‘My clothing doesn’t define me’: Aussie beauty influencer Kelsey Foster on staying positive amid criticism over Bali orphanage visit

Foreigners come to Bali and do all sorts of dumb things for the content (like this and this). But some also come to do and share wholesome things during their trips, such as charity work. In fact, Coconuts has published stories on influencers who get to have their philanthropic cake and eat it too.

While some might argue that their good deeds would be more admirable if done in silence, in the grand scheme of things, their compassion still counts. 

But putting your good deeds on display sometimes comes at a price: haters.

Australian tourist and beauty influencer Kelsey Foster, 28, recently found herself in the middle of a social media hate storm after sharing on Facebook some seemingly innocuous pictures depicting her visit to an orphanage in Bali.

The reason for the vitriol? Her cleavage. Or, as she described them, her “puppies.”

Foster visited the orphanage on Nov. 13 – the day after she landed at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport for a vacation. The mother of one was inspired to do more than just sun-seeking in Bali, so she put out a Facebook post asking her followers for donations as she sought to give back to the community.

Despite the last-minute announcement, Foster managed to collect about AUD400 or IDR4.1 million (US$264) – all of which she used to purchase food and necessities for the orphanage, which is located in Denpasar. 

Before she arrived at the orphanage, Foster said that she went snorkeling in Kuta and realized too late that she did not bring spare clothes. When her driver told her that they had arrived at the orphanage, she asked him to ask somebody inside whether her low-plunge outfit was appropriate. The orphanage said yes, according to Foster.

She posted her pictures on Facebook.

Photo: Kelsey Foster / Facebook

The media picked up on the social media post – not so much about the charity work but because of the negative comments, which mostly came from Australians, that were directed at her decolletage. The comments were so intense that Foster felt compelled to address the issue in one of her posts.

“I have seen comments saying ‘I am asking to be r*ped’ ‘asking for the abuse’ ‘too f*t for a bikini’ and more,” Foster wrote, adding that she treated all the negative comments like water off a duck’s back. “Fact is, if I didn’t post photos showing my donates where their money had gone I would have been labelled fake or a money thief.”

Foster sadly had to cut her Bali trip short after accidentally falling on a Legian street, tearing her ligaments and fracturing her ankle (she has been on crutches since). She left for her home in New South Wales on Nov. 17.

Coconuts reached out to Foster today without any expectations – fully aware that she might be overwhelmed with hundreds of comments and messages. Thankfully, Foster did respond to us, because we had a deep and enlightening conversation with her about her charity work, slut-shaming, and how best to ignore haters.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

Kelsey, we’re wondering if you have received similar criticism from any Balinese or Indonesian? 

I haven’t had a single bit of criticism come from anyone we know in Indonesia. My driver told us she asked the orphanage if what I was wearing was okay and they said yes. I showed our drivers and friends that worked at restaurants all the negative media about me and they all said how it is wrong what people are saying and mean.

The only people who seemed to have an issue with what I was wearing were internet trolls, not the children, not the orphanage caretakers, not the Balinese.

My clothing doesn’t define me as a person, my heart does. My heart was in the right place, it’s unfortunate everyone else’s words were not.

Photo: Kelsey Foster / Facebook

Having experienced all of this, would you still return to Bali one day and continue charity work? Would you have done anything differently, in retrospect? 

Regardless of what has been said in the media, it’s not going to stop me doing anything charitable in any country, negative people will always find something to complain about or attack someone about.

Next time I obviously will take spare clothes if I go swimming or plan to see the orphanage in the morning before doing anything that requires a bikini.

As I said in my original post we were already swimming in the morning and I didn’t have spare clothes when the driver said we [were] already at the orphanage.

We didn’t expect you to respond this fast – we understand that you have received many enquiries. 

I haven’t responded to many [media requests] – they have kind of just made their own story up on their end. You’re welcome.

Our country does have a strict anti-pornography law – but it’s not like you wore a bikini to the orphanage.

I do understand this. I just wish the media coverage was more about the children and how to help more rather than criticizing the fact of what I had on. 

I also believe if I was a flat-chested woman in a swimsuit a fuss wouldn’t have been made – but I have E cup breasts which, obviously, no matter what I wear they will still be shown.

Photo: Kelsey Foster / Facebook

What do you say to criticism of people posting their charitable work on social media?

Honestly, it didn’t affect me the way it might affect most.

I am a very strong minded person. It’s unfortunate though because some people aren’t and the kind of things people say online can cause such hurt and depression/suicide to others.

But if we stay silent and don’t use our following on social media to share this with, how will others know to do such nice things?

If you have a following and you influence people, why not do things to help others that might also encourage others to do the same? The world needs reminders that we can help in small ways. It’s unfortunate that a lot of people just see it as a negative.

I have received over 100,000 comments about me. Five thousand people following me, 3,000 messages of hate or good towards me.

But overall I am still happy I did what I did, I saw children smile and know that what I gave will help.

I’d like to add, I have my own three-and-a-half-year-old and I couldn’t imagine her being in the conditions some children are in other countries. She’s my main inspiration for wanting to help when I can.

Do you have any advice for those who want to help people in Bali?

With the understanding that our money, our items go so much further in Bali than they do in Australia, I asked other locals what I could do to help. I was asked to please bring bras, bring my children’s clothes – they are so in need of things we take for granted here. 

I think if you can’t afford to donate money, bag up old clothes and ask someone to take them with them on their holiday. It goes so far. 

I would also donate to Bali-based charities like Right Reasons Funding and the Bali Children Foundation. I also reserve a mention for the Black Dog Institute in Australia, as many social media trolls don’t realize the effects their words have on people who are trying to do nice things but can’t take what others say about them. 

People commit suicide daily over online bullying and it’s just not good enough.

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