially want to be someone that people can look up to. Ever since the accident, I have never let my experiences or my scars define me; I have always been true to who I am. I have redefined how I think of life and the purpose that everyone has in their lives. Being a burn survivor has made me a better person.

You wear your scars proudly. What do they mean to you?

They signify that I have been through something horrible and came out on the other side just as happy as I was when I didn’t have scars. Some people would be embarrassed or uncomfortable wearing their scars proudly and letting them be visible, but I choose to not think of it as something I need to be ashamed of. People who see your scars don’t know how it feels to be proud of yourself for getting through one of the hardest things. Of course, I am always going to catch people looking, but I don’t let it bother me. I just brush it off.

In a world that is so focused on how women look, what are your words of wisdom for embracing our bodies as they are? How do you challenge the standards of what “beauty” is?

These days, women are constantly worried about body image and their self-confidence. Having scars, I know how it feels to be looked at and examined out of curiosity or whatever it might be. I choose to not let it bother me or let it get me down, which is what I think every woman should do. No one is perfect, and no matter what, people are always going to care for you because of who you are and not what you look like. My advice for any woman who might be struggling with embracing her body would be to not let anyone’s words define who you are. You might not look what society calls “normal,” and that’s okay. It is no one’s business to judge someone based on what others look like. Beauty is on the inside just as much as, if not more than, it is on the outside.

A portion of the proceeds of your book benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati. What do you want people to know about Shriners Hospitals?

Shriners Hospitals do incredible work. They are an amazing team, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. No matter what, they always put their patients’ care and their patients’ families first. That is what is so amazing about them: They understand what patients and families are going through, and they are willing to do anything and everything they can to help people.

What do you hope readers take away from Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined?

I want them to take away all the positives and use them in their everyday lives. Dwelling on the negative can be consuming to a person, and that is something that can make your own life, as well as the lives of others around you, miserable. It is important that readers know I appreciate all the support I have in my life and that I love being able to be someone others can look up to. It is an honor to know I can help just one person, and that is why I try my hardest to inspire people.


‘Beautiful Scars’ Finalist for Benjamin Franklin Award

Beautiful Scars, the debut by authors Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander, has been named a finalist for an Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award, to be presented April 7.

Beautiful Scars, the story of Kilee’s recovery from being severely burned in a house fire in 2014, is a finalist in the Inspirational category. The Benjamin Franklin Awards are among the most prestigious honors for independent presses like KiCam.

A portion of the proceeds of the sales of Beautiful Scars will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati, where Kilee spent 38 days healing after the fire. Beautiful Scars was the first book published by KiCam, and Lori and Kilee will be signing copies of the book at Book Expo America on June 1 in New York City.

See the complete list of Benjamin Franklin Award finalists here.


Thank You, Shriners, for a Perfect Launch!

Credit: Shriners International

Credit: Shriners International

Shriners Hospitals for Children – Cincinnati hosted a successful launch event for “Beautiful Scars” Wednesday that saw burn survivors, hospital employees, local media, Shriners members and friends from the community come out to support authors Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander.

The atrium at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital was full all evening as Kilee and Lori signed books, took photos with guests and shared their experience of hope and healing. Kilee and Lori also donated 50 books for patients and their families.

“It was great to have so many people come out to support the book, but the best part was meeting other burn survivors and being able to hear their stories and encourage them as they continue recovery,” Kilee said. “We’re so grateful to Shriners for hosting us. They’re an amazing group of people: the nurses, the doctors, the administrators. Everyone goes the extra mile.”

SigningKiCam would like to extend particular gratitude to the Shriners team that organized the event and is setting up “Beautiful Scars” signings this summer at the Shriners hospitals in Boston and Galveston, Texas.

A portion of the proceeds of “Beautiful Scars” will benefit Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, and the Kilee Gives Back Foundation, which also supports Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, is finalizing plans for its second annual celebrity golf outing later this year.

“As soon as Kilee came to Shriners and we saw the incredible care she was receiving, we knew we wanted to give back,” Lori said. “This book is one step in our journey of supporting Shriners for the rest of our lives, and we hope other patients and their families find it meaningful and helpful as they go through their challenges.”

The Best Prom Ever

Kilee_Prom2016_closeupProm was amazing this year. I wore the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. The moment I tried my dress on, I knew it was the one I wanted to wear to my senior prom. I wanted that night to be one I would remember forever, and that’s exactly what it was.

Inside Edition was part of my whole day. I wasn’t sure how that would work, because last year I had a tough experience with something very similar. Last year, I had a German TV crew film the whole prom day, and it was a bit of a mess. I never thought I would do something like that again, but I did so because I knew it would be a positive thing for me in the end.

