Kick-ass Women

i’ve only known kim daenen for a few years, but we often joke it feels like a lifetime. we met at a travel industry conference, where she represented her employer brussels airlines as its press representative. we hit it off professionally, and soon started collaborating on a number of cool projects. i saw her rise through the ranks and become spokeswoman for my favorite airline company, and meanwhile our coffee dates led to dinner dates, led to trips to geneva and kim attending our wedding… in short – i made a very good friend.

there’s another joke we often make, or at least – that i make – and that is some kind of comment on how kim is the most critical and exigent person in the world. yet instead of this quality making her insufferable, she balances it with equal parts compassion, kindness and empathy. kim is that person whose opinion i value on every subject, be it food (she’s the ultimate foodie, always knowledgeable about every new restaurant in town), travel (she’s seen much more of the world than i have, and has the most amazing stories to share about her travels) or interior design (she has a great eye, knows about every instagram trend before it even registered on my radar and – most importantly – she has designed a beautiful, lovely home).

the only weird thing about making kim my next (long-awaited) guest of my kick-ass women series, is the fact that it hasn’t happened sooner. so without further ado, i’d love to introduce this talented, whip smart lady who you’ll definitely hear of again. if you’re as in love with her decorating style as i am, you can furthermore hop over to ROOMIN.BE where i’ve shared the home tour she gave me, including all the tips and tricks that make her apartment such a warm and inviting place. and don’t forget to follow her on INSTAGRAM, to take a peek into her inspiring daily life. and now i’ll let you scroll down to read what little nuggets of life wisdom kim has to share!

name a challenge that you didn’t think you could overcome, but conquered anyway.

my first tv interview for brussels airlines was something that i was pretty nervous about. i sort of got thrown into the lion’s den without much preparation – obviously my boss believed in me, otherwise she would have never let me do it – but it was pretty scary, although apparently it didn’t show to the journalist. looking back at it now and thinking how confident i feel in my job today, really makes me smile. i still haven’t watched that first interview, though.

what is your biggest regret?

i don’t really have any regrets,i have always chosen my own path and i’ve learned to be critical of myself and others along the way, while respecting other people’s opinions. the only thing i feel i haven’t acted on yet, is doing something professionally with my love for interior design. but it is not so much as a regret, as i think i will someday turn this passion into something more, one way or another. it has always been a constant in my life that makes me very happy. be it storytelling, communication or interior, creativity has to be part of my life on a daily basis.

what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?

the most important thing i’ve learned is that you have to let go of perfection. there is always more to see, more to discover, more parts of the world to travel, and some people seem to do it all in one day in their instagram life and that can create false expectations for yourself. once you let go of all that wanting and you start enjoying the little moments that are happening now, that’s when real happiness sets in. i’m very happy that i’ve come to realize this.

what are you trying to teach yourself right now?

i’m trying to teach myself to be more structured. i have always been a messy type, trying to hide behind the creative mess excuse, but i’ve come to realize that structure gives me peace of mind. and as i get older, this becomes more important to me. the days when i could just keep going are over and i appreciate more rest now. i guess that’s the price i have to pay for spending the first 30 years of my life as a very hurried person.

what is your favorite memory? what does it say about you?

my favorite memory is actually the entire past 15 months of my life. after many years of hesitation i broke out of my comfort zone – and you can take that quite literally – and at the same time i also decided to move to antwerp, far from my best friends. there i met the man of my dreams and exactly one month ago he asked me to marry him, in the most romantic way. he never fails to surprise me, and with his proposal the surprise was in the simplicity. no big show in some romantic city, but in our home, where we love to be, during a scrumptious breakfast that he had prepared. what it says about me is, well, that i am now going bananas over wedding inspiration. my life has been turned upside down, but i could not be any happier with how it has turned out. this brings me to a very important life lesson, which is that life does really does start at the end of your comfort zone, that is, if that comfort zone does not make you happy. it has taught me to always follow my dreams.

what would you like to be remembered for?

i hope that my friends, colleagues and family would remember me for being a passionate and smiling person who always sees things positively. like everyone, i have many flaws, but my stronghold is that i always try to find a solution for problems that pop up along the way. i don’t give up easily, and this has helped me in my career as well as in my private life. i like to think that this is what my dearest friends love about me.

photos by STEPHANIE DUVAL // kim daenen on INSTAGRAM

Kick-ass Gentlemom A

i first met kirsten ginckels when we started freelancing for the same magazine, way back when. i’ve always known her to be an incredibly hardworking and ambitious lady, and i recognized my own perfectionism in her striving for the perfect career, the perfect wedding, and the perfect family. that is why, when she first let on things had been hard on her after the birth of her beautiful baby daughter, i took note and considered it a warning for myself. perfectionists are known to have more difficulties adapting to a new life in which rules, schedules and basically every single habit and routine is turned upside down.

