We’ve all heard the saying…
“Actions speak louder than words”
If you know me then you know that I’m a firm supporter of this mantra. But what I never knew is that words have the power to alter people’s lives forever. Most of us can remember a time when someone has said something hurtful to us, even if it was said years ago. Even with that being somewhat common amongst us, we rarely think intentionally about what we say and how we say it on a daily basis.
I met Kia Presley four years ago while attending my first year at George Mason University. When I first met her she seemed reserved, shy, and ultimately not very interested in getting to know me. Thankfully over a short period of time, her, myself, and my lady Chelsea became the best of friends. I quickly learned that Kia is passionate about words and communication. The way she expresses herself through her speech and through her writing is honestly an experience.
A wise king once said (in one way or another)…
“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit–you choose“
Kia embraces this power and responsibility in her writing. I’ve had the privilege of hearing and reading multiple pieces that she’s composed and each time I’m blown away by the maturity of her voice. Kia brings clarity to the human experience in a way that is truly beautiful and inspiring.
So without further ado, below is Kia’s artist profile. I hope you enjoy our discussion and come away encouraged.
I’ve included the conversation audio below.
First question is the intro question.. name, age, origin, heritage, occupation… explain some about yourself.
Kia: my name is Kia Presley, I’m 22 years old. I went to George Mason University, majored in english with a concentration in writing and rhetoric and a minor in linguistics. I kinda focused on creative non-fiction while I was there which was a delight. I am black, black american. I come from New Jersey which is interesting. And for my occupation I’m currently a writer for a marketing group part time, and in my free days I’m working on some freelance stuff.
So with that being said, how do you classify yourself outside of what you do or where you’re from? If you were going to define yourself how would you define yourself?
Kia: I would say that I represent the intersection of a couple different specific things. I’m black, I’m a christian, I’m an artist, I’m a female. I think that’s a very specific group of things that I represent in different aspects of life, and so that’s really interesting when that all comes together in my writing. And it just offers a different perspective for people that aren’t often given a voice.
I like that, that’s a good segue. In what environment do you display/perform or express your art? What’s your natural habitat? Also you talked about writing, just go into that first and then maybe talk about where or how that fits in your daily life.
Kia: I’m comfortable expressing art in different areas. I’m definitely a writer. That’s how I process, that’s how I think, that’s how I make things concrete for myself. But also I express art through the way I dress, through my makeup, I dance, so I think that’s one way where I express art in different habitats in my life.
When I wasn’t writing I decided to take a series of selfies which I didn’t realize was an artistic expression until I looked back on it and saw myself reflecting how I felt in that moment which is what I usually do when I’m writing.
“In all of my art I need to be reflecting myself and how God has shown me to myself.”
I write well when I’m alone, I don’t really like noise. I feel most closely connected to God when I’m working on a piece of writing that’s really challenging me. I work through sentences and how I want to say something and how I want to structure the piece, and that all comes along when I’m writing which is really cool.
There’s a couple things in there that I want to talk about. You talked about identity in there and earlier you had some perspective areas where you stated you’re a woman, black american, christian, artist… A big part of these artist profiles is to create a space for the complexity of those main parts of a person to be talked about as one piece. Here you’re Kia Presley, and you’ve created these words for these specific attributes for you. How do these all come together to be you, how does that make you feel, how do you perceive the world through those lenses, and how does that ultimately affect the way you express yourself?
Kia: As a woman in this country that has certain connotations, as a black woman in this country that has even more connotations because of the intersection of those things. As a christian, that’s not even really studied outside of an academic nature. And then as an artist, those things are fairly rare I think. So if I can connect with anybody on at least one of those planes as a person that’s my goal.
One of my favorite writers is David Foster Wallace and when I first started reading him I went through this phase where I could only read him. He connects very well with the reader and his tone is practiced and very pointed. So if I can get my work to reflect my inner life clearly and connect with people on that through any one of those different points, then that’s good.
As a christian… well I’m not really in a community right now which manifests in a couple of different ways in my work. But I think mainly it’s been narrowing me down to the way I feel most connected to God which is through my writing because it’s such a clear reflection of who I am. So when I’m writing I feel that what I have to say doesn’t necessarily have to be “praise and worship” but because I’m engaging with this side of me, this is worship and I’m honoring what He’s given me.
