It is 2020, and many of us have set our goals for the year. Need a little inspiration and motivation to make your dreams a reality? Then look no further. I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with goal getter Amber Kenni, the creator and star of the new series, Officially Adulting. Season one already dropped last year on her YouTube channel Amber Kenni Networks. She tells us a little bit more about the show and shares her inspiring story about how she brought her vision to life.
Tori Unscripted: Tell us about Officially Adulting.
Amber: Officially Adulting is about a millennial young lady, Carter, who is interested in a career in media, but she’s kind of irresponsible. She doesn’t have everything together, but she has a big dream and she is not willing to give up that dream for anything. We see her throughout the season just going for it. We see her having her ups and downs, but nonetheless the message is go for your dreams no matter what. Don’t allow anything to keep you from achieving the things that you want to achieve.
TU: About how old is Carter? What stage of life is she in?
Amber: She’s in that intermittent phase where she’s working a job that she doesn’t find fulfilling and she knows what she wants to do. She’s definitely in that middle phase where she’s not 30, but also not 20 anymore.
TU: Why was it important for you to tell Carter’s story?
Amber: I think it was important to tell Carter’s story because she is a young Black millennial and I think our story is not being told in an authentic way on the big screen. I very much wanted to embody what it actually feels like to be a young Black millennial in this climate that we are currently living in. That’s why I wanted to depict her being frustrated with her job and then quitting. You know that’s something that so many of us have experienced in our life. Taking an unconventional route and knowing that’s something that’s okay to do. You know you don’t have to leave school and get a corporate job and work there for 40 years of your life and then retire. You know what I’m saying? If that’s not the life that you want to build, you don’t have to do that. You can follow your path. There is money in your path, but the money will come if you are faithful to what you want to do. So that’s one of the reasons why I felt like it was so important to tell Carter’s story.
Also, Carter is hilarious to me. [laughs] Laughter is life’s medicine so I wanted to tell stories that would make people laugh. Stories that connect with them on another level. Cause you know Black people-we connect on another level. [laughs] You know what I’m saying? [laughs] I wanted to connect on that level as well. The messages in the show are so relevant and they get more relevant as season two progresses. Some of the stories that we told in season one-some of them are taboo. Some of them are just things that are not widely spoken about. So, I thought it was important to shed a light on some of the things that are happening to us as we speak. Millennials as we speak. Not all of us are out here sowing oats every weekend-you know what I’m saying? [laughs] Some of us are working individuals that have to grind it out every day. So, you know, I wanted to show that as well.
TU: I love the title of the show. How did you come up with it?
Amber: I was in the shower one day and it may sound cliché, but literally the name just popped into my head. It was like a voice told me, "you’re going to create a show called Officially Adulting ", and that is the onset of everything. Essentially, the name of the show just came to me. It’s not like I was looking for it. I didn’t really do a lot for the name to come to me. It felt right.
TU: I know that you’re the creator and star of Officially Adulting. Did you write any episodes as well?
Amber: I did write, and there is also a team of writers. So, I can’t take all of the credit. They definitely did a whole bunch in terms of perfecting the story line and coming up with really good stories, but I did have a large hand in writing and producing the show.
"If you look to your left and your right you have an enterprise within your reach already."
TU: Tell us about the process of moving from the idea of having a show to making it a reality. How did it all come together?
Amber: I’ll give you a little background. I went to school for public relations (PR) and I always had it in the back of my mind that [PR] was like as a backup plan. That’s not exactly what I wanted to do. I always knew that I wanted to create a show, be on TV and take that route. With that knowledge I knew that I would eventually create a show. So when the idea of OA came to me I was like this is perfect. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I had been doing a series on YouTube called Amber’s Secret. I was doing that for a while.
When OA came to me it was perfect. I actually created a demo. It was literally just me. I was acting in my room by myself. I set up the camera and I did a lot of the filming by myself and a lot of the audio by myself as well. Once I was able to put that demo together I knew that I was ready to go find a team because the purpose of the demo was to be able to see a tangible product. I’m a visual learner. Being able to see a tangible product was the turning point for me. So I was like-this is now real. I can go do this now. I put out a communiqué in a group called Black Girls in Media. It’s a group chat. We’ve got over 1,000 members at this point. I put out a communiqué in the group chat and that’s when my production manager Ife and my co-star Leah were able to come on board. From there I ended up finding Jordan Stackhouse, who is your brother. [laughs] We got our team together and started brainstorming. It took about six to seven months to film the entire series and about an extra month to edit and do audio. Then in May we did the premier and the rest is history.
TU: You had an idea and brought it to life. Are there any challenges that you faced while doing this? If so, how did you overcome them?
Amber: There’s challenges that come with everything, but when it’s something that you’re really drawn to or you feel like it’s your mission in life-you welcome those challenges with open arms. There were quite a few challenges that we faced because it was a group effort. It was something that we had to do from the bottom essentially. One of the major challenges was staying motivated at times because you love what you do and you want it to be perfect. Sometimes that perfectionism can get in the way. You lose steam sometimes, but I’m just glad that I stuck with it. My team stuck with it and we were able to put out quality content. For season two we are looking to put out even more quality content and improving upon it even further. If I had to say something was challenging in one way, it was staying with it and not giving up during the hard parts.
"It’s so important to look at the resources around you and to be a resource as well."
TU: How did you feel once the first episode of OA was released?
