Kennie J.D. is a creator whose personality and point-of-view shines through in every project she takes on. From her eponymous YouTube channel best known for her film critique series "Bad Movies & A Beat", to her R&B singles and film-centred podcast collaboration "In Defense Of". The most magnetic quality that you find in everything Kennie creates is her authenticity.
We simply had to chat with Kennie about her decade on YouTube, always staying true to herself, and building one of the most supportive communities a creator can have!
To start off, you've always maintained a beauty element on your channel and your looks are always super creative. You went from a focus on K-Beauty to vlogging, and now you've pursued music and have a podcast. My question is, what drives the artist in you?
Kennie: To be honest, I just get really bored. For my own sanity I have to play around with things because, as a creator, I think it's important to be a bit selfish. What I mean by that is you've got to make stuff that you enjoy, otherwise I think it shows that you're making something for inauthentic reasons.
Not only that, but I've had my channel for so long that it reflects all the ways I've changed as a person. I try not to question myself too much about what people will enjoy, I just go with what feels right to me.
So then thinking of you in all of that, how would you describe yourself as a creator?
Kennie: It sounds so conceited but, ✨uninhibited✨ (Julia Fox voice).
I think that YouTube and all these pretty blank social platforms are what you make of them, so I like to try a little bit of everything that I'm interested in. I like when people are surprised by certain things that I do because, it's good to break preconceived notions about what a content creator can do and make. Also, I like the idea that, generally speaking, my viewers just know that I'm probably going to do something weird at some point.
Speaking of your social media presence as a whole, you've been so open about anything that's going on in your life with your community — but how do you then balance having boundaries in place for your personal life and your online life?
Kennie: I've always been a bit of an oversharer as a person. I'll have a pretty deep conversation with just about any person because I don't feel the need to be gatekeeping certain parts of myself. I think because I'm quite an open person it's clear to others to respect the things that I do keep private because then it's something that's important to me. I've never really had to worry about boundaries with my viewers.
And overall, I think because my platform grew very slowly, there wasn't this rush of new eyes on me at any particular point — I have a quality of viewership that's sustainable, and really cool and really chill.
"I don't know to what degree it's luck or if I've inadvertently created it but, I just have a really great audience."
With all of that, what advice do you think you could give to a creator just starting out that would like to see similar success and have a supportive community?
Kennie: I would say if you're going to do YouTube, make sure that you're doing it because you enjoy it — that you have something you want to show or because it lets you participate in things you're interested in. Because odds are you're not going to make much money early on.
Also personally, I'm a big advocate for not having a "YouTube Personality" — and that might be a hot take, but I feel that if you're trying to build an authentic viewership, you can't base it solely on something that's not real.
"Who you are is in many ways eternal. So if people like who you are, that's more sustainable than being liked for who you present as."
So after already working from home for years, you recently expressed that you're going to be treating your schedule as if you had a "9 to 5" from now on. What made that happen and how has that been for your mental health?
Kennie: What I noticed early pandemic was that because I didn't really have a schedule, I was working every single day because there was always something to do — but no one is asked to work every day so why was I expecting myself to? It was really messing with my general happiness, so I created a new boundary with myself.
Now I work Monday to Friday 9 to 5, and if something doesn't get done, then it just has to go to the next Monday.
Do you have advice for creators that might feel guilty if they're not working basically all the time?
Kennie: Being "on" all the time doesn't make things happen quicker for you, it just wears you down so that you can't present your best work. I think nowadays a lot of people expect you to do everything as a creator, but most creators have teams to help them. You shouldn't be expected to do the things that a team does as one person.
Also, and I'm saying this as a Black creator on the lighter-skin spectrum, if people didn't want to see you, they wouldn't want to see you even if you make more content.
I know it's like, 'if I don't make enough content, then I won't get noticed,' but sometimes just doing something is all you actually need to do, and let that speak for itself.
You have an amazing insight into different things, and in your videos you often will take on the "Big Sister Kennie" role. How do you feel about being that sort of figure to your viewers?
Kennie: I never know what I'm talking about, haha, I'm only 27 and I am just learning things every day. One thing that I've always been very mindful of as a content creator, even from very young, is ‘Will I be perfect? No', but I want to be looking to do the best for other people regardless. I'm by no means aware of all the ways that I can affect people, but I have the mindset like the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm".
"To have a bunch of people view you and care about your opinions, I don't take that lightly. I think if you do take that lightly, then you should not have a platform. You will affect a lot of people and the goal is to care about those people."
And you've said before that you have no desire to be famous, right?
Kennie: Traditionally famous, no, and