There isn’t much that actress and comedienne Kim Coles hasn’t done. During her 20 + year career, she’s appeared on the popular sketch comedy show, In Living Color. She became a household name while empowering women as the sweet but naïve Synclaire James on Living Single. After staring in roles here and there, Kim turned her internal struggles into a thriving career in motivational speaking and she has done an excellent job of keeping herself relevant by hosting a number of talk shows including BET’s Pay It Off and most recently, Are You Normal, America? on OWN.
Kim Coles has recently returned to her comedic roots. You can find Kim performing alongside fellow comediennes Kym Whitley, Sherri Shepherd and Shondrella Avery in Los Angeles, CA and this month she will be participating in the Curves & Comedy showcase in Detroit, MI during the International Fuller Woman Expo.
With her ability to turn lemons into lemonade, Kim Coles is a woman that many people can identify with so making her our September 2012 Cover Model was an easy decision. Kim shared with DailyVenusDiva.com her fondest memories of working with the ladies of Living Single, what’s missing on television today and she tells us about her G.I.F.T.S.
You’ve appeared in a number of shows including Living Single, In Living Color and One on One. Do you have a favorite show? If so, what was it?
‘Living Single,’ no doubt. It was the perfect storm of love and laughter. These six characters loved each other and these six people loved each other. I was coming off of ‘In Living Color,’ which was a completely different energy. ‘Living Single’ felt like family to me. ‘In Living Color’ was a family; a group of people who were literally family. The family on ‘Living Single’ really embraced me. The contrast was notable. ‘Living Single’ was a first of it’s kind. It was the first time a show had been created by a black woman featuring these types of characters.
Do you think family vibe you felt on Living Single had anything to do with the fact that it was centered around women?
Yes, it was a female driven show. Before this show, you had not seen black women’s stories so it was kind of like the ‘Golden Girls’ but for black women. These kinds of relationships with these types of women had not been seen before on television.
It was definitely groundbreaking. Do you feel like shows like Living Single is what’s missing right now on television?
Absolutely! There’s not enough balance [on television] for black characters.
Growing up watching shows in the 90’s like Living Single and Family Matters, I feel like we we’ve taken steps backward instead of forward.
Our characters had little moments but you knew the love was there. Now you’re seeing beautiful black women on television throwing drinks at each other, smashing glasses, calling each other names and slapping each other. Now, I know it’s a different genre, I get it, but the images still exist and they’re dangerous. I think we’re numb to it and that’s the sad part to me.
Numb is a great way to describe it. For every person who is up in arms about what they see on reality television, you have ten people who would tune in and enjoy it.
I’m not going to lie, I watch it. I say, “let me see what’s on T.V. this week”. What makes it interesting is that one of the ladies on reality television actually said, “We do this as a way to get on television so we have a voice for our philanthropic work”. I’m thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I don’t know remember who said this. Now a lot of them have their foundations and I get it but “really?” I’m so confused.
Shows like that can exist, as long as you have a balance. As long as you have some positive images to show our daughters. That’s just my take on it.
You’ve been in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. How do you constantly re-invent yourself and appeal to a new generation?
It’s funny. I’ve managed to stay relevant and I don’t know how I did it other than saying I stayed engaged. When Twitter and Facebook came I long, I got it and I invited fans to “play” with me. It’s in my nature to go with the flow. I try to be hip. I don’t even know what hip phrases the kids say but I try to just stay relevant by staying interested. I work just enough so generations remember me. Even though Living Single got cancelled it’s syndicated so I have an 11 yr. old fan because their mom turned them on to the show.
More recently, you’ve been involved with events focused on natural hair and plus size women, why do you think those niches have such a huge following?
They have a huge following because it’s such a huge conversation. I think the conversation around hair and being a plus size woman is about acceptance and being loved no matter where you are. For me, I actually like to shed a few pounds for my health and to be fitter but I’m not going to hate my body if it never changes. It’s about self-love. The natural hair movement is about self-love also. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love yourself if you don’t wear natural hair.
Last year at the Fuller Woman Expo a conversation between you and one vendor got out of control. After the situation, the young woman voiced her thoughts about you and her experience at the Expo on Twitter and Facebook. Do you care to explain your side of the story?
I’m an advocate for loving yourself. To me it’s about health. There are plus size women that are ten times healthier than any skinny supermodel because they’re eating healthy foods and they like to exercise their bodies, they just happen to be curvy girls. I feel like this girls energy was around staying fat and any conversation working towards improving your health means that you’re working towards being skinny and skinny is the enemy. For me, Skinny is not the enemy, Fat is not the enemy, Self-hatred is the enemy.
