Today we’d like to introduce you to Kieanna Michelle.
Kieanna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am currently a dancer and I also work in events production. Ever since I was a little girl all I’ve ever wanted to be was an entertainer. I watched a lot of TV, movies, music videos and awards show growing up, and I remember I would look at the dancers and think to myself that’s going to be me one day. I started taking dance classes when I was four years old but unfortunately, due to financial circumstances, I stopped taking classes. Although I wasn’t taking class at a dance studio, I still found a way to incorporate my love for dance into my daily activities. I performed at school, local events in my community, and dance teams in my city.
Even though I loved dancing and it was my passion, my parents wanted me to focus on school. They didn’t stop me from dancing, they actually encouraged and supported my passion, but they saw it as an outlet or hobby rather than a career. So throughout high school, I played sports and danced on the side. High school was also the time I realized I liked writing and telling stories. And like I said before, I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer so I started exploring careers in the entertainment industry.
I was a magnet student and went to Southwest Dekalb High School in Decatur, GA. I thought about taking drama but my school got rid of their drama program after my freshman year, so I never really got chance to take drama. Instead, I joined other organizations, and allowed my creativity to flow through my school work and projects, and danced in any programs I could be a part of.
When I graduated high school, I knew when I went to college I didn’t want to major in something I wasn’t interested in. I went to Georgia Southern University and I chose to major in Film and Production because I liked how it explored different types of media.
As an future entertainer and well-rounded student, I’ve always wanted to be skillful in multiple areas to make myself more marketable for jobs. Plus, I liked being involved and being in charge of creative projects. I was also a theater minor. So I was able to major and minor in two things I was interested and passionate about. I was also a part of two dance teams during my freshman year but ended up sticking to my hip hop team, Dyverzion Dance Team.
Being a member of Dyverzion really helped me realize I wanted to be a professional dancer. So I made a promise to myself once I get my degree, I’m going to train as a dancer. I also made a promise to myself that I was going to find my way into the entertainment industry. On the night before graduation my friend, Trevor introduced me to his boss, Junie Harris. He told her I was interested in working in production. I spoke to her and told her what I wanted to do and gave her my resume, the next morning, I received my degree.
The summer after graduation was hard because post-graduation depression hit me. I didn’t have a job straight out of college, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get in the entertainment industry, I didn’t have a lot of money, and I was lost. But one thing I was sure about was being a dancer. During winter break I met a professional dancer, Desi-Ray Morris. She came to my job looking for outfits for her dancers for a project. I recognized her from Instagram and went up to talk to her. I introduced myself and asked her if she had any advice for an aspiring dancer.
She told me she interned at Dance 411 in Atlanta and that’s how she got most of her training in. She gave me the contact information for the lady over the internship program at the time. I emailed the lady as it got closer to the summer, and I got the job. I was an intern at Dance 411 and I was super excited to finally start my training. That entire summer, I interned and danced at Dance 411, participated in a fashion show, got a hosting gig for one of the popular Atlanta radio stations, and even danced in a music video for Yung Baby Tate.
Even with all this going on, I still had no money. I was hustling and using whatever money I had saved up from working my two jobs at school and selling my waist beads. I started to get discouraged because I didn’t know how much longer I could keep up with my dreams and not have a job. I almost called it quits until the lady Trevor introduced me to, Junie Harris, offered me a production assistant job for a week in San Antonio, Texas.
After working in Texas at the NAACP 109th National Convention, I learned so much about production and was able to network with people who work in Hollywood. After the convention, I went back home more inspired than ever. Next thing I know, a week later, I got a job offer to work submissions for the NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles. I was speechless because I never thought I would have the opportunity to not only go to LA but work there.
I had a week to make the biggest decision of my life and it was scary because everything I knew was in Georgia. I’ve never been that far from home before, plus I had no idea where I was going to live. However, my gut told me to take this job and figure the rest out later. I’m so happy I went with my gut because it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was moving to LA. My parents were very supportive of this move and they even helped me figure some things out.
I moved to LA to work submissions but I also took this opportunity to pursue dance. I started taking classes and went to any audition I heard about. My first dance audition was for Amber Roses’s Slutwalk, and I actually booked the job. Even though it was unpaid, I didn’t care because it was first dance opportunity in Los Angeles, and I took it as a networking opportunity. I met so many amazing people and the high from performing made me realize I was meant to be here. After that, I did everything I could to get my next opportunity. Networking is my best friend. If you don’t know how to network or talk to people, you’re in trouble.
The next blessing I received was my first Production Assistant Job on the set of a television show. I remember they were filming by my job and I was headed to the gym. I needed to work out and the whole time I was on the treadmill I kept looking across the street. I told myself if they are still there by time I get off I’m going to walk over there. So I did. My goal was to talk to someone on that set and give them my resume. I made eye contact with this one guy and started talking to him.
He asked me if I had my resume, and I told him I could get it for him. I ran up the street to my office to print my resume. I gave it to him and he said thank you, then proceeded to fold my resume up. At that moment, I thought that was it and left it up to God. A few months later on my birthday, I got a text asking if I wanted to be a PA on set the following day. I was extremely happy to be blessed with such an opportunity.
After the job, the blessings kept pouring in. I worked the 50th NAACP Image Awards as a part of a production team and got the opportunity of a lifetime, dancing for Childish Gambino at Coachella. I got an email about Coachella the day before working the Image Awards. Besides thanking God, the power of Instagram helped with that one. It’s a longer story but I’d rather save that for another time. Coachella was my first professional dance job ever, and for someone who has only been in LA for less than a year, that was huge! Working with Sherrie Silver and the entire team was amazing and I was so thankful for that opportunity and the people I met along the way.
