Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelundra Smith.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I fell in love with language in the second grade when my teacher would give us writing prompts. She only asked us to write a page or two, but I always wrote more because I would get lost in whatever stories I had dreamed up. I wrote stories about my toys, pet fish, my favorite foods, anything really. I had a really vivid imagination as a kid. I remember my aunt would buy me these disposable cameras and I would stage photo shoots for my Barbies in my room.
Over the years, my love for storytelling evolved and grew to include poetry, theater, and journalism. By the time I went to college at UGA, I was majoring in magazines and theater with the intention of being the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine or the chief theater critic at The Guardian in London. I had no idea what it would take to get it, but it sounded good. After graduating from UGA, I went to graduate school for arts journalism at Syracuse University, which exposed me to so many different kinds of art. I immersed myself in all of it, going with classmates to see operas, art exhibitions, plays, performance art– you name it. I was so into all of it that when I graduated, I actually started my career working in arts administration. I still did some freelance writing on the side, but doing marketing and publicity for theaters became my new career path (or so I thought).
After working in arts administration for three years, I switched to digital marketing because that seemed like where the field was going, but that wasn’t really my jam. As I bounced from job to job trying to figure out how I wanted to spend my days, my heart and mind kept going back to writing. I had never actually made a go of using my actual degrees for their actual purpose. It turns out my 7-year-old self knew best and storytelling really is my calling. There had been whispers (and shouts) along the way: I won a poetry contest in high school, people always asked me to write or edit things for them, I was published in The New York Times– the latter should have been the most obvious indicator, but no.
I finally decided to accept the fact that I really love doing something that’s totally analog. I’ll be like John Milton in his poem “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” going blind and still trying to put as much ink to paper as possible. I am now the theater editor for ARTS ATL and the co-chair of the American Theater Critics Association Diversity & Inclusion Committee. I teach theater criticism workshops for students and recent college graduates all over Atlanta and I speak at theater conferences across the country. My articles have also appeared in a number of publications, including American Theatre, Airbnb, Food & Wine, Atlanta Magazine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and many more. It’s a fun career for the endlessly curious.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not at all. One of my colleague/mentors is Rohan Preston at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and he said to me once “This is the kind of career where you have to pave the road as you walk it.” He was so right. My longterm goals include is writing a New York Times Bestseller, winning a Pulitzer, and establishing study abroad scholarships for women and students of color. There’s no roadmap on how to do it. It’s not like law school or medical school where you can graduate with expectations. You just have to get in alignment with your purpose and hope that what you’re putting effort into will yield something that enriches the life of someone somewhere.
I still have a day job to make ends meet, but that’s fine with me because even there I’m telling stories.
Overcoming fear is the hardest part. When I graduated from college the economy was in recession and there were no jobs. Almost every media outlet had eliminated arts reporter positions. I have never had a full-time editorial position at a media company. I am one of a handful of African American women theater critics in the country. The absence of opportunity and examples can really damage your self-esteem and make you question whether you’re worthy or good enough.
Please tell us about End of the Rainbow Publications.
I started End of the Rainbow Publications as a way to brand my editorial and advertorial writing a little over a year ago. It’s an idea I’ve had since I was 15 years old. I remember saying it to one of my friends in 11th grade American Literature class and her eyes got really big. At the time, I imagined I would be a publisher in the traditional sense, but my vision has evolved.
Simply put, I love to tell stories about people with lofty ambitions. I’m drawn to artists and entrepreneurs who no one else is paying attention to. I want artists who come from marginalized communities to know that their story is in good hands when they tell it to me. My very first assignment as a freelance journalist was interviewing graffiti artists and that has been such a strong indicator of my career path. I have gone to Sundance Film Festival and interviewed bright-eyed filmmakers hoping to secure distribution deals, listened to actors talk about preparing for their first roles on Broadway, visited artists in their studios, talked to female entrepreneurs about their journeys. I have a knack for uncovering the person behind the art and it brings me great joy to do so.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have believed in myself sooner. I had such crippling self-doubt and I’m still digging my way out of it. Now, I practice gratitude, journaling, prayer– anything to clear the muck and make way for imagination.
I have affirmations that I say to myself when I catch myself feeling unworthy. One of my favorites is from a book called “A Course In Miracles”: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.” Another is from “The Alchemist”: “Tell your heart the fear of suffering is always worse than the suffering itself.”
My friend and I host a podcast called Unbasic and we talk about this a lot. We have a series of episodes called “Unleashed,” where we offer encouragement to others and ourselves about just keeping going. Stick with it. Taking a chance on yourself is always worth it.
- Website: https://kelundra.com/
- Instagram: @anotherpieceofkay
- Twitter: @pieceofkay
- Other: https://unbasicpodcast.com/
The personal photo and the image of me with the umbrella are by Ian A. Louis. The personal photo is in front of Yehimi Cambron’s mural in downtown Atlanta. The image of me outside in the black shirt with straight hair is by Bradley Hester Photography. The image of me with all of the lights is me on media day at the Kusama exhibition at the High Museum. The photo of me on the panel is from BroadwayCon where I was on a panel about being a theater critic of color.