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  • Writer's pictureSarah Myles

HOW I GOT HERE: Kenya J Scarlett

(How I Got Here Artwork)

Connect with this (half) season’s guests:

Ade from Blacticulate -

Tatum Karmen Swithenbank-

Special thanks to: Alex Court, Graeme Woodcock, Heleen Kist, Kate Bullivant, Maria Passingham, Mark Loftus, Natasha S. Chowdory and Tin Hinson for providing question recordings.

Artwork by Jack Jewers-

RISE & SHINE is about giving everyone a voice within the podcast and radio industries regardless of income.

Find out more about RISE & SHINE through the website- and twitter-


Kenya J Scarlett: My name is Kenya J Scarlett. I am a freelancer, I'd say mostly audio editor, sound design. But also do some producing and little bit of presenting. I work for story things. And I also volunteer at the queer intersectional pop-up station called alphabet, which broadcasts on Soho Radio. my pronouns, are she her, he, him, I don't really mind which one you use, uh, both makes me like happy. So that's me.

So I got into audio. Maybe a bit differently from others. So I know maybe a lot of people loved audio to begin with like podcasting, radio, I had interest in it, but I was more really into music when I was growing up and a teenager.

And I actually did music journalism at my undergrad degree and realized quite quickly that. I maybe was a better talker. That's our rights. So I kind of started exploring radio there were opportunities to explore that on the course I got into student radio, which I'm pretty sure most people who go to uni and do every course getting student radio ended up in radio.

It's a great way to start and a great way just to like introduce it. So yeah, I got into that really loved it. For my final project, I ran a multimedia platform which had podcasts and videos and stuff. And I was like, Oh, actually I love this. So I love creating that content. So I actually was like, okay, so I've done this music journalism degree, but I feel like I want to learn more about radio.

So then I did it. Classic. Well-known master's degree at Goldsmiths, which I'm sure many people have heard about. Uh, it's a really good course. It's like more, if you're into music, there's opportunities to do that. There's more documentary based news, journalism, drama, et cetera, uh, which I struggled with it to begin with, but I've now ended up.

Not working in music at all and doing that kind of stuff. So actually it did teach me a lot. That's kind of how I got into rodeo, but also whilst I was at uni, I became a street team member for capital in my first year, which is an amazing way to get into radio because working for the station, going to all these events, being like, Hey, do you know about Capital?

It was like very energetic and like, great. And then, by working for them, I. Did an internship with them and then did studio managing with them. And then I moved on to a place called monocle. And then from there, like just doing freelance stuff where I am now today.

Why audio?:

I loved going out to festivals and gigs and being in the environment of communicating, meeting people, speaking right about our faults and like how that makes us feel. So I feel like going into audio is a great platform to tell that medium or to share those stories.

Tell us a secret about breaking into the audio industry?

I guess, networking. Right? We create our own luck, right? So just making yourself available to experiences like. Me working at Capital. And first year, even though I had to miss some parties and like work at weekends when I was at uni, like it was a sacrifice I made and I put myself out there.

So for. Next couple of years, people kind of knew who I was. So when I finished uni and wanted to go into a different role, there were opportunities for me by me asking, and those opportunities arose and just, yeah, putting yourself out there. Let me tell you the amount of times I've been rejected or let down honestly so much that it knocked my confidence so badly and it was just, was really hard for a while, but just.

You know, you're going to get, uh, fortunately so many like promises that don't be made or you're just going to be let downloads van, but that's life I think. And it's just how you handle that is really, really key. And just, yeah. Look after yourself, self care, you know, love yourself.

What's the best mistake you've ever made. Having time working in those bigger companies, because I realized how much they suck or how much they can suck. If you're like a vulnerable person or someone who's like a bit different, like. Luck, especially right. Being a woman. Definitely. And the best mistake was learning that the hard way.

But now that I've learned not, I'm not chasing, working for those guys and I'm happy. I'm not in that anymore, man.

It can be really tough, man, but don't let those people knock you down or don't that. Don’t let that stop your drive and your ambition, because I know it's so easy to have so many knock backs and like let downs and like, uh, for you to just want to not be in the industry, maybe just.

I would say it can be a positive thing because then you kind of learn what you want to do and like where you want to go. And it gives you more drive to work on the things that you want to work on.

What's the best mistake you've ever made?

Well, first of all, this is probably a bit controversial advice, but I wouldn’t work so hard and give up so much of my time to a point where it's actually unhealthy. And I got really unwell mentally. Cause unfortunately the radio industry is a place where it's quite cut throat and like it's kind of the attitude of like, well, if you can't handle it, Your mental health can't handle the pressure of this environment, then we'll just replace you.

So there was, there's a lot of that, which I fought at the time as someone being really young and really wanting to get into radio thought, uh, had to deal with that. But let me just tell you don't have to deal with that. Never jeopardize your health for wanting a career in something. So what I would say is, especially as a queer black woman who, the spaces, aren't always that inviting for people like me and people to understand people like me, maybe I would just really. Slow down reset. Doesn't matter how long it took me to get into radio. As long as I was happy doing it.

And I think working all these crazy hours, like a lot of people, like you have to work those crazy hours.If you’re someone who's quite sensitive and vulnerable. You don't have to work those crazy hours. Like if you work hard, You will find the right position or the right role for you. And that doesn't mean that you have to do crazy hours, work overtime and not get paid for it.

And if you can't find a job that suits you like start suits you, then start your own company. Do your own thing. BBC, global, people think you have to get into those to be like successful or like, to be happy in audio.

That's not fact at all, actually. And the most happiest I have ever been in audio being freelance and doing my own thing, just not caring. So if I could do it all over again, I would definitely just be like, just fucking do my own thing, man. Just if people appreciate it, they appreciate it. If they don't, they don't, but I'm just going to do my thing, own it.

Be happy with it. And that is just such a lovely feeling.

Tell us about the person in the audio industry who helped you most when building your career.

Many people who've helped me along the way, but the person where it felt most like real and sincere was a person called Ryan Hunter who works for capital.

I think he was the head of. Social media and stuff, but I'm not sure if he, he may have changed roles actually he might even be higher. But anyway, Ryan who lets the capital is wicked and he really like, he was the one who hired me and he was the one who. So my passion and drive, and it really just gave me lots of advice and cause he in that done that kind of thing, you know, and it was really nice to feel that somebody genuinely cared for you and genuinely wants the best for you.

Yeah. What a guy, man,

What's the one piece of advice that you would give to anyone starting out in audio?

Sometimes you're going to have to do jobs and roles where your creative instincts or drive or passion is suppressed. Just remember the hold on in there. And that will become a point where you become experienced enough, where you do get to do what you want to do.

If I could recommend anything, obviously everybody needs money, but just don't let those dull roles overtake your passion. And if anything, working. A random job. I don't know, in hospitality or as a choreo, anything, if that's the better way to do it, be happy in those roles and then have the time for creative stuff.

So food, like once you get into a role where you don't it's full-time, you don't have. The time for the creative stuff, you can reduce that. And I, it's so important to keep hold of that creative passion. And also if you're somebody who's from a disadvantaged background, right? If you're a black queer, a woman, you know, we're not just black, any ethnic minority, then sometimes you're not going to be hurting.


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