I was so excited to wear my dress, and that morning I was anxious. I had worked so hard getting a party bus together for my friends, and the day finally had arrived. I couldn’t wait to get on the bus with all my friends, go eat and have a great time. That morning, the interviewers and camera crew arrived at my house early enough to get footage while leaving me the rest of the day to do prom stuff. After the interview, the makeup and hair ladies got there.


Makeup was first on the list. The lady who did my makeup was so nice and was the best at doing makeup. I never knew someone could be that good at makeup! I’m still not sure which was my favorite – my dress or my makeup. The entire day I got compliments on how great my makeup was. I wish she could come to my house and do my makeup every day!

After makeup was hair. The stylist also was great. I showed her a picture of what I wanted my hair to look like, and she did not disappoint. My hair looked better than the picture I showed her. Having my hair done was the best feeling. My hair last year was terrible. It was too short to have any kind of style, because it was still growing out after the fire. This year, my hair looked great, and that felt amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better glam team.

Finally, I put my dress on, shot a little bit of film and was on my way to meet my friends. Putting on my dress felt great. Last year, I was wearing long sleeves and a dress I didn’t like that well. It was hard to find something that worked with the garments I had to wear during my recovery. But this year, I was happy I could wear a dress I was in love with.


After taking pictures, we went to meet the bus at our school. We took some more pictures and were on our way. The ride to the restaurant was so fun. We were in a huge party bus with 24 people. We went to J. Alexander’s in Cincinnati, and the food was great. We all enjoyed ourselves, and the best part was that a Bengals football player paid for our food! Our server came over and told us someone had paid for all of our meals, and we were shocked. She told us who it was, and we were even more shocked. None of us saw that coming!

In our group of friends, we are all so different, but we get along great. We all hung out after prom and had a great time. That was the best prom ever, and I definitely think it was the most fun I’ve had in a while.

I can’t believe my senior prom has come and gone. I’m sad about it, but at the same time I am ready to see what my future has in store for me.

Coming Attractions: ‘Beautiful Scars’

KileeVideoIf you’re like us, the trailers are your favorite part of going to a movie.

So we’ve produced a book trailer for “Beautiful Scars,” which releases May 17. (Books are en route from the printer as we speak!)

Thanks to our filmmaker, Lanny Brannock, this video allows co-author Kilee Brookbank to tell why she’s so passionate about sharing her journey with the world, from writing a book to starting the Kilee Gives Back Foundation.

Please take just two minutes to learn more about Kilee and her mission to turn her life’s greatest challenge into a positive and meaningful experience that helps other people.





* Some footage used courtesy of WCPO-TV.


Decision Day: Kilee Picks Her College

The poster Kilee received from her future university

The poster Kilee received from her future university

After thinking for months about my college decision, I finally have made my mind up. I applied to six total schools: Miami University of Ohio, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, New York University, Columbia University and Duke University.

Of these six schools, I was accepted to three, those being Xavier, UC and Miami. Unfortunately, I was not accepted to NYU, Columbia or Duke. I had planned to base my decision on whether or not I was accepted to two of those schools: NYU and Columbia.

Ever since I can remember thinking about college, I have wanted to go somewhere in New York City. I visited there when I was in junior high and I fell in love with the city life. I knew I would be able to make a decision to stay there when I go to college. Over this past Christmas break, I visited NYU and I fell in love even more. I loved the way the school was set up, and just thinking about attending college there made me feel like I was doing big things with my life.

Recently I found out that I was not accepted to NYU or Columbia. I was disappointed; I so badly wanted to experience life in a big city, rather than staying close to a small town in Ohio. At first, I didn’t even think about the other schools that I already had been accepted to. After I realized that being in NYC wasn’t the most important thing in my life, I finally could make a decision. In most ways, me not being accepted to those schools is a good thing. I realized that I have so much that I would lose if I went that far away from home.

After doing a lot of thinking by myself and with my family, I have made a decision. Finally, I will have answers for people who ask me where I’m attending college. It had gotten so frustrating when people asked me where I’m going to college, because for the longest time I didn’t know. I was so lost on my decision until recently, but my friends have known for sure where they are going for months. It made me feel like a slacker compared to them. I just wanted the decision to be easy, and now it can be.

I am proud to say I will be attending Xavier University in the fall. I am excited to be going somewhere not too far from home, but far enough that I’m in a completely different setting. I can’t wait to start my college journey at Xavier this fall, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself that I finally have made a decision.

