In this series we’re connecting with experts and advocates from all walks of life to help us explore what happens when you let nature do its thing — on our skin, on our planet, and in our lives. Today’s feature is someone who not only lets his nature thrive, but fights tirelessly for the ability of others to do the same. We connected with Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen to learn about what he’s currently working on legislatively, what his favorite CRUDE products are, and how he balances work and politics with self care.
Derek Kitchen is a small business owner and politician in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the namesake in the federal lawsuit that legalized marriage equality in Utah & 5 other states in 2013. He loves anything outdoors the natural beauty and peace that comes from living in the West. As a small business owner, Derek operates a food production company and a restaurant called Laziz Kitchen. He has served as a city council member, and was elected as the only LGBTQ member of the legislature in 2018, representing District 2 in the Senate.
CRUDE: WHAT GOT YOU STARTED IN POLITICS? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP GOING?
DEREK: I have always been interested in history and government. As a young gay boy in Utah, I always was interested in advocating for the LGBTQ community and the underdog more broadly. I remember the 2004 election between George Bush & John Kerry as a turning point. I wasn't old enough to vote at the time, but I got involved because Pres. Bush made gay rights a wedge issue. In 2008 I volunteered for Hillary Clinton and then Obama.
When I launched the lawsuit against the State of Utah for gay marriage in 2013, I remember thinking that this was my only way of protesting. I was encouraged not to do it, but knew that something had to be done. Kitchen v. Herbert was wildly successful and legalized marriage for the LGBTQ community, which sent a shockwave through the whole community. It impacted not only my life, but the lives of friends and strangers. It provided a feeling of pride that I had never felt before. I was so honored to be part of a monument change in society. So, I leveraged my interest in policy and my name recognition into local government as a city councilman in 2015. In 2018, it was clear that there was no LGBTQ or millennial voice in our State Government, so I ran for the Utah Senate and won.
What keeps me going is the prospect of not having a young or queer voice at the decision-making table. Every day I see injustices both large & small that need to be voiced and advocated for. I am in this role to be a good leader and to fight for policy that helps people. I know that local government is the best place for real change to take place, especially when we have a federal government that is ripe with corruption and inaction. I'm here to work for my neighbors and my community. That is the most rewarding thing about serving in political office.
CRUDE: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION?
DEREK: I have a couple really important bills this legislative session. The first is a Family Planning Waiver for Medicaid. It would provide the full range of birth control & contraceptives to everyone under 250% of the federal poverty level(FPL).This is a critical piece of legislation that allows women to feel confident in their reproductive healthcare and prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortions.
I am also working on a clean energy bill that will provide tax incentives to encourage the investment of renewable energy and on-site battery storage.
Finally, another big bill of mine would eliminate the charges for inmates in prison or jail when they call their family or legal counsel.
CRUDE: WHY AND HOW SHOULD YOUNG PEOPLE GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS?
DEREK: Simply put, we need young people to get involved because we need the diversity of opinions and voices at the decision making table. The issues that matter to young people may not matter to the existing political establishment - if we want change, we must step up and advocate for it. Now is the time.
CRUDE: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CRUDE PRODUCTS? HOW DO YOU USE THEM?
DEREK: The only two products that I use on my body are WASH and CLEANSE. I don't use lotion, or any other cleanser-type product. I use WASH in the shower, under my arms and other sensitive areas that need a little freshening. I also have naturally dry skin, so I use WASH on my body after the shower as a moisturizer.
CLEANSE is a product that I use to wash my face, but also to moisturize my face, head, and neck. These products have changed my life.
CRUDE: HOW DO YOU PRACTICE SELF-CARE?
DEREK: Self-care is one of the most important things to incorporate into your life, but unfortunately it often takes a back seat to the stress and chaos of regular life. I've been on a journey with self-care over the past few years and have found that the more I tend to my own self, the better I show up for work, family, friends, and life.
My self care routine involves a morning 20-minute meditation on my pillow. If I have more time, I will also incorporate some music at the end, or even a little reading to bring me into the present moment. This was a hard practice to incorporate into my life, and it's still not a"habit"in the way brushing my teeth or eating breakfast is, but I am pretty consistent and proud of the effort. I have found that making the investment of 20 minutes may seem like lost time, but it has actually improved my productivity and enhanced my emotional intelligence. I encourage everyone to try.
I also find that turning off social media is really important for me. I will usually take 2-4 days a month to detach and recalibrate. It has given me the tools I need to keep my own self confidence in check and it reminds me to continue to stay focused on what's right in front of me instead of what is happening in the digital space.
Beyond these two, I find reading and exercise are also very important. I also take time to invest in my friendships. These are all versions of self-care.
CRUDE: FOR US, THE 'LET YOUR NATURE THRIVE' PHILOSOPHY APPLIES TO MORE THAN JUST SKINCARE AND THE MICROBIOME. WE ALSO THINK ABOUT IT IN RELATION TO HOW WE EXPRESS AND CELEBRATE THE DIVERSE NATURE IN ALL OF US INDIVIDUALLY (AND HOW THAT CAN CREATE HOMEOSTASIS WHEN WE COME TOGETHER). WHAT'S ONE WAY YOU LET YOUR UNIQUE NATURE THRIVE AND WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACE IN DOING SO?
DEREK: This is a very good question. I have found that it's important to find people who share the same vision for the world and who can help me stay focused. Community is like an ecosystem, so every participant has an important role to play in keeping things balanced. So I try to remind myself to lift others up and not be afraid to take up space myself. I see that my opportunity to express myself is an important ingredient to a healthy community and a healthy mindset. There are challenges of institutional power structure, and of the natural inclination to over analyze and over criticize oneself, but I find that through my self-care routine I am able to show up for myself and then for my community by extension.