The people I danced with are the coolest people in the world and I see and hang out with them all the time now. In between these jobs I was working my full-time production job and as a part-time waitress. I quit my waitress job after Coachella and just been pushing production and dance. This summer I auditioned and booked my first music video with an artist, Iggy Azalea and I was proud to reach another goal on my vision board. I am currently a production coordinator for an event production company, District Consortium Inc. and I plan to continue to work in events and production to continue to learn about the entertainment industry. My overall goal is to become a creative director that combines my passion for dance with film and production while encouraging people to follow their dreams.
The fact that I moved to LA and I’m living my dream is mind-boggling. And I just want to thank God, my parents, Junie, and my friends and family for continuing to support and uplift me through this journey. I celebrated my one-year LAversary on September 1st, and to see how far I’ve come is amazing. I’m just so thankful, and I plan to continue to work hard and chase my dreams.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
This has not been a smooth road for me at all. Some of the struggles I faced along the way was not having a lot of money when I moved out here or a place to stay. I didn’t know I had family in LA until my dad told me. And even after a month of searching for apartments, I couldn’t find anything in my budget or close to my job. It wasn’t until the week I was scheduled to move that I found out I would be staying with my cousin. I actually stayed with my Uncle Rudy the first weekend I moved.
After Labor Day weekend, I moved to Carson to stay with my cousin. My job was in Mid City and I had to leave my car behind. The only way to get to work was through public transportation. So I used to get up at 5:30 every morning to catch three buses to get to work. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do because I never caught public transportation before and if I missed one bus it would throw my schedule off and I would have to Lyft/uber to work. Getting a Lyft/Uber from Carson to mid-city is expensive. I also realized how expensive it was to live in California, so I decided to get another job. The second job was to help pay for groceries, transportation, and other necessities. I also used my tip money to pay for dance classes.
Every day I was at work I would look for apartments. I had no luck. It was hard because a lot of places wanted you to have 1st and last month’s rent, a security deposit, and to be making at least two or three times the rent. I didn’t have that kind of money and my job ended after four months. I just wanted to be closer to my job and save up a lot of money to live off of when I got back home to Atlanta. But most apartments in LA don’t do month to month rent, so I talked to my mom and we discussed me possibly living out here for a year.
The thought was scary because my office job to work submissions and my waitress job was all I had, and after the four months was over, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I kept looking, and after three long months, I found an apartment. Lucky for me I would be moving in with a childhood friend and my college friend. The apartment was newly remodeled, closer to my job, and in my budget. But that was only one of my problems solved. I was having problems at work too.
I was having a hard time adjusting to office life because it was my first real job after college. Everyone in the office was a lot older than me and had years of experience. My biggest concern was making sure I didn’t get fired, and that put a lot of pressure on me. After a while, things would get a lot easier and I’m coming up on year two working for the same organization.
Another issue I was having was being away from my friends and family. Making the decision to move across country away from your family is never easy. I left everything behind to chase my dream and make a name for myself. I had to support myself the best way I knew how to ensure I stayed in LA. This was the most I have ever been alone in my life. There were times I felt like I had no one to talk to, and with the time difference, it made it even harder to reach out to my friends and family. Plus, I was always at work.
There were days I would work about 16 hours straight between my two jobs, so I was always tired. I worked at a restaurant four doors down from the office to make it easier to get to work without a car or reliable transportation. Everything seemed to be working just fine until I didn’t have the time to dance or network and look for other production jobs. Granted, I love my job and everything it had to offer. I just missed dancing because it was my escape from the real world. My goal was to be able to balance doing both so that I’m always working, training, and progressing in the industry. As time goes on, I’m learning to manage.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with thus far living in LA was the passing of my God Father. My God Father’s passing was so hard for me because it was sudden. I knew he was sick and had some health issues but I didn’t know how bad it had gotten. No one told me he was in the hospital for months. My mom called me a few days after my birthday and told me the news. I was crushed. He actually passed the day before my birthday but my family didn’t want to ruin my spirit. It’s so hard losing someone so close to you that has been there for you and your family since you were born. Not being able to be there when he was sick or being able to attend his home going service was a hard pill to swallow. But I know I have another guardian angel watching over me and that I have to keep fighting for my dreams because that’s what he would have wanted me to do. I love a miss my God Daddy so much. A few months later I lost my Uncle Rudy to cancer, who was the first family member I met when I moved to California. He would pick me up from work and help me apartment hunt, he also cooked for me and took me to all the cool spots in LA.
After these two traumatic experiences, I cherish life so much more. I know the road to success won’t be easy, and there will be a lot of bumps in the road, but with faith and consistency, I can achieve anything I put my mind to. I’m here for the long run.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would definitely make better decisions with my money. There would be times I would spend money just because I knew I had it. I would have saved the money I spent on frivolous things to put towards getting my car to LA. I spend so much money on Lyft/uber and transportation it’s ridiculous.
I would also change how I handled certain situations. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. We may not see or understand why it is happening, but in the end, God has a bigger plan. What I’ve seen and experienced was either a blessing or a lesson to teach me how to be stronger than I was before.
- Instagram: _kieannamichelle_
- Twitter: kieannamichelle
- YouTube: Kieanna Michelle
Kaelan Dakota @dynamitelens (photographer for Black photo)
Jay McClendon @visualartistjay on IG and Twitter (Retoucher for black photo)