Cameron’s Story: ‘Always Have Hope’

Cameron BrookbankIn “Beautiful Scars,” Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander tell the story of their recovery journey after Kilee was severely burned when the Highlander home was destroyed by fire in 2014. The journey wasn’t only Kilee and Lori’s—the whole family, especially Kilee’s brother, Cameron—had to adjust to changes, new stresses and the range of emotions that come with surviving and moving on from a tragedy.

Here’s an excerpt of Cameron’s chapter of “Beautiful Scars,” in his own words:

Kilee’s story is positive and shows that a lot of bad can happen, but if you do what it takes to overcome it, it’ll be OK in the end. My story is to always be there for someone no matter what, because you don’t know what could happen.

Time means everything, and everything happens in a split second.

I want to make sure Kilee is OK all of the time, wherever she is. I just want her to know that if something ever happens, I’ll be there. I wasn’t there for her that day, but I will be every day from now on.

The most important thing to me is that she is alive and everything is getting back to normal—just our everyday life and not stressing about the house or Sis healing; everything is fine. Back to the way it was . . . normal.

I thought she’d be worried about her scars, but somehow she’s not. That amazes me. I’d probably be the biggest baby in the world. I don’t know how, but she has been really, really strong during everything. Her mindset was that if she didn’t do what she needed to, it would take longer to become fully recovered.

I’ve learned to be more caring now. I mess around a lot, but when someone I love leaves, I tell them I love them, because that morning I didn’t tell Kilee that.

She has taught me to never give up and always have hope.

A Truly Super Sunday

Kilee and her baby sister, Carter Rene

Kilee and her baby sister, Carter Rene

On Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, Carter René Brookbank was born. She weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces and was 19 inches long. She definitely made her arrival an exciting one!

It was Super Bowl Sunday and we had just gotten home from eating dinner for my dad’s birthday, being that his birthday is on the 10th and we wouldn’t be with him that week. Everyone sat down on the couch to watch the Super Bowl except for me. I had to bake Dad’s cookie cake still. He loves cookies and I love to bake, so we do his birthdays every year like this.

After baking the cookie cake, I went and sat on the couch with my dad; my brother, Cameron; my step-mom, Brooke; my boyfriend, Dylan; and Cameron’s girlfriend. We were all just relaxing and talking on the couch, when Brooke looked at my dad and said, “Uh oh. Something just happened.” She jumped off the couch and tried to run up the stairs but couldn’t make it because her water had just broken. We all jumped up off the couch, nervous because we had never been in that situation before.

We had been telling my dad for a couple weeks that he should get his bag packed for the hospital, but of course he wasn’t ready. I helped Brooke get everything she needed, while Cameron cleaned the floor where Brooke’s water had broken and Dad packed his bag. We were a mess! After we got all our stuff together, we headed for the hospital, about 40 minutes from our house.

Cameron and I were behind Dad and Brooke by about 10 minutes. They got there very fast. When we got there, we had to find their room, which was a task in itself. Once we got to the room, Dad and Brooke were all smiles. They were so happy that Brooke had gone into labor when we were with them. It would have been so hard on Cameron and me if we hadn’t been there when everything happened.

Brooke’s nurse was great. She kept us informed the entire night. Cameron and I were in the room from the time we got there until Brooke could start pushing. We only left once when she was getting the epidural. Brooke was in labor for 10 hours. It was the longest 10 hours of my life! It felt like we were waiting forever. I didn’t sleep that whole night, or the day after. I was just so anxious to finally meet Carter.

It was the most exciting experience ever. Once we finally got to meet Carter, we were so happy. She was a beautiful, perfect baby girl. We were ecstatic that she was healthy and finally here.

I’m so happy that she will call me her cool older sister. I can’t wait to be that for her. We are all incredibly happy to finally have her around. She’s already one month old and it doesn’t feel like that long ago we were awaiting her arrival. I love getting to go home and see her!

Book signing: May 18 at Shriners – Cincinnati

Beautiful Scars hardbackWe’re delighted to invite you to our first book signing for “Beautiful Scars,” from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Cincinnati.

Come meet our authors, Kilee Brookbank and Lori Highlander, and get your copy of our premium-edition hardback for the special-event price of $20.

We’re so grateful to Shriners – Cincinnati, first and foremost for the incredible care they provided for Kilee and now for their support of “Beautiful Scars” and KiCam Projects. That’s why a portion of the book’s proceeds will benefit Shriners – Cincinnati. You can be sure that your purchase will be helping a tremendous organization!

In addition to the signing in Cincinnati, we’re working with Shriners to schedule events at the three other burn centers around the country: Boston; Galveston, Texas; and Sacramento, Calif.

Stay tuned to our blog and social channels for information about future signings and other events.

We appreciate your support, and we look forward to seeing you at Shriners – Cincinnati on May 18!