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Coffee With…Karen Elson

Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Photography by Jo McCaughey

We recently sat down with British supermodel, songbird, and mother of two Karen Elson. The Nashville-dwelling, scarlet-maned beauty opens up about motherhood and the importance of keeping her children’s lives private. Plus, she shares her favorite local hangs and tells us how to make her homemade pesto recipe that both she and her kids love.

How do you take your coffee (or tea)? “I have PG tips with milk—a delicious English staple.”

How do you treat yourself? “I go to Escape Spa and get a massage and a mani/pedi then dinner at Nashville restaurants Rolf and Daughters, Adele’s or Pinewood Social, then maybe a little Net-A-Porter browsing.”

Top 3-5 favorite spots in your hood?The Stone Fox is a great hang. The Patterson House for fancy cocktails and Miss Kelli’s is my favorite dive bar/karaoke bar.”

Heels or flats? “Both, but I secretly like flats since 20 years of high heels have left me with achy ankles.”

Early bird or night owl? “When I’m home in Nashville I’m an early bird, but in Europe and NYC I tend to stay up well past my bedtime.”

What time do you wake each morning? “6:30 a.m. We’re out the door by 7:15-7:30.”

Favorite book? “Anything by Willa Cather but I just read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, and it was incredibly moving.”


Favorite film? “I just watched Still Alice (which I sang the end title song If I had a Boat by Lyle Lovett.) What a moving film—Julianne Moore deserves the accolades. And the lovely Reese Witherspoon in Wild. She is doing an incredible job with both acting in films with strong female characters, but also producing, for instance with Gone Girl. But my all time favorite films are Harold And Maude, Paris Texas, and The Wizard of Oz.”

What’s the best piece of motherhood advice you’ve received? “Don’t judge and don’t let others’ negative opinions dictate how you parent. My former mother-in-law (but forever family), the wonderful Teresa Gillis, told me this when my daughter was born. She had ten children and her wisdom has proved invaluable and true. Being a mother is daunting at times and often women so freely tear each other down over tiny differences in parenting. Parent how you feel is best for your family and try to filter the good advice from the passive aggressive digs.”

What excites you about motherhood? “Watching my children grow and become unique individuals. The innocence and wonder of childhood is a daily reminder to view the world with those eyes. Most of all I love the hugs, snuggles, and sweetness of childhood. It’s a wild ride.”

What makes you nervous about motherhood? “My kids growing up in an age of social media. These days it’s so hard to have a private life. I worry that my kids won’t be able to make mistakes in private or preserve private moments thanks to our lives all becoming online. I am guilty of it! I love Instagram and so on, but I have to tell myself not every moment needs to be shared, snapped, or filmed. It’s the future I guess, but I worry about the boundaries it sets or lack of. Kids online can be so cruel and often lack the insight to know that posting things online can really effect your future. I want to protect my kids from all kinds of things, but realize that, like myself, they need to make mistakes, to learn, too. I also get nervous about if I’m raising them well and stress about how they have an unusual life compared to other kids. At the same time this could be benefiting them. Motherhood and worry—hand in hand.”

What’s your go-to family meal? “Homemade pesto with spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Pesto is so easy to make—in a blender take a handful of basil, olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts, salt, and Asiago or Parmesan cheese and blend. Add more basil, oil, or nuts if needed. I always go on instinct. I want it to look bright green and sometimes I sneak some spinach in there to add some extra greens. Kids love angel hair pasta, too. It seems a little more exciting, I’ve found.”

What’s one of your best childhood memories? “Going to Blackpool as a child in England and playing on the beach. Going to the arcades and eating the famous Blackpool Rock.”

What we won’t find in your closet? “Birkenstocks, just don’t like them. (No offense.)”

What would you say is your biggest flaw? “I can be very impatient and I also worry a lot about everything, but over the past few years I’ve learned to take more in stride and take life a lot less serious, hence a lot less stressed. I’m in my prime I think.”

For more Karen, check out her website karenelson.com.

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