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.