Dressed in fall hues and wearing a smile on her face, Kiki Ayers was right on time for our interview at a quaint Brooklyn cafe called Urban Vintage. Before I sat down, the first thing she did was thank me for speaking with her. She was sweet and refreshingly energetic on this warm spring Thursday morning. After treating me to my favorite iced latte, we chatted about nothing and everything until the “official” questions began. She’s a natural at this.
A lot of people in Kiki Ayers’ hometown either go to the military, end up in jail or end up pregnant. Kiki made it her duty to make something of herself and go against all the odds that her community deemed for her. Kiki Ayers is a 26-year-old entertainment content host and red carpet correspondent who has worked for companies including MTV, BET, Atlantic Records, Revolt TV and now, Global Grind. The rising entertainment journalist has interviewed celebrities from Don King to Kevin Hart and her reel continues to expand. Although she makes it look easy, Kiki is no stranger to hard work and sleepless nights. She makes it her priority to produce quality content. Although she is a newcomer among industry vets, Kiki is making a name for herself on several renowned platforms.
At a very early age in school, Kiki knew that she wanted to influence people in a more positive way than what she was used to growing up in her small town in Seattle. She sought on a journey to leave Washington and make an impact as a woman in the entertainment industry. A few years later, and Kiki has already been featured on some major mediums and has been nationally recognized as an entertainment journalist to follow.
PYNK had the opportunity to hang out with Kiki as she discussed being homeless and hopping from housing to housing, her early beginnings in the industry, and advice for aspiring young professionals on how to properly network without looking like an opportunist. Continue reading to get to know about Kiki and her come up.
Follow her on social media: @KikiAyers
Check out her website here.
PYNK: Tell me about yourself.
Kiki Ayers: I’m a red carpet correspondent and content producer. I’m a Howard graduate and I’m from Seattle.
What is Seattle like?
It’s very chill. As far as doing things for a living, unless you work for Microsoft or something, there’s not much for you. I always knew I wanted to do on-air tv and all they have there is basic prime time television news. When I got to Howard, I wanted to intern everywhere.
I read a little bit of your story and there was a part about you living out of a car at one point. Is that true? And how long were you doing that?
The reason we moved to Seattle was because I had military parents. When my parents divorced, we kind of ended up going from housing to housing. We got evicted a couple of times before that because of lack of payments. My mom is sick, so it was hard for her to work multiple jobs at once and she needed multiple jobs to support us all. My mom got the car that we were living in 2-weeks prior to our 3-months of living in it. She bought the car for like $300 to drive initially, but it barely worked. We had nowhere to go at the time, so we ended up staying in the car for a couple of weeks.
At the time, did you ever really soak in what was happening and think to yourself, “this is crazy?”
I did. I was the comic relief in my family, so I would always make jokes about things. I would always try to look at the bright side of our circumstances. Living in the car was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry, so it was important for me to stay positive for my family.
How long have you been in the entertainment industry?
Since 2008 I think. I just left Revolt in August, before that I was with MTV and BET. I was doing more corporate work in my previous positions. While I was at Revolt, I started doing more camera work and I fell in love, which is when I decided that I wanted to do it full time.
What was your first opportunity in the entertainment industry?
When I first got to Howard, they had WPGC, which was the radio station out there and Big Tigger was on there and I was super excited because that was my first “celebrity” experience. I got an internship my second year at Howard. It was a big deal to me coming from Seattle.
As a woman getting started in the entertainment industry, how would you describe your journey and process of coming into your career?
I would say that I experienced sexism as my first struggle. I never used that word until my experience in some recent jobs. There are higher-ups in the industry and the way they talk to females is completely different than the way they talk to males. It’s almost like they talk to you like you are a child. It’s something I never experienced until I was there. The entertainment industry is male dominant, so you’re going to get that no matter where you are. Even if you have a lot of experience, they’re still going to talk to you differently. I’ve been in conference rooms with all men and the CEO or president will walk in and ask me what I’m doing there and sort of interview me again. It’s weird because I always used to hear about it, but now I’ve actually experienced it.
The entertainment industry is not a 9-5. It’s a lot of work and you always have to have multiple jobs at one time. What is some advice that you have for someone who is just getting out of high school or college who wants to pursue a career in this field?