Amber: I was relieved a little bit. I was like, “Oooo, thank you God. I passed.” [laughs] Just kidding. But, I did feel a sense of relief, not only because it was well received, but it was [seeing] it all the way through. You know, that feeling when you have an idea and you sit on it and you sit on it and you finally execute it and you do it all the way through? That’s where my sense of relief came. I saw this project from start to finish. I didn’t give up on myself and I didn't give up on my craft. So that sense of relief was like success in itself.
TU: During the past decade we’ve seen more women of color in industry act, write, produce, director and so much more. Do you have any advice for other women of color who are new to this industry?
Amber: I will say that I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a company called Refinery 29. I’ve done quite a few videos with them and their subsidiary, R29 Unbothered, which caters to Black women. I had the opportunity to go and learn from professionals in that environment.
Learn all you can. Always be a student. Never be too proud to start at the bottom or to start at a place where you have to learn. You must learn to get to the next step. Never doubt your ability. Never be on too high a horse to go back to a place of learning. Also, if you have friends around you-networks cross. You never know what kind of connections you already have in your immediate circle. If you look to your left and your right you have an enterprise within your reach already. Those are the two main things about doing something like this. You’ve got to learn as much as you can and be humble during the process. Look around you. There’s so many people that know something that you don’t know. It could be your friend that you never thought would be interested in doing what you’re doing, but as soon as you mention it to them they are [interested] and they have all of these resources already available to you.
Also, find a mentor. It’s good for you to have a mentor for different reasons. Find one in your field as well. You may have one at church, or at work, or you may have a life coach, but you need someone that has experience in the field you’re trying to go into. That’s what Refinery 29 and R29 Unbothered did for me. It offered me people in the field that are like-minded and they are where I’m trying to go.
"There’s an audience for everybody. If you are supposed to do it, you’re going to be successful. God’s going to make a way for you."
TU: There’s plenty of content on YouTube right now and if you’re new to the world of YouTube, it can be pretty intimidating to get started. Did you ever feel that way when starting OA? What would you say to those who feel like there’s no room for their content?
Amber: I get it. What I would say to that is, there’s an audience for everybody. If you are supposed to do it, you’re going to be successful. God’s going to make a way for you. If it’s something that is truly meant for you, it’s going to be done regardless of [whether or not ] the market is saturated. If there’s a lot of makeup channels on YouTube- there’s still an audience for everyone. You are uniquely you. Only you can do the things that you do. So as long as your YouTube channel reflects that authenticity- that realest version of who you are- you’ll draw a crowd. You shouldn’t worry about if the people will come, because if you build it they will come. [laughs]
"You are uniquely you."
TU: I know that you can’t say too much about season two. I don’t want to get you into trouble. [laughs]. What can you share?
Amber: You’ve got to stay tuned for season two, but I can say that we see a lot more of our characters. We get to know them more for season two.
TU: I respect that. So we’ll leave that right there. [laughs] Now is there anyone in the industry who inspires you?
Amber: I have so many inspirational people that I can name, but I’ll stick within the media realm. Of course, Oprah. I’m also inspired by Ava and Issa. You know these ladies pioneered the way for someone like me. Seeing these beautiful Black women on stage, on the big screen and just doing things their way is so inspirational for me. That is huge inspiration. Also, Tyler Perry is a gigantic inspiration. He’s paved the way for young Black people. We had people to look up to when we were growing up, but now these kids have so many more people that look like them to look up to and that’s the inspirational part.
TU: Is there anyone you would love to work with in the future?
Amber: All of the people that I just named. [laughs] Oh and Shonda! Like I said before, I’m very much a student in life. So just to sit back and listen to all of the wisdom of those people- I’m happy because I’m learning from some of the best in the industry. If I can do a collaboration with any of those people, I’m all on board for that.
"It’s also about the platform that I’m able to give to other people so that they can showcase their talents."
TU: Earlier, you said something about mentorship that reminded me of conversations I’ve had before. You can also have mentors from a distance. You may not personally know them, but you can observe what they do.
Amber: Absolutely. I think that form of mentorship is one of the most important kinds because not only do you need to have people around you who are like-minded, but I think you should be filling your Instagram feed with things that inspire you. So, those mentors that you were talking about from afar- I follow those kinds of people on Instagram and those are my friends in my head. [laughs] I was telling someone when we were looking at Tyler Perry Studios, “You know what? Imagine having these people as your friends”. Then I said, “You do have these people as your friends". They’re just in their infancy. Right? They’re just in the stage of life when they’re about to ascend to that level. That’s why it’s so important to network across. That’s why it’s so important to look at the resources around you and to be a resource as well.
My biggest thing with OA [in addition to] telling the story, putting it out on YouTube and it potentially being seen by whomever, was giving other people a platform to showcase their talents. We’ve got our audio engineer who is based in Baltimore. We’ve got our professional photographer who is based in Baltimore. All of our actors and actresses are in the Maryland area. So we are very much networking across. Now our lead co-writer is based in Chicago. He recently moved there. I’m here [Maryland]. We’re just making things happen. That is the most fulfilling part for me. It’s not about me. It’s about the art and it’s also about the platform that I’m able to give to other people so that they can showcase their talents as well.
TU: Congrats on the next season!
Amber: We’re just getting started!
Keep up with all things Officially Adulting:
YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/amberkenninetworks
Dope Apparel! https://officiallyadultingshop.com/