What is your favorite type of writing? What do you enjoy most?
Kia: I like to read creative non-fiction. Memoirs are typically creative non-fiction. Essays where you can see the author is working something out on the page and its unfolding. In this kind of essay you’re understanding with the author and seeing how they look at through their lense and I really value that, because it shows the different personalities of people and how they work. Which is generally what I’m approaching in all my work.. understanding people and trying to get down to the personhood.
I’ve always loved fiction.. really I’ll just read anything.
So now we’ll transition into the more philosophical stuff. Now that we know what type of artist you are and what you like, why do you do what you do? Some of the underlying theme you’ve been talking about is connection with God or communicating with your spirituality through your art. What makes you want to get up and continue exploring writing, reading, and literature in general?
Kia: I feel like I don’t have a choice. When I’m not writing and being active, it comes out in different ways. It’ll come out in me taking selfies and me trying to approach art in a different format without me really realizing it.
When I’m not active, it can turn into a general exhaustion of life where I’m just stagnant. Even if I’m moving and I have a job and I’m doing stuff.. the other day I found myself in the car crying just because I haven’t been stewarding this. When I’m not aware and listening and paying attention to the world around me to write about it, Im just not processing. I don’t feel like I’m alive or living life to the fullest. That whole feeling that you’re living on the edge of life, I feel it most when I’m writing. So if I’m not doing anything I’m literally dying.
Why do you feel that creativity is important?
Kia: It allows us to be unique. It allows us to understand people, understand God, in ways that we wouldn’t have. God is the most creative obviously, and I was talking with Chelsea yesterday about how animals are so weird, but how everything is a reflection of God’s character. And on top of that the world is perishing technically and the only thing that’s important is people. It just seems so interesting to me to chase after that creativity of who God is and how He reflects himself in individuals. That’s why the center of my work is always personhood and trying to connect with people and understand them on different levels.
What is the dream or goal for you down the road? If all things went well where would you find yourself and what would you be doing? What would that life look like?
Kia: I would like to have a family. I would like to be active in art obviously. Have some pieces of work done that I’m really proud of. I would like to eventually curate art in different forms and make a place for all of that to fluorish. I don’t know what that looks like but I’d love for there to be a place where artists can come and learn and be valued because I think it’s valuable for artists to be built up. A dog, maybe two. Any dog. I had a dream that I rescued a dog, and ever since that dream I’ve had a solid conviction to rescue dogs. I’ll take whatever.
What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who’s connected to art or writing? We talked about how creativity and art gives you life, what encouragement would you give to someone who doesn’t feel creative or connected to their art, or maybe is discouraged that they don’t have a community that they can feel like themselves with? What would you say to someone like that?
Kia: I would tell them to read. Find some non-fiction, find some essays because the goal of essays is to connect and show you an aspect of personhood. If you’re feeling lonely and disconnected from community or writers then that’s an excellent way to jump right in. I think a lot of young kids read because they feel connected with the characters, it’s the same thing and you’re connecting with writers and people that understand.
Second, just keep developing. For me it was natural to develop in this because I had the right teachers throughout school. People who really cared, and even back in preschool my teacher told my mom that I was going to be a writer. People just knew and God placed people who knew and could see me in my path to develop me. In college, take classes that will hone your craft. Even if you’re a different major, take a class or talk to some people. It is hard, but it’s the natural process of becoming a person. If you’re a writer you’re going to hone your craft, write, and hopefully be placed around writers in an environment where you can. And if not you can enter into that space through what’s available online. So there’s space for people to be writers. You just have to take the time.
So for the housekeeping part, where can people find you?
Kia: My blog: kiapresley.squarespace.com
My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastly, the last words.. do you have anything you’d like to add or say?
Kia: If there’s anyone who’s a writer that wants to meet up or talk about writing, or have something edited, or talk through some stuff we can talk about that. Contact me. It’s always nice to have a writers group, those are crucial and workshop groups are real nice.