How We Met
Kenny and I met in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at a lemonade stand for his charity he founded to send underprivileged kids to college in Bali (I know, swoooon). It was the beginning of our senior year – I was president of my sorority and was bouncing to a meeting I was already late for with a friend when we stumbled upon him and his friends. He introduced himself right away and I grinned – I definitely already knew who he was. In fact, the girl walking with me had a big crush on him – I’m pretty sure most girls at UNC did. Kenny is kind, super smart, super driven, super fun and really freaking handsome. How could you not! That same night, after our meeting, I was at a friend’s party before going out when she pulled me aside. “Christina, Kenny Haisfield won’t stop texting me about you. He keeps asking me all of these questions and telling me we have to meet up with them tonight. I think he’s really into you.”
All I had told Kenny was my first name, and that I was an ADPi, so he went straight to his fraternity brother, who was dating an ADPi, and got her number so he could do his ‘who WAS that girl’ recon. His plan worked. She was with me that night and convinced me we just HAD to go to He’s Not Here – where Kenny and all his friends (many of his groomsmen!) were hanging out. I remember chatting all night with Kenny about travel (we had both studied abroad different semesters, hence maybe why we hadn’t met yet), and bonding over being from the west coast.
I think I pretty much fell head over heels for Kenny that night in Chapel Hill, and I think he may have too. But neither of us were ready for each other. In the following days and weeks, he pursued me hard, but I was beyond intimidated. I didn’t want to just be another girl to Kenny, so I did the only thing I could do – I friend-zoned him, hard. We hung out all the rest of college as friends, as much as we could. He was even my date to my senior year sorority formal, and present for some of my very favorite times of my college and post-college life. We both fought feelings for each other for a very long time. But they were always there. Just waiting for the right moment to make sense.
Fast-forward from college about 5 years, and we were still best friends. (Sorry, Kenny!!). It was all for the best though, I was living in San Francisco working in Brand Marketing, and starting my small travel blog on the side, and he was off living in Bali after quitting his big NYC consulting job and was busy creating his Hawaiian shirt empire – Kenny Flowers.
Everyone thought Kenny was crazy to quit his well-paying corporate job and move to Bali, but also, we all knew he was a genius. He was running a thriving business from the beach and literally LIVING THE DREAM. Kenny was not only creating a product that people were worshipping, he was creating a brand that people wanted desperately to be a part of. There was something about the Kenny Flowers story that people couldn’t help but be drawn to. Kenny completely embodied his brand and the KF lifestyle – he had always worn tropical party shirts in college and was determined to put a modern spin on your dad’s classic Hawaiian. So he moved to Bali (before Bali was the hot tourist destination that it is now), and started churning out incredible, super high-quality, hand-cut Hawaiian shirts (before every brand in America tried to do the same thing). And, even as Hawaiians have become increasingly popular over the past few years – every customer of his will tell you that Kenny Flowers Hawaiians are just different. The designs are better, the fits are better, and they’re super, super soft. But I think it’s more than that – the difference is intangible. Kenny’s golden touch is everywhere, and his passion, perfectionism, and dedication to giving you a piece of paradise to wear with you at all times, shows on everything the brand does.
But back to us! Two years ago, Kenny finally decided he’d had enough of my friend zone and, on a fateful weekend trip he made to visit San Francisco, made his move. I was kinda-sorta dating someone and, you know, had a whole life going on in SF, but, Kenny Flowers did what he does best – showed me how much better life could be. It was pretty much as if I had been living life in a boring J. Crew buttondown and put on a Kenny Flowers party shirt instead, AMIRIGHT KENNY!? (Kenny’s rolling his eyes).
Anyway. I flew to Bali with my best friend a month later. We had the time of our lives. Kenny asked me to stay. I didn’t.
I had a boss, a job, a LIFE. I thought he was crazy. But I was also crazy in love with him. It seemed like our whole lives had been leading to this point. Like everything we had done in our separate lives, while still having this undeniable magnetic connection to each other, was finally making sense. Everything in me felt like all of the pieces to our lives, and our futures, were laid out for us now. But I just wasn’t sure how to click it all into place.
