Alumni Showcase: Kelly “Malibu” Boyce ‘99

Dec 06, 2021 • Alumni, Alumni Showcase
Kelly Boyce on the cover of the Morningsider and as Classic Mx. New England
Former Morningside Homecoming Queen Kelly “Malibu” Boyce overcame facial body dysmorphia, one of the biggest challenges she has faced, to be named Classic Ms. New England.

Former Morningside Homecoming Queen Kelly “Malibu” Boyce overcame facial body dysmorphia, one of the biggest challenges she has faced, to be named Classic Ms. New England.

Facial body dysmorphia, a mental health condition where a person has a distorted perception of their facial appearance, severely worsened for Boyce in June 2012. She believed that her strong jaw was too wide and masculine, and she convinced herself that surgery was the answer.

“Having finally fallen in love with a man for the first time, I felt I needed to look more feminine," recalled Boyce.

Each plastic surgeon she consulted advised her not to undergo any surgery to her face, but she didn’t listen. She eventually found a surgeon who was willing to operate, but the procedure did not yield the results she had pursued. Instead of slimming her jaw, the surgeon removed the masseter muscle and bone that formed the jaw angle.

This affected the structural foundation of the jaw itself, and each subsequent surgery to try to restore her jaw made things worse.

“Ultimately I was left with facial deformities, nerve damage, and functional issues, including difficulty in smiling and chewing food,” Boyce said.

While these issues are manageable, Boyce developed depression because she knew that it all could have been avoided had she not been tricked by her facial body dysmorphia into believing that she needed fixing.

“I didn’t show outward signs of depression – I still enjoyed having fun and being with friends,” Boyce reflected. “But inside, I was so ashamed and depressed and consumed by my mistakes.”

Family ties added an additional layer of guilt as she realized her jaw, which she had blamed her father for passing onto her, was a trait of her paternal grandmother. She was the only grandchild who had inherited this distinct feature, and she felt that she had thrown it away.

Embarrassed by her story, she continually lied to others about the experience. She tried to hide her damaged jaw behind a curtain of long hair, and she seriously considered running away from her life in New York and joining a cloistered monastery. After years of depression, she finally had a moment of clarity.

“I realized I would never be able to do anything good in this world if I kept feeling sorry for myself,” said Boyce. “My longtime goal of helping to provide funding for burn survivors would never happen if I hid away in a monastery.”

Further, the challenges she had faced and the scars they had left in her mind needed to be directly addressed with intention and compassion. “And I needed to accept myself as a queer woman with a naturally strong jaw,” Boyce said.

Not long after, Boyce decided to enter the Classic Ms. Division in the Miss New England Pageant, an age-division pageant held annually in Connecticut. She felt that to be free from the chains of depression she needed to expose herself – flaws and all.

As part of the pageant, she was asked to describe a challenge she had overcome. “Although I had recently opened up to a few close friends, this was the first time I told complete strangers the truth about my struggle with facial body dysmorphia and the path that brought me to the pageant,” she said. Her fear of being exposed had become a reality.

But instead of being met with shame or rejection, Boyce’s honesty about her experience moved the judges and she was named Classic Ms. New England. While earning the title was a pleasant surprise, the real prize was acceptance – not by others but for herself.

After years of despair, Boyce acknowledged the decisions that brought her to the present and her triumph over facial body dysmorphia.

“Most importantly, now I always see such beauty in each person I encounter, and I truly hope that everyone can see their own beauty.”

About the Alumni
After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Morningside, Boyce went on to receive a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University in New York, where she now works. While at Morningside, Boyce was a cheerleader and involved in yearbook, AOII, and the Morningside Choir. She was voted Homecoming Queen in 1998.