We had the good fortune of connecting with Kami Simmons and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kami, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I am from our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. by way of Chicago and I currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Since growing up on Capitol Hill, my mother raised my twin sister and I to not wait on opportunities and to create our own realities.
I learned that I didn’t have to wait to shake up the world; rather I took the opportunity to shake up the current world that I was living in. This motto and way of life continues to impact who I am today professionally and personally. I decide to continue to live out loud, right here, right now by empowering others throughout my journey of life and saying to them, “you can express yourself, love yourself, be a part of this world and stand up.” That’s how we change the world: one person living out loud at a time, so eventually, everyone will be heard.
My family upbringing helped me visualize my future and set values and standards for myself. I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and I was raised in Washington, DC as an Afro-Muscogee Native American girl on the East Of The River in South East Washington, DC. I was also a first-generation college student pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Kalamazoo College where I majored in Theatre Arts with a Media Studies Concentration and Business Minor. I later earned my Master of Science from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.
I grew up in a family where no one attended college and having children at a young age was the norm. My mother raised my twin sister and me in Washington, D.C. as a single parent working two jobs. She taught us to never limit ourselves, follow our dreams, work hard, and to make it happen. She raised us to get involved in everything that we could while growing up in DC so that we could break the family cycle, be well-rounded individuals, and start to think about our futures. I volunteered at events such as the White House Easter Egg Roll as a Girl Scout. Seeing broadcasters covering the event and various entertainers at a young age helped me start to visualize my own future and learn the value of giving back. I soon became a recipient of the President of the United States Volunteer Service Award for City Year Young Heroes in Washington, DC. I continued volunteering at organizations such as Best Buddies and the Washington, DC Boys and Girls Club S.M.A.R.T. Girls program. I also eventually continued my interests in public service at the White House as the Office of the First Lady Let Girls Learn Intern. In this position, I helped plan events around First Lady Michelle Obama’s Leadership and Mentoring program and I also worked on public policy work relating to women and girl’s education. My family upbringing, education, and challenges have contributed to who I am today. I am not afraid to speak up, even when taking a stand might not be popular, and I make no excuses for pursuing my dreams and do so with passion and intensity. I have gained strength from the challenges of being a first-generation college student and balancing my social, academic life, and now professional life. My family upbringing, challenges, and education have not limited me, rather they have propelled me to achieve many of my accomplishments, which continue to inspire me as I reach towards my future as I continue to be a passionate, resilient, and fearless leader.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an award-winning on-camera entertainment correspondent, YouTube personality, and multi-media agency founder. I am working for brands like xoNecole, 21 Ninety, Fox Soul, and iHeart Media, just to name a few. I continue to pursue my on-air hosting throughout television and digital media brands.
What sets me apart is my infectious personality and presence. I demand the room, but I also aim to inform and inspire anyone who encounters me and the work I create.
I am most proud of formally working for the Obama White House with former First Lady Michelle Obama and continuing to empower people through the work I do with major media brands in addition to my own media agency. I am very excited about continuing to stay the course despite all of the naysayers and, quite honestly, in the words of McFadden & Whitehead, those who just don’t even know where they are going.
Since the tender age of three, I have had an endless imagination. I would tape shows with my twin sister on our camcorder and “air” the VHS recordings to my family and friends at my Grandma’s house. This seed later grew into my career working in the broadcast media, entertainment, and news industry. My first job was with ViacomCBS’ BET as their interactive digital producer in New York City. I later became a morning reporter with an NBC and FOX affiliate. I am now working as an entertainment correspondent with xoNecole, 21 Ninety, and iHeart Media, just to name a few, in addition to running a multi-media agency. Getting to where I am today was not easy and was not a straight path.
I had a few horrifying experiences in the industry, specifically when working in the local news sector, which motivated me to start the First Class Crew agency. A solution to give other creators in media, entertainment, and journalism a safe online community with other like-minded people, an endless library of resources, and an exclusive job board tool alongside forward-thinking, innovative job opportunities, and direct access to hiring managers of major brands, and so much more.
Like many entering the business, I was told getting a job with a local news affiliate news station in a small town was the only way. For years veteran journalists have been telling young graduates not to go straight into a larger market too soon as it can backfire. After realizing the network, I gained over the years and endless jobs that continue to come across my DMS and emails, I quickly saw a need. That’s why I officially launched the First Class Crew. With the mission to give my members direct access.
When I started my professional career, it was not too welcoming. I was expected to do it all. From operating the camera, driving the news station car, editing, and shooting the footage while only earning $23,000 per year (let’s just say since then, yesterday’s prices are not today’s prices!). During my 10-hour shift days, I was expected to shoot, write, edit, get a web article in, and repost my article online. No lunch breaks and unpaid overtime. A schedule typical of reporters at local TV stations.” In most cases, I was one of the only Black women in the newsrooms I worked in. My job took a toll on my mental health. I was called to human resources almost every other week over “petty” wrongdoings. “I was getting written up and put on a PIP review with no action plan every 30 days.” I butted heads with the station manager and other company heads, who threatened to fire me. As a result, the toxic work environment led to depression and anxiety. I entered therapy and ultimately took a break from the industry.
Despite the challenges, I carved and blazed my own lane by creating digital content, which led to job opportunities with major media networks like xoNecole, iHeart Media, and more—covering stories from fashion, tech, and entertainment. When I was hired as ViacomCBS’ BET digital producer, I increased BET digital’s viewers by about 10,000 viewers over one month throughout their social media platforms.
Ultimately what helped and continues to help me overcome my challenges is staying the course and helping others along the way.
There have been many lessons I have learned along the way, including being intentional, being consistent (despite how imperfect it may seem), and trusting the process. I have also known not to compete but to remember that there is enough out there for all of us to eat. Meaning, there is an audience for us all, and once you realize that, your mindset and approach to success changes. I also encourage people to create their opportunities even if they do not exist. I was not accepted for an original opportunity I applied to with BET Networks. So I decided to make a digital news bite series called the Trensetta Reports. Which ultimately lead to my chance to be a digital producer with their brand. So don’t wait. Use the resources and tools you have at your fingertips (and it doesn’t have to be a professional camera or fancy editing equipment) to create what you want and watch what happens.
If there is nothing, remember from this: write down where you see yourself short and long term and watch the magic happen. Because this entertainment correspondent you know as Kami Simmons sure did and look what happened. Now I am one of the up-and-coming next best things in the on-air camera space who happens to run a multi-media agency.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my bestie came to Atlanta for the week, there would be a few things we would have to do on the agenda to show them a good time. One of which would be taking a trip to the Silver Comet Trail, then we would head to the the belt line to hit the go-to bar (even on Sunday nights), Bar Vegan, and some other grown and sexy bars, lounges, and restaurants to follow.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, I have to give thanks and honor to my forever protector and provider, God, for continuing to let me be a vessel for Him on earth and for all of the gifts and talents He has given me.
I would also like to recognize my fearless mom, my twin sister, my First Class Crew team, all of my friends for being there in the good and bad times, my DC village (including mentors, teachers, etc), and to those in the media and entertainment business who gave me a chance.
Other: Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@_kami_simmons?lang=en