“KiKi is a red carpet reporter with the skills and drive of an entertainment mogul.”
KiKi grew up with military parents in Bremerton, Washington. Her childhood was not what most would call traditional, but she has a unique story to tell. “When my parents got divorced is when things kind of went downhill.” KiKi confided. The family moved into lower income housing solely supported by her mothers high powered work ethic. KiKi told me, “She would work multiple jobs and it instilled something in me to see someone who was always working. We fell on harder times when my mom got sick with sarcoidosis, and she could barely work part time and we ended up getting evicted.” “So you have been homeless??” I asked. “Yes” she replied. KiKi’s story is an inspiring testimony for all ages.
KiKi and I met up in Washington, DC. A familiar environment for the Howard University alum. The live interview with KiKi reflected her on air talent as we gabbed and shed light on important topics simultaneously. KiKi is a red carpet reporter with the skills and drive of an entertainment mogul. She can be found chatting with celebrities award shows and private events year round. Still young, KiKi’s resume reflects her expertise in the industry. She started on WPCG CBS radio with Big Tigger. From there she’s worked for MTV, Atlantic Records, BET, Maria Menounos, & Global Grind in LA. KiKi has also exercised an entrepreneurial spirit by creating a college brand titled “Urban Feed” and now her current platform KiKiAyers.com. KiKi also gives us a lesson in social media as her brand has grown to over 15,000 on Instagram! We proudly present a Hollywood journalist with a bright future in this week’s #ShineHard Conversation.
Watch the Interview!
Who did you look up to as a kid?
KiKi: I looked up to my mother. I come from a small town right outside Seattle called Bremerton, Washington. There’s not really much to do there so a lot of people would end up in trouble. I really looked up to anyone that was working hard and being successful. Those are the people I would pay attention to.
How did you get started in Entertainment Reporting?
KiKi: It started when I was 16. I wanted to write for the school newspaper but they told me it was only for seniors. I was like, “I read the paper all the time I know I can write better! When I was 16, my friends were making bad decisions so I left high school and did community college. This program called “Kick Start” where you can do high school and college courses. So I ended up writing the college paper and when I turned 17 I started writing for the daily paper. It was entertainment but again, it was in Washington. I saw mosh pits and rock bands, I was trying to cover it and also worried about my camera getting knocked over (laughs). We never saw celebrities in Seattle. Once I graduated I moved to DC to go to Howard and I was blown away by the opportunities here. My first internship was with WPCG radio station when Big Tigger was there. From there I did MTV, Atlantic Records, and BET. Those opportunities reaffirmed that this is where I was meant to be.
How important were those internships and experiences to your career today?
KiKi: It was very important. My whole fear while I was in college was not being able to get a job when I graduate. It’s very helpful to intern because you know, “OK I don’t really want to work here or OK this place is dope.” You also get to try different things and figure out where you fit into an industry. My first big interview was with Melanie Fiona right after she was nominated for a Grammy. I interviewed her and things really snow balled from there!
What is your passion and when did you know?
KiKi: I think my passion has always been the same with hosting, but in a way that we have celebrities talk about real things. When I’m on a red carpet and Ferguson just happened, and Nelly is there, I’m going to ask Nelly about Ferguson. These are the stories that get picked up because not enough people are asking these questions. Reporters love to ask superficial things, “What are you wearing?” but is that going to change someone’s life? For a long time, I thought I just wanted to work corporate behind the scenes but I wasn’t happy with that. I decided that this is really what I want to do. People thought I was crazy for pursuing my own dream. They didn’t understand at the time but it’s starting to become more real for everyone now.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
KiKi: I think the hardest thing is separating promotion from privacy. A lot of times when you post what you’re doing you get backlash and that kinda discourages you. Especially when it comes from people you love and respect their opinion. Another thing is sexism, which I didn’t experience until a couple years ago. People talk about racism and sexism in the work place and I’ve experienced both, but it’s crazy to say that sexism is worse. The entertainment industry is male dominated, so sometimes men will come to inaccurate conclusions about your abilities. Those are the challenges I overcome.
What inspires you to succeed?
KiKi: My past. I feel like I have no other option. When people are like, “You make crazy moves, you just move anywhere…” I feel like the worst thing you could ever do is go backwards. So I’m not afraid to quit my job at MTV in New York and move to LA. The worst thing I could do is go back to production. I got that experience, now it’s time to try something I really want to do.
What are the 3 attributes of an entertainment reporter?
KiKi: You have to have a work ethic. It’s a lot more than just going on a carpet and asking questions. You need to research that stuff. Next you have to capitalize on social media. I use Twitter and Instagram as a tool because that’s what it is. Third is probably confidence to get out there and remember that you belong in the moment.
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
KiKi; The perception of what people see on TV and think it’s reality. It frustrates me that little girls think they have to do a sex tape to be famous. I think it’s just sad. I hate that society tries to tell people what they need to be. When you’re young and people tell you stuff, sometimes you can start to believe it. Then chicks care so much about being Instagram models, it’s like they don’t see how young girls are perceiving them. Who do we have to look up to?
What’s the #1 factor to your success?
KiKi: Again, my past, because I feel like I have no other option. But also knowing ]whose who has really helped me succeed. Building strong relationships and reaching out to the right people has been huge for me. You have to know whose who and what’s what in the field.
What is your end goal professionally?/span>
KiKi: I want to be a mogul, and an influencer. Someone that people can look up to. I don’t really care about fame or followers unless I’m using it to impact people in a positive way. I just want to do something that makes a difference. It takes more than a hashtag to make a change in the world.
What advice do you have for people who want to get in the entertainment industry?
KiKi: I would say reach out to everybody and don’t be afraid to work for free. I worked for free to build my reel and I just started getting paid. There were people I would reach out and say, “Hey can I do this for you?” Especially if you have a reel with no interviews, you can’t go to Complex and say you want to be a reporter. Always start with what you can do for others. If you must ask for something; don’t ask for favors, ask for opportunities.
Johnny: That’s so real. You have to make that time investment to build your resume for the future. KiKi thanks for the gems. We’re happy to have you in the @ShineHardFamily
Interested in learning more or connecting with KiKi?