when kirsten and her friend ellen van den bouwhuysen launched their platform THE GENTLEMOM late last year, i was a couple months pregnant and very aware of the importance of what they were doing. with their facebook group, they were the first to offer a platform for new and experienced moms to talk the truth about motherhood and offer their encouragement and support to others going through similar situations.

now that our little juliet is two months old, i’ve come to respect the gentlemom and all of its members even more. living abroad, far away from family, friends and colleagues, combined with juliet’s milk allergy, reflux and other little ailments needing 200% of my attention, i started feeling isolated, extremely tired and more than a little helpless. with every improvement in juliet’s situation i would raise my hopes, only to have them crushed the next day when she relapsed. now that her condition is stabilizing and i am spending some time with my parents in my hometown, i’m starting to see the bright side again – but i was dangerously close to slinking into a post natal depression.

so today i’m exceptionally happy to introduce you all to kirsten and ellen in the kick-ass women interview series. they’re working hard on a book that will be published by horizon this fall – so keep an eye out on their facebook group and instagram. in the meantime, they’re sharing some wise advice for women and moms everywhere.

if you could only give one piece of advice to anyone, what would it be?

kirsten – love yourself enough to set boundaries. your time and energy are precious. i wish someone would have given me that piece of advice before i started working as a freelance journalist. instead, i learned the hard way. i’m the living example of a woman not setting boundaries and not respecting herself enough to listen to her own body. self-care wasn’t a priority. the consequences of this brainless behaviour became visible after becoming a mom. a fulltime job on top of another fulltime job that had already worn me out to the max, was just too much to handle. i crashed and burned out. permanent damage is done. it will take years, if not a lifetime, to recover. i will never be the same again, but i’m starting to love the new me more and more.

Kick-ass Gentlemom C Kick-ass Gentlemom D

who has been a mentor to you throughout your life or professional career, and how?

ellen – i have to say: my dad. he told me once to find something in life that makes you happy, a career, a way of living, and go for it, no matter what. always try to do things that make you happy. if life turns out not to be what you expected, dare to make changes”. this one sentence is always somewhere in the back of my head. when i decided to study photography, most people said: “making pictures is a hobby, not a job.” my dad said: “do it, I will support you wherever I can.” and so he did. photography has been my fulltime job since years. i hope, with all my heart, i can be as supportive to my son and guide him in the choices he makes.

what are you trying to teach yourself right now?

kirsten – as a new mom, many lessons are to be learned. each and every day. children make mistakes, just like adults. when stress and daily frustrations get the best of me, i feel the urge to scream, shout, yell… well, lose my patience easily. i don’t want to be that kind of mother. therefore i’m making a conscious effort on a daily basis to be more patient and compassionate when she spills her bowl of soup on the freshly cleaned kitchen floor. i owe it to her and to myself to react to her mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm and reasonable way. i want to encourage her, not take her down. if she didn’t do it on purpose, then there’s no reason for me to get so worked up about it. showing empathy is teaching her empathy. and that’s what my biggest wish: for her to grow up as a compassionate human being.

what is your favorite memory? what does it say about you?

ellen – it’s hard to pick one memory and call it my favorite, there are several. but they have one thing in common: traveling. it’s a bit odd to talk about traveling now, because i’ve never been more comfortable in my own cocoon than since my baby boy was born, but still, it has been a big part of my adult life. i traveled for my job as well as for pleasure. it opened my mind, the way i look at things, especially at people. it’s a big world out there, different cultures and habits – and yet, we are so alike. how beautiful is that!

Kick-ass Gentlemom B

what is the biggest accomplishment you wish for yourself in your future?

kirsten – through hard times, i’ve gotten to know the real me, learned where my boundaries are and what’s important to me. in a society where it’s all about competing, survival of the fittest and every woman for herself, i hope to remain true to myself and stick to those boundaries. i do not longer want to be taken advantage of or taken down. by showing kindness to myself and to others, i’ve become stronger than i’ve ever been. i wish to continue walking this path, because it has brought me so much inner peace, joy and contentment.

what would you like to be remembered for?

ellen – i hope i ‘ll be able to live my life to the fullest, create a life i don’t need a holiday from. live more with less. there’s no ‘have to’, only ‘can do’. i hope i can pass this vision on to my son, so he is two steps ahead in life.

the gentlemom on FACEBOOK // the gentlemom on INSTAGRAM


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my name is stephanie duval, and i am a storyteller. this blog is where i share my favorite stories about design, travel, fashion and the nice things in life.


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