Photo: (L- Kylah Simmons, R- Kami Simmons)
From interviewing celebrities, being behind the scenes, and being able to network with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, the entertainment and media industry looks glamorous. However, breaking into the industry as a media professional can be difficult. It takes hard work, faith, dedication, and networking with the right people to elevate your career. Fraternal twins Kami and Kylah Simmons know all too well the struggle of trying to have a thriving career as a media professional in the entertainment industry.
The 23-year-olds’ journeys began while pursuing their degrees at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. After many internships at networks such as CBS News, BET, and iHeart Radio, the Simmons’ share their story on how they got into media and entertainment. The twins also give tips on how to get a start into media and entertainment whether it is in front of the camera or behind the scenes.
1) When did you become interested in media and entertainment?
Kylah: I became interested in the entertainment industry when I was an undergrad student at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I got my degree in psychology, but I took a course in television production during my sophomore year. When I took that class I became interested in going into television. Within a few years of college, I interned at CBS News, Voice of America, and Story House Production because I wanted to get my foot in the door.
Kami: Kylah and I used to play around with cameras a lot when we were younger. We majored in opposite things than what we’re doing now. I majored in theater arts and the school had these things called concentrations, and I ended up getting mine in media studies. I was also interning at a lot of different places. My first internship was with iHeart radio based here in Washington D.C. at Hot 99.5. I eventually got an opportunity to work for the White House. Then I got an opportunity to be a reporting intern at a Sinclair Station in Kalamazoo and then eventually an opportunity to go to graduate school at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
2) What do you like most about having a relative who works in the same industry?
Kylah: Right now, I’m based in Los Angeles, but I like the support even though we may live in different cities. Last year, I lived in New York City, but we both still keep in contact, and we have a twin relationship. I also think because we both live in different places, we have an advantage of telling each other about different opportunities because we have worked around the US, which is a huge benefit in this industry.
Kami: I would say one of the pros is having those different networks that we can leverage and work with. We spend a lot of time talking on the phone, or when we’re in person, we spend a lot of time brainstorming different ideas.
3) What do you like least about having a relative who works in the same industry?
Kylah: The most challenging part right now is that I’m in Los Angeles, and she travels between Chicago and the East Coast, so it’s hard because I’m not around her as much.
Kami: I second on that. I would say in the industry, you’re always moving around and I’m traveling at the time so that’s a challenge.
4) Do you think both of you could work for the same company?
Kylah: Our first internship, we both interned at Voice of America News, which is an international broadcasting company in Washington, D.C. It was cool because I like to be behind the scenes and Kami likes to work in front of the scenes. I would shadow people on the production team and she would shadow people who were reporting. We were able to both provide support. I think it is possible especially since we both have such different roles within entertainment and broadcasting.
5) What are some challenges you face working in the industry? How do you overcome those challenges?
Kylah: As a woman, as a person of color, and I also have a speech impediment. I stutter so all of that together is challenging because people take that as a weakness. I see that as a strength because even though I look a certain way, or talk a certain way doesn’t affect my work ethic. The industry is progressing, but they have a lot of work to do behind the scenes production-wise. There’s still a lot of men and a lot of White men.
Kami: One of the main challenges is being a woman and proving yourself. There’s this notion that only men can be in management roles or an on-air reporter, and you have those people for some strange reason think that you’re just a pretty face in front of the camera. The reality is that I have hard skills whether it be producing, writing scripts, researching, or editing videotape. Also, we need more women in management roles to make those necessary decisions to make actual moves in the media and entertainment industry.
6) What do you want your career to look like in the next three to five years?
Kylah: I recently completed my internship with BET for production management so I’m interested in production management for entertainment companies. Eventually, I want to serve as a line producer and assist with television series’ for budgeting and scheduling.
Kami: I see myself hosting, reporting, and producing. I like the producing side of things because I get to have control of the creative concept and collaborate with other people to create content.
7) Who in media or entertainment inspires you?
Kylah: I look up to these two twins, Shaniece and Shanae Cole. They do production and they’ve supported my twin sister and I. They’ve given us opportunities and they share the same values regarding being Christian and serving as a mentor. These two women have grown in the industry, but they always help to bring other people up.
Kami: We initially met them about four years ago on social media. Kylah and I do a lot of social media networking on LinkedIn and Instagram. The reason why I bring that up is because in this industry, you have to get creative with how you reach out to people. The person that I look up to is Tyra Banks. She’s not an on-air personality per se, although she used to have “The Tyra Banks Show.” She’s a person who has been able to build her brand, and I look forward to doing something similar in my career.
8) What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in the entertainment industry?
Kylah: I would advise that when you’re in college, you should have internships. I think it’s a great way to get your foot in the door, gain experience, and network. Always be humble and trust the process because there’s no direct path.
Kami: I will say study your craft. For example, a lot of people want to be an on-air host; they reach out to me to get different advice, and I ask them, are you studying your craft? Are you drinking seven cups of water? As corny as that may seem, it’s like what are you doing every single day to achieve your goals? Getting better at those hard skills is what jobs are looking for so that you can be able to contribute.