So, we made a plan. He’d come to visit for 10 days in between a trip from Bali to the states, and we’d figure it out. He told me he’d move to SF. I was like, hmm, wait… but Bali sounds a lot more fun. We both knew at this point the clock was ticking on my corporate job anyway – I just needed a push – something, someone, to tell me that I could do it – that I could quit my job, travel the world, blog full-time, and build my own brand. My blog had grown from a modest side hobby to a thriving leading luxury travel brand – and it was doubling in readership every day. My Instagram @JetsetChristina was being featured at the top of lists like Travel & Leisure’s Top Luxury Travel Instagrams, and IZEA’s Top Luxury Travel Influencer in the World. I was actually starting to make enough to make a living from it. I knew that if I wanted to give it my full energy, I had to do it soon. But the idea of quitting my cushioney corporate job to be an entrepreneur and travel blog full-time was beyond scary to me.
Kenny did more than encourage me to give my all to Jetset Christina – he, without knowing it, gave me the safety net I needed to make the biggest decision of my life. To buy a one-way ticket across the globe. I figured, if all else failed, I’d spend a few months in Bali with my boyfriend, giving my two biggest dreams the shot they deserved.
A few months later, I was working harder than I’d ever worked in my life as a travel influencer. And loving every second of it. I was getting paid to travel to corners of the world I’d never even heard of, and staying in 5-star, $2000 a night hotels and overwater bungalows with private pools. I was doing what I love – writing and traveling, every single day. But I was also craving more. I’ve always been someone who needs 100 things on her plate to feel productive, and I thrive with a thousand projects going on at once. So, I started helping Kenny with his marketing (maybe a way to pay him back for the endless instagram-husbanding he’s done for me over the years?!). This way, I could flex my branding and marketing muscles, and help Kenny build out his women’s line. It was a match made in paradise.
We designed the most beautiful Kimonos, and these adorable beach cover-ups for bachelorette parties and group trips. And, after Kenny’s mens’ swimwear became such a success, we even launched a line of women’s swimwear this Spring -Watercolors – a dream of mine and a project I’ve been excited about for a very long time.
I can wholeheartedly say that neither Kenny nor I would be the person we are today without each other. We have been there for each other since the beginning of both of our businesses (he was one of my very first followers and biggest fans, and I was the first girl customer of Kenny Flowers). As friends, we watched, supported, and celebrated each other as we started our new businesses in pursuit of a life different from the norm. As boyfriend and girlfriend, we gave each other the challenge and backbone we needed to push the envelope even more.
When people say they feel *sparks*, all I can think about is how I felt from the very second I laid eyes on Kenny at that lemonade stand. There was always a spark with us that we didn’t dare let ignite – because the timing for us didn’t make sense. Until it did.
How They Asked
Kenny chose to propose to me in Uluwatu, Bali because it’s both of our favorite place in the world. Bali is special to us for so many reasons. It’s where Kenny’s Kenny Flowers shirts are made, it’s where both of our businesses have bloomed, it’s where we fell in love. It’s where he convinced me I could quit my 9-5 job and pursue my travel blog full-time. And it’s where we call home when we’re not traveling for @JetsetChristina or in the states. These days, we spend about half the year in Bali.
Uluwatu, the place where he proposed, is especially magical to us – it’s the first place in Bali Kenny ever took me when I visited. The very first night I ever spent in Bali, we watched the most beautiful sunset in Uluwatu. My friend and I visiting were Bali first-timers, and were in awe of this beautiful paradise island and the sky that was seemingly on fire, but felt lucky when Kenny told us it was not just an average sunset – it was the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen out of the thousands he had seen in Bali. He told us that Bali was showing off for us. And it definitely was.
Two years later, Bali was showing off again the night Kenny proposed. Overlooking the cliffs of the Six Senses Uluwatu, under this picture-perfect frame, Kenny got down on one knee and asked me to spend forever with him. He had orchestrated waiters with champagne to appear as soon as I said yes. It was perfect, in every way.
I had no idea he was so nervous – we had the absolute best day leading up to this perfect night, spent soaking up the sun, playing in paradise and listening to Jimmy Buffett. I didn’t cry until we were walking back to our room afterward, when I thought about that first night in Bali, that first sunset, and how far we’ve come since then. How all of the puzzle pieces of our beautiful life together have fallen into place. And how I couldn’t possibly be happier.