If you are just getting out of high school and you’re in college, I would say start scoping out companies that you would like to work for and try to get an internship with them as soon as possible. Interning helped me learn where I want to work and where I don’t want to work. I gained some amazing experiences at my internships and made some great connections as well. If you interned at 5 different places, when you graduate you can circle back and just be like, “hey, I’ve graduated” and then you can ask them if they have any opportunities available. Or if you keep the same internship for a long time, you’ve probably built a strong relationship with the company. When I was at the radio station, I got several promotions, but I realized what I didn’t want and what direction I didn’t want to go in. I would say, do your research. Get on linked in, find the right people and don’t be afraid to reach out. Instead of asking for a job, maybe try reaching out to learn more about the individual and the working environment.
Obviously being well rounded and knowing how to do everything from editing to recording is a useful skill, are you self taught and how important is it to know how to do almost everything?
I am self-taught. I think that it’s very important to know how to do it all. I come from companies where you are always doing multiple things at once, so it’s kind of impossible to not learn.
We briefly spoke about networking during your internship. I always tend to diagnose myself as “awkward” and I’m trying to get out of it. What are the proper ways to network at a social event? What should you do and what shouldn’t you do?
I think if you don’t think about it as “networking,” it will work out. I just naturally enjoy talking to people, so I’ll just walk up to someone and start a conversation about anything. “Where do you work? What do you do? Why are you here?” Just read their vibes and approach accordingly. I’m very observant, so I make sure to check out who’s social and who’s not. I would say don’t ask for things. You’re just meeting these people, so don’t start off by saying, “I’m trying to get a job” at the company they work for.
Also, don’t be afraid to work for free. I moved from NY to LA about a year ago and I worked for free a lot. Now, I have to make some income, but depending on the opportunity I had no problem working for the experience. Whenever it was a great carpet or a great event, I had no problem working for free because I needed to build my reel. Now that I have a decent amount of experience, I can put a price on my work.
People always think that they are going to get a job right out of college, how long did it take you to finally land your dream job? What was your journey like?
Girl, I’ve worked jobs that I did not want to do just because I needed the money. I worked at Macy.com at one point doing packaging, I’ve worked in corporate offices. I did it all until I finally landed a job that I wanted. I even did one of those jobs where you knock on peoples’ doors to get them to sponsor a child or a dog. These circumstances taught to me hustle and to truly love my passion and want to invest in it. I applied for everything because I did not like my job.
Who is a journalist that you would aspire to be?
I would aspire to be like Oprah or like Kendrick Lamar. I know this is weird, but I would aspire to be like anyone who is an influencer. I love Kendrick because he talks about real things. I love Oprah because she’s a super talented interviewer and a mogul. I love Kevin Hart because he’s a real person. I would aspire to be as big as him and still be as humble as him. I’ve seen so many people in this industry who are so miserable. People think that because they’re rich, they’re happy also, but there are so many people who are bitter. To me, success is happiness. So I aspire to be successful and happy. After all the stuff I’ve been through, once I can sit down and see that my mom doesn’t have to work anymore, I know that I’ve done well. It’s not about money and fame. People will do anything for fame and they’re some of the most miserable people you’ll ever meet. I’m not rich, so I wouldn’t know if money buys happiness, but I’ve seen this happen.
How important is social media to you?
I’ve literally seen people fake it until they make it. In LA, I’ve watched people get in an Uber, drive like 30-minutes to a club get in the club, go by the VIP section and try to get pictures with people in the VIP, and then post it. I feel like if you use it as a marketing tool, it’s more helpful. I think people should use it for influence. I would suggest to use it for your professional use because otherwise, it’s a distraction.
Who was your favorite person to interview this year?
I loved interviewing Pharrell. A lot of times people are on the red carpet, they go straight to E News, they take their pictures and then they walk off. This day, I shouted out a question for Pharrell and he stopped and answered. It was awesome because he only talked to me and E News. Interviewing Pharrell was so cool because he’s really deep. He’ll talk to you about life. He’s always there to give a lesson. Don King was also awesome. I felt like I was talking to my grandpa. It’s not always about what they say, sometimes it’s just the vibe and being in the presence of people on that level who are still humble.
What is you 5-year plan?
I would like to be on air. Randomly, I would like to take some hip-hop dance classes in LA. I think I’m in a great start with my career and I just want to go up from here, hopefully getting an exclusive show one day.