The Art of Living Fully
By Hailey Bethke | Photography by Romona Robbins
How do you live fully?
Many of us would struggle to answer that question. What does it feel like to live a vibrant life—one that allows you to tap into peace, abundance, and gratitude more frequently than anxiety, stress, and fear? Is that even possible for everyone, or is a plentiful life reserved for a select few? We often turn to those we think “have it all figured out” to guide us in such an endeavor.
Mallory Ervin, former Miss Kentucky, Miss America runner-up, three-time competitor on The Amazing Race, entrepreneur, wife, mother, influencer, author, singer, and public speaker, is accomplished, to say the least. From graduating valedictorian and performing the national anthem at an NBA game during her childhood to racing around the world on a reality television show and participating in one of the world’s biggest pageants, Ervin is no stranger to success or the spotlight. “In my youth, I just kept winning,” she remarks. “For a long time, I thought that’s what ‘living fully’ was.”
Upon meeting Ervin in person, one immediately realizes she is a ray of sunshine on and off camera. She radiates an inspiring enthusiasm for life and effortlessly adds vibrancy to any room. Yet, beyond her magnetism and commendable achievements, she is a woman of wisdom and depth who values vulnerability and intention. As she shares in her debut book, Living Fully, although her achievements portray the illusion of perfection, her life is far from flawless. Beyond her massive success in the public eye, she is an exemplary woman of strength who has braved devastating rock bottoms and learned to release unhealthy attachments to external validation and accolades.
“I got really nervous to tell my story, worried that sharing those five or so years of that low would negate the bright and vibrant childhood I had,” Ervin admits. As she details in Living Fully, released in February 2022, she fell into a spiral of prescription-drug abuse after college. The result was a physical and emotional breakdown that forced her to make a life-altering decision: continue with her growing dependency on the medication (which would undoubtedly lead to premature death) or seek healing. With the support of her family, she enrolled in a rehabilitation program that transformed her life from the inside out.
“Something I’ve come to understand is that the issue that manifests is rarely the actual problem. The problem wasn’t the substances; the problem also wasn’t the hair or the boyfriend, the titles, the success and notoriety, the need for approval, or anything else. The problem—my problem—was my attachment to all those things,” she emphasizes. “Filling my life with those big experiences—the titles and achievements—led to emptiness.”
In both of her books, Ervin addresses that living a full life is very different than living fully. She had mastered living a full life, eagerly running from one project to the next. However, during her healing journey, she realized big things don’t equate to a great life. Although addiction led her to rock bottom, she says even people without life-threatening low moments often need a wake-up call to claim the life they deserve.
I got really nervous to tell my story, worried that sharing those five or so years of that low would negate the bright and vibrant childhood I had.
“Rock bottom is when the situation is so bad you have to make a change,” she says. “Typically, we think of rock bottom when a drug addict or alcoholic is at their darkest, lowest point. Here’s what I want you to know: being ‘fine’ is also a life-or-death decision because fine is an emotional death—the death of a full life.” When there’s no pressure on ourselves to make a change, simply because everything is “OK,” that is where we will remain: in a mediocre life when we are made for more.
After coming home from treatment and feeling like the most grounded and whole version of herself, Ervin started her blog and YouTube channel. Here, she gives viewers an inside look into life as a Nashville-based mom and lifestyle brand creator. Her media focuses on delivering uplifting content on health and wellness, family time, fashion, and beauty. Now, she has a community of over a million followers across various platforms and continues to express her creativity and authenticity through her podcast, Living Fully, and clothing brand, Living Fully Co. Behind the mic, she spotlights inspiring guests, including Gabby Bernstein, Morgan Harper Nichols, and Dr. Tara Swart, and shares valuable lessons on how to prioritize joy and satisfaction in a world where we often feel lost and numb. Designed to encourage listeners as they navigate the human journey, the Living Fully podcast is ideal for anyone craving more fulfillment and meaning in everyday life. At Living Fully Co., Ervin utilizes whimsical colors with thoughtful designs to create swoon-worthy statement pieces. The apparel company does seasonal drops, and collections sell out almost immediately, thanks to the loyalty and support of Ervin’s community.
