Keeya King: Sharing Keys to her Growth in the FIlm and Television Industries

Words + Interview By Corletha Norman, MSW, LCSW 

Keeya King is a self-made member of the villages of film and television. Here she shares about her experiences in these industries, her most recent role as Peaches in the Netflix series “Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker” and how that role has colored her life. 


Please share a bit about your role in the Netflix series “SELF MADE: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker”. 
My character Peaches is a jazz singer from Harlem who befriends Madam C.J. Walker’s daughter Lelia, played by Tiffany Haddish.

Were there any aspects of preparing for your role as Peaches that you found to be fun? 
One of the most exciting aspects of preparing for this role was putting together Peaches’ “look”. The costume designer brought out a bunch of jazzy dresses, skirts and pants. We ultimately decided on a sleek suit. I wanted Peaches’ outfit to embody the likes of Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey on stage. A woman wearing a suit during that time was a bold statement!

What could you say is “self-made” about your own accomplishments? 
My entire career path is self-made. There is no one in my family that is an artist or working in film and television. Being a working actor is a journey I paved on my own over the years, starting from guest spots to series regular. However, I have come across so many teachers and mentors who have guided me and given me such great advice. It truly takes a village.

As a black woman, how have the inventions and accomplishments of Madame C.J. Walker enriched your life? 
I’m a black woman who wears her natural hair every day and while working on set. I’ve been making concoctions to help grow and protect my hair. Right now, I’m mixing Shea butter, olive oil and lavender oil. Madame C.J. Walker’s desire to find solutions to care for black hair is woven throughout my everyday life. Working on Self Made allowed me to see that Madam C.J. Walker was constantly trying to find ways to help black women feel empowered and fall in love with who they saw in the mirror.

When it comes to the business practices of Madame C.J. Walker, were there any jewels that you kept in order to implement yourself? 
There are so many jewels! Especially if you look closely at how she moved in her society! My biggest take away is if you have an idea, keep moving forward, even if others do not share your vision. We often wait for others in our lives to be on board with an idea. Don’t wait for people! YOU received the vision. 

One of my favorite excerpts from A’Lelia Bundles biography is the revelation that Madam C.J. Walker’s husband and peers often discouraged her, but she still persisted. This is one of my favorite quotes: “It was C.J. who could see nothing ahead but failure […] she was discouraged by her husband and many patrons who said she would not be able to make her expenses from one town to another […] However she was determined and inspired to do so.”

What has been your most challenging role to prepare for thus far? 
Each role that I play brings about new challenges, experiences and things I didn’t anticipate. Tiffany is an amazing actress with super high energy. It is so easy to get carried away in between takes with her storytelling. I constantly had to remind myself not too get too carried away because the director wanted my character more somber and laid back; the complete opposite of where we are in between takes.

What did you learn about PTSD that you didn’t already know from your role in the film “RESIDUE”? 
With time and the proper support system, one can recover from their trauma and find a new normal. Residue is a film directed by my incredibly talented friend, Leighton Alexander Williams. He wrote it in response to the violence black men in America so often face at the hands of police.

What advice could you give to aspiring actors or actresses that may not come from the most privileged backgrounds? 
I’m still on a path of learning, but I think one of the best things to remember is that you are your most valuable resource – and education in any form, life or academic, is always an asset to help you achieve higher.

What career goals have you yet to accomplish? 
I would love to work with Ms. Viola Davis on my next film project.

What other works can we look forward to seeing you in later in your career? 
Season 5 of Van Helsing is slated to come out later this year; if you’re interested in seeing a black woman slay vampires, go on a mystical journey and kick ass on screen – literally – because I be whoopin’ ass! Run Up Netflix/Syfy! 

Follow Keeya King on Instagram and Twitter @keeyaking.

Photo courtesy of Vision PR 

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