This Publicist Prides Herself on Being a Voice for the Culture

How positivity and creative thinking are making Kiarra's dreams come true

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Kiarra Brown-Edwards is the entertainment publicist you want to meet. Recently named among the 2019 class of Forbes Under 30 Scholars, the former Conservatory dancer turned Communication Studies student has made it her mission to serve as a voice for the culture. And she isn’t afraid to get creative to make her dreams come true.

Kiarra Brown-Edwards '19
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
High School: Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
UMKC degree program: Communication Studies

Why did you choose UMKC?

I transferred to UMKC as a dance major in the fall of 2016. I loved how elite the conservatory is here. I eventually changed my major from dance to Communication Studies because there’s so much more I want to do. People need to hear me. I realized, then, how great the Communication Studies department actually is.

Choosing UMKC was a great decision for me. Not only do I love the people here, but I love that there are a great deal of faculty and staff who want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed. College can be tough and the “real world” is tougher. At UMKC, students are accepted for who we are as individuals.


Why did you choose communications?

I chose to be a mass communications major because I enjoy, and also understand, the importance of being a voice for black and brown people. Whether it be politically or in the realm of entertainment, people of color are either under-represented or incorrectly represented, and I want to change that. The media industry always keeps me on the edge of my seat. There is always something to be learned … or unlearned.

“Choosing UMKC was a great decision for me. Not only do I love the people here, but I love that there is a great deal of faculty and staff who want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed.”

What are the benefits and challenges of the program?

The benefit of this program is being able to get that much needed one-on-one time with professors. In media, we have to put in extra work to perfect our craft no matter our focus. Being able to get that extra help or a pep talk from professors, who are also professionals, is a benefit that I value greatly.

My challenge with this program is not having professors who look like me. Though I find a majority of Communication Studies professors valuable and an asset to students, I think it’s also important to not only maintain the diversity among students and professors alike. My experience as a black woman in media will be different than others in the same field. And not because I want it to be, that’s the reality.


How do you find mentorship and connection in your field given that a lot of your field given that a lot of your professors themselves don’t look like you?

I'm an active student member of the National Association of Black Journalists. It literally provides black students with everything we need in this field. Being a member has helped me meet other black professionals in media.

Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

Since entering college, I’ve learned how hard I will work for something that I believe in, no matter if anyone else believes it or not. I don’t settle for anything that I believe is less than what I deserve. This mindset, and knowing how to communicate this in the proper manner, has granted me many life-changing opportunities.

“LinkedIn is the plug!”

Since transferring to UMKC I have been actively involved with campus organizations. I was the president of Sister Circle, an organization for women of color from May 2016 to May 2018. Now I support by being a general body member. I am also a general body member of The African American Student Union and am also a contributing writer for U-News. On Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. I have a radio show on K-Roo radio, “Your Weekly Dose with Ki & Los,” where we talk about culture, what’s happening around campus and current events in mainstream media.


Wow! You do a lot on campus. What about off campus? Have you had any internship experiences?

I have had a nice amount of valuable internships. I am currently a public relations and marketing administrative intern for IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm founded by NPR Political Analyst and CNN commentator Angela Rye. My job is to oversee incoming interns, pitch ideas, news releases, prepare briefs and network with my across the country. There are several college students who intern remotely. Shout out to NABJ for giving the confidence to apply.

My second gig is working for BET Networks as a public relations/talent escort. I coordinate guest check-ins, assist production with red carpet setup, escort celebrity talent to the various media outlets and assist with in-house show production. I began working with BET at the 2018 Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas and have worked every award show since. Most recently, I worked the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! 2019 show and got to see Angela Bassett in the flesh! I’m proud that I didn’t freak out. We have to learn how to not freak out around celebrities.

I’ve also interned for a local television news station and help my friends with PR for the various projects and events they put on throughout the city.

“Be kind, you never know who you'll meet.”

You also recently received some big news -- your selection as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar. What does that mean to you?

It means a lot. Being chosen as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar, I am granted access to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. This is one of the biggest leadership summits of the year with top-notch innovators and entrepreneurs. I will have access to leadership sessions and networking events with many of the amazing people who lead top companies we know of today.

There were over 2,000 applications for the Forbes Under 30 Scholarship Program and only a few hundred were chosen. I am proud to be one of the only scholars chosen from the Kansas City area. The Summit be held Sunday, Oct. 27 to 30 in Detroit, Mich. I will be in rooms with Serena Williams, Kevin Durant, and 21 Savage to name a few.


What are your plans after graduation?

My goal is to land a job or fellowship in entertainment PR. I want to move to Harlem, New York. I’ve been to New York a few times and loved it — though I was the only one walking down the street smiling at everyone. I love the culture in Harlem, though, and hope to land a job that’ll allow me to be there.

Which of your experiences at UMKC do you hope to take into your professional career?

At UMKC I have had the pleasure of building relationships with all kinds of different people. And I walk away from every conversation having learned something new. It’s because I am kind and don’t judge a book by its cover. Going into my professional career, this is something I will take with me; be kind, you never know who you’ll meet.

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