The Living Fully book was an immediate success; readers loved the raw realness of Ervin’s journey and commended her for choosing to be vulnerable when sharing her story. For Ervin, this was a book she felt like she needed to write. “I would get DMs from people all the time saying I wish I could be like you; you look so happy,” she says. “And I would respond with, ‘It’s been a journey to get here’ and share what I went through behind the scenes and off social media.” To “influence” people in the way that she wanted—which meant to instill a message of truthfulness and hope—she needed to share her whole story, even the painful parts. Living Fully is for the person who is wondering if their life is made for more; the person wondering if their childhood dreams were merely a fantasy; the person who believes an absence of bad is a qualifier for good; and the person who intuitively knows they need a wake-up call to step into the more significant role they were meant to play in their lifetime.
Rock bottom is when the situation is so bad you have to make a change. Typically, we think of rock bottom when a drug addict or alcoholic is at their darkest, lowest point.
I would get DMs from people all the time saying I wish I could be like you; you look so happy. And I would respond with, ‘It’s been a journey to get here’ and share what I went through behind the scenes and off social media.
Ervin’s second literary installment, All In, was released in February 2023. All In is the companion volume to Living Fully and serves as a journal and action guide to empower the reader to make their new life a reality. Each chapter is concise and leaves you with powerful lessons and mindful practices, designed for the dreamer who wants to create their ideal life but doesn’t know where to start. All In has quickly topped the charts on Amazon, ranking number one across the Self-Help and Motivation and Christian Self-Help categories. This Amazon Bestseller was also named a Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller, making All In a phenomenon.
As we strive to be resilient and inspire through life’s highs and lows, the VIE team is honored to have Mallory Ervin as our cover girl for the March 2023 Change Makers Issue. We loved bringing this cover and feature story to life through a photo shoot at the newly opened Fonville Press market and café in Alys Beach, Florida. Thank you to owners Jeremy and Angela Walton! The beautiful spaces, both indoors and outdoors, brought our creative vision to fruition. We would also love to express our gratitude to Michaelanne Lauderdale from Inlet Beach Real Estate for allowing us to shoot in a secondary location at her premier listing, 149 Kaiya Avenue in Kaiya Beach Resort. We are thankful for these community partners, whom you will learn more about as you peruse this issue.
We are also excited to announce that Ervin will be joining the lineup for Season Two of VIE Speaks: Conversations with Heart and Soul podcast. Tune in across all listening platforms on March 28, 2023, for an exclusive conversation with Mallory Ervin and our podcast host, CEO, and editor-in-chief, Lisa Marie Burwell.
I discovered that we can’t find a full life in those ‘hero moments,’ just as we can’t find it in the ‘zero moments.' Instead, we find it in practice, in a constant way of life.
Ervin encourages us to find gratitude in the everyday moments—spending time with our family or running to the grocery store—to pause and appreciate the little things that make life so meaningful. “I discovered that we can’t find a full life in those ‘hero moments,’ just as we can’t find it in the ‘zero moments,’” she expresses. “Instead, we find it in practice, in a constant way of life.” Cheers to celebrating the small moments—if you let them, they will bring you ever closer to living fully.
— V —
To connect with Mallory Ervin, follow along on Instagram @malloryervin, visit MalloryErvin.com, and check out her books Living Fully and All In, now available nationwide.
Tune in to VIE Speaks and Living Fully podcasts on your favorite listening platforms.
- Hairstylist: Brooke Miller
- Makeup: Paige Szupello
- Stylist: Cherie Kilchrist, CK Styling
- Balloons: Mingle 30A
- Cake: Fonville Press
- Flowers: Rose & Co.