Determined, a tremendous work ethic, and a smile that lights up the room. That’s how one will describe Howard University senior Ke’Andrea Ayers, better known as Kiki, when they meet her. The CEO of The Urban Feed is one of the hardest working students on Howard University’s campus. The list of organizations she has interned with is impressive and extensive: NBC, Atlantic Records, MTVU, VH1, WPGC 95.5, BET, and Def Jam. She has production credits on award shows and presentations such as the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, Black Girls Rock! and will soon be working on the Grammys. Catch her when you can, because if she’s not at an internship, she’s working the red carpet or making business trips to New York.
Her interest in broadcast journalism was sparked after getting an internship at a major newspaper in Seattle. The drudgery of that job led her to try her hand in broadcast journalism. Kiki founded the Urban Feed in the fall of 2008. The Urban Feed has made its presence as a legitimate source for news, music and entertainment, having interviewed artists such as Melanie Fiona, Lupe Fiasco, Tank, Juelz Santana and many more.
Romans 5:3-4 says that it is through suffering that we build perseverance; and through perseverance, character; and character, hope. Hope never left Kiki despite the struggles that she faced. Her family was evicted from their residence in Seattle, Washington twice, with the second eviction forcing her family to live in a 1996 Ford Taurus when she was 16 years old. With her parents divorced and her father now living in Indiana, Kiki’s mom had to provide for her three children while facing homelessness.
Even still, Kiki showed a level of maturity not expected from a 16-year-old. Her main concern was the well-being of her mother, sister and brother. “I saw my mom crying, and she felt really bad about it. We tried to make her feel better, tried to make jokes about the situation,” Ayers says. “It’s one of those situations where you have to laugh to keep from crying.”
“I lived at Kitsap Regional Library, which was across the street from where my mom worked. We were there so much, there and McDonald’s for that dollar menu. By the time it was over, I hated both places because we were there so much. It was difficult getting up in the morning and changing clothes in a car, and not letting anybody know what was going on.”
Kiki did her best to keep her situation private. “I never told anybody. No one ever knew. I still didn’t look like I was homeless. I got dressed in the car, did my make up in the car. It was just difficult sharing that little small space with three other people, not knowing how long it would last.”
Kiki still held her head high, enrolling in the Running Start program at the Seattle Central Community College which allowed her to get her high school diploma and Associate’s degree at the same time. Kiki says she received her best grades when she was living out of that car.
Despite having been evicted twice, Kiki was grateful for what she did have throughout the entire ordeal. Speaking on the second eviction, Kiki said, “At least we have a car to sleep in, most people have nowhere to sleep or have to go to shelters. I consider that a blessing, because there is always someone who has it worse.”
While studying for her Associate’s degree, she was originally going to attend Washington State University with her best friend Ashley, but Ashley’s life was suddenly taken in a fatal car accident days before her birthday. That tragic incident and Kiki’s love for journalism led her to the media capital of the world, Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University while her sister went to George Washington University. Kiki’s mother and brother are still in Seattle, and her sister is studying law in England, but she keeps in contact with everyone. Whether it be through Skype or phone calls, Kiki talks to someone in her family at least three times a week.
When asked about why she chose Howard University, Kiki said she fell in love with Howard and its broadcast journalism programs. Kiki’s favorite aspect about attending Howard is the diversity she finds herself around. “People don’t realize how much diversity there is within the black community. Howard is one of the only places where there is a student organization for every state. There is also a Caribbean student association, and an African student association as well. People think that because it is an all black school, you’re not getting any diversity. There is so much diversity at Howard and that’s what I love about it.”
Kiki is always looking to sharpen her skills and make herself more marketable. You would think that with such an impressive résumé that Kiki would be satisfied. Kiki is always on the move; the same day this interview was held, she received news that she was chosen to be a spokes model for DTLR. Kiki’s advice to up and coming journalists is to go and get what you want. “If you want to do something, it’s possible to just do it. I never went to anyone and said, ‘Hey can you give me an internship? If you want it, you have to get it.”
HBCU Buzz Editor in Chief