I remember the first time I met Kayla like it was yesterday. I was 15 (I think?) and was finally able to start driving school. So, of course, this meant that before I could start the actual lessons I had to endure a few hours of classroom training. Take in mind – I was extremely introverted back then so spending my Saturday afternoon in a classroom full of strangers was not exactly my definition of a good time. I sat in the back and kept to myself just doing the bare minimum in terms of participation to make sure I passed. By the second day of lessons, Kayla had introduced herself to me and well, the rest is history.
Fast forward ten years and I’ve been able to watch her grow from my driving school friend, to my university friend (because of course, I convinced her to attend the same university as me and we even did the exact same program) to my successful friend who is now a Lifestyle Editor at Huffington Post Canada.
Since joining Huffington Post Canada she has taken charge of their social media presence and has brought them impressive growth. She has written pieces that cover a wide range of issues, most notably bringing much-needed awareness to the amazing things being done by people of colour in Canada. She has become a strong voice for diversity in newsrooms and to be honest, I’m so excited to see what she does next in her career.
Keep reading to learn more about Kayla!
Transitioning from post-secondary education to the “real world” is a difficult time for most of us. What was your experience and can you tell us a little bit about your journey after graduation?
Oh lord. Well, I graduated in 2014 from McMaster University with a degree in Communication Studies. I knew I wanted to be a writer full time, but it’s not so easy to find those types of job, especially in Canada where the media industry is so small. I freelanced for about two years, and I just got fed up with not being paid on time and feeling like I was working myself the bone or little to no reward. Also, I got burnt out in terms of ideas. So, I kind of gave up on that dream and though I’d settle and go for a career in PR. I went to PR school and realized, whoa, this is so not for me. I learned a lot there, thankfully and I’m able to still to apply it to my current position since the two fields are so closely intertwined. This sounds cliche, but I prayed on it and used my network to meet new people and somehow my prayers aligned with time and I landed a dream job at HuffPost. This also sounds cliche, but I believe so much in the power of visualization. I remember I told myself about a month before I started interviewing for my current position that I really wanted to write for HuffPost. I never imagined myself actually working, working there, that was beyond me at the time — I just wanted some bylines. But I guess God had other plans for me.
What skills do you think are imperative to you doing your job well?
People skills. You literally have to constantly interact with people in some form to be successful in this field. So if your people skills are lacking, this might be a toughy.
I’m so curious – what is a typical day like for you?
What is a typical day? Lol. Usually I get up around 6:30/7 am and doing a morning news scan to see what’s going on. I’ll send that over, get ready then head into the office. From there I could do any number of things from just writing all day, social media strategy, video production. Everyday it’s something different – which is one aspect that I love about the job.
“Don’t give up! Seriously, something will work. If you have the passion and drive, people will notice it.”
You’re extremely passionate about diversity and shedding light on issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. Where does this passion stem from and have you ever encountered a time when it was difficult to balance your role as a news editor and your identity as a woman of colour?
For me, it stems from not being able to have access to inclusive news as a child. For so long I struggled with self esteem because I never saw anyone who looked like me in the media. And I know for a fact that if I saw what we’re seeing now, things would have been different. So, it’s just responsible for me to be able to pay it forward. To let people of colour know that they’re not alone in their struggles. We live our lives differently, we look different, we eat different. And that doesn’t make us “weird,” it makes us unique and we should be proud of that. I don’t think there’s ever a time per se when it was “hard” because I have a very strong personality, I’m not afraid to take anyone on if I don’t agree with them. Respectfully of course, but I don’t dim my light to brighten someone else’s ignorance. The most challenging thing for me is trying to get people to realize that these issues are valid and important when we’re plagued with the same old, same old day after day.
On July 1st, Canada celebrates 150 years of independence. How do you feel about this milestone in relation to diversity in this country, especially in our newsrooms? Do you still think we have a long way to go?
Listen, Canada 150 is celebrating the slaughter of indigenous peoples. So you won’t find me jumping on my bed in excitement about it. I think, honestly, Canadian media is still so, so white. I’m lucky enough to work in a newsroom where there’s people from mostly every race. But that’s the exception. We definitely have a long way to go, but until then, we need to keep calling these publications out when they’re doing something wrong. For example, I saw a meme of Flare’s Instagram page that was so disappointing. It said “My days are like Rihanna’s song, just work work work and I don’t really understand the rest.” Or something to that effect. I’m sorry, but Caribbean dialect isn’t gibberish. Don’t reduce it to that, especially when it was colonial rule that created it. We have a rich history and I’m not one to sit around while other people try to minimize it to fit their worldview.
“For so long I struggled with self esteem because I never saw anyone who looked like me in the media. And I know for a fact that if I saw what we’re seeing now, things would have been different. So, it’s just responsible for me to be able to pay it forward.”
What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment thus far?
Going to bed by 9:00 pm. And also being able to connect with readers. To know that my work is making a difference in people’s lives. That’s my main goal.
What advice can you give to anyone looking to get into a similar role as you?
Don’t give up! Seriously, something will work. If you have the passion and drive, people will notice it.
What’s your go-to outfit?
Cute ripped jeans, a t-shirt and leather jacket (weather permitting)
How would you describe your personal style?
I would say chic and comfortable. I always aim to look cute, but I don’t have time or money to keep up with “trends.” So I stick to classic pieces that I know I can keep wearing for a long time.
What’s one item you think every woman should have in their closet?
A well fitted pair of jeans that make your butt look spectacular.