You think the plus size girls are opinionated… the natural hair girls don’t play! There’s controversy over “What’s considered natural, what’s considered kinky, do you use the word nappy, your hair is good, that means you think you’re cute, you’re hair isn’t that kinky, you don’t have a real afro, your hair is too kinky, your isn’t really natural because you’ve got color.” It’s just all too much. Maybe because I’m 50 and a lot of these girls are younger and they think everything is worth a fight. Not all of the girls feel this way but people are wasting their time fighting something when the enemy is lack of self-love and self-worth.
Nobody is out to get you; nobody is trying to take you down. Your job is to love yourself. Even going back to these reality shows, I think that they’re detrimental to us but while we’re still watching, I can’t fight the good fight all I can do is surround myself around things that I think are positive and make sure I try to influence women in a positive way. I can only do my part.
You’ve been traveling the country as a motivational speaker discussing your project G.I.F.T.S.
G.I.F.T.S. came about during a really depressing time. I went through a depression for 7 months where I did nothing for 7 months. I just sat waiting and not doing. It came out of a time when I wasn’t working much and really trying to come up with meaning for why I’m here. I chose a business that is the hardest business to get and maintain jobs. There are only so many shows, there are only so many movies, there’s only so much work. It’s super highs or super lows. You either work or you don’t. It doesn’t mean that you’re not talented… it doesn’t mean that you’re not beautiful… it just means that it isn’t your turn.
So I went through a really difficult time and it’s a really long story and I’ll talk about it on stage at the Fuller Woman Expo. But each and everyone of us has a gift inside of us and it is your birth right and your job to bring that gift out and while I’m sitting around pouting because I’m not on television I had to think, “If I never got another T.V. show, what else am I worth?” Through lots of exploration, therapy and life coaching I thought, “I could do this!” whether I’m on T.V. or not. I can still spread love and laughter. So I went out and I started speaking and I realized that there are other people probably going through the same thing. The minute I found that thing that lit up my soul, I started booking speaking gigs and Hollywood started calling me more because I was living in a space of gratitude and giving back to the world. G.I.F.T.S. is an acronym for GRATITUDE, INTENTION, FORGIVENESS, TRIUMPH and SELF-LOVE. I believe those are the principals that you need to unlock your personal gifts in life so that you can live out loud.
The fact that G.I.F.T.S came to life during such a dark time shows us that our answers often lie within. I’m not saying that we don’t need to seek outside help but it’s important to look inside of ourselves and pull from within to find those answers that we’re looking for.
It is all inside of us. I think we just need a spark. Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom. There’s always a sage that comes along and it may show up in a way that we may not recognize. It came for me because I was willing to start seeking some answers to my questions. Through therapy I got tools to work on and that’s what shifted it for me. I had to get up and get moving. A series of things happened that made me say, “Let me get my behind up and get my act together.”
A few months ago you announced that you would be a co-host on Are You Normal America. How did that opportunity come about?
Good Old-fashioned auditioning. I earned that the old fashioned way. I went out for the audition and I found out later that they were really looking and searching for the show so I’m so glad that Oprah chose me. It was just an awesome experience to work with her. I’m waiting to hear what’s next.
Do you prefer hosting, comedy or acting?
I really do enjoy being Kim Coles. I enjoy that I get to do it all. I get to act, I get to do comedy, which I’ve started doing again. I really enjoy it when people hire me to just be me. After my depression is when I started getting booked to just be Kim Coles and that was an indication to me that I was on the right path. I love it all.
As the cover model of our September Fashion Issue, you know we had to talk fashion with you. Do you have a favorite designer?
No, I wear a little bit of everyone. Part of my healing had to be dealing with the fact that I was a shopaholic because everyone deals with their pain in different ways. Some people eat, some people drink, some people smoke, some people do drugs, but my thing was shopping. If you had asked me this question a few years ago I would’ve had a whole list of things like Gucci purses, etc. Not that I was into labels, because I love the 99 cent stores and Target just as much as I love Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom’s or Macys but now my focus is finding things that fit me and that are beautiful. I wear the same things over and over again.
To answer the question, I don’t have a favorite designer but give me Igigi for evening wear any day. I love their long gowns. If you see me on a red carpet I’m often wearing Igigi. Kiyonna’s gowns aren’t as formal but I love their long flowing gowns. I also love Rachel Pally; in California they have warehouse sales about 2 or 3 times a year. The most amazing thing is that Rachel Pally caters to everyone’s size so when you go to these sales you see the tiniest women and the voluptuous yummy girls shopping side-by-side. She creates an air of community and love. So I guess I do have an answer to that.
What type of impact do you want to have on those that you encounter?
I know that I have done my job when I have walked away from a group of people and I overhear them saying, “She was so nice.” I know that my work is done when I hear, “She made me feel good.” If I leave a situation and people say that I’ve made them feel good about themselves or I felt good when I was in her presence then that’s the impact that I want to have. I give people permission to shine.
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