Today we’d like to introduce you to Kia Barnes.
Kia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up as a little closeted lesbian in a very religious Alabama family. I’m number 11 of 12 kids. I always knew I was gay, even before I knew what gay was, and I can reflect on several moments that should have been clues to me and my family. I had a crush on a girl in Kindergarten and have always liked women, but I dated boys in high school, did beauty pageants, was a ridiculous overachiever, and always used humor to cover it up. I chartered my university’s chapter first chapter of the NAACP and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha, only to leave due to their homophobic stances. I was specifically targeted with homophobic letters and emails in college, but I still won homecoming queen. I eventually faced so much homophobia that I decided to leave school and do a year-long internship at Walt Disney World, where I finally cut my hair, began my loc journey, and began living as an out lesbian. Being from small-town Alabama, living in Orlando with people, cultures, and religions from all over the world open my eyes to how diverse the world really is and how successful many gay people can be when they live their truths. I went back and finished school, then taught in Alabama for five years before moving to Atlanta.
Before I left teaching in Alabama, I experienced several instances of homophobia in the workplace and was even accused of having intimate relationships with two female students by an administrator. It was all proven false, but I still left that school and lived in the California’s Bay Area for four months before moving back to teach in Montgomery for four years. I came out to my parents after I graduated from college. My mother’s response was “All right. I’m about to walk into this game. I’ll talk to you later.” My father never spoke on my sexuality until years later when he called me on my wedding day to say, “Don’t ever bring that white woman to my house.” I’ve always very Afrocentric but ended up eloping and marrying a white woman from Nebraska. She proposed to me within three months, and we were married within a year. I spent the summer researching in Belize on a Fulbright Fellowship immediately afterward. I began doing comedy while teaching in Atlanta on a show called “Laugh Your Class Off.” I faced homophobia and was targeted by my employer after asking my insurer if they covered same-sex partners after gay marriage was legalized nationwide. I ended up on the news for what happened with me at that school because I ended up leaving and have not taught full-since then.
My future ex-wife encouraged me to leave education to pursue entertainment. We became the face of interracial lesbian marriage and were featured on magazine covers, on the news, and even in Vogue Magazine. Our marriage and divorce were/are very public. Our marriage ended with a polyamorous relationship, but we’d already failed at marriage counseling. My future ex-wife, the other young lady we were in a relationship with, and I all still produce events together across the country and have a good relationship. I am a LGBTQ community advocate and activist, and I focus on racism in the LGBTQ Community. I helped produce Equality March Atlanta in honor of the Pulse Orlando Tragedy, I was honored on the Georgia House floor at the GA Capitol, selected for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, and received the Atlanta Servant Leadership Award. I now travel the country doing Queer Comedy Shows and the Andro Fashion Show.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I was ostracized by my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha after my pictures were vandalized on our chapter bulletin board with the word “Dyke.” They were previously unaware that I was a lesbian. I was singled out and harassed after inquiring whether or not my partner could be added to my insurance after same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. I ended up having to resign. I’ve received a lot of backlash from supporters who are somehow angry that my marriage did not work out. I’ve been harassed by other comedians due to my sexual orientation.
The Andro Fashion Show – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I create LGBTQ safe spaces and share my platform with Queer entertainers and venues across the country, but especially in Atlanta. I’m most proud of sitting on Atlanta’s LGBTQ Advisory board and being in a position to bring about some of the changes our community has been calling for for years.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define my success by how impactful I’m able to be, how much I can help others, and how much one is able to bring about change. Success is not a monetary thing, in my opinion. Success is defined by how much you can help others and be an agent of change towards your goals and agenda.
- My Friday night parties at MSR Lesbian Bar are only $5 before 11, and $10 after.
- My Andro Fashion Shows are never more than $20 general admission.
- Address: 84 12th St NE Atlanta, GA 30309
- Website: http://www.kiabarnes.com/
- Phone: 3346690036
- Email: TheAndroFashionShow@gmail.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/androfashionshow/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndroFashionShow/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KiaComedy
This image was taken by Dolo Foto in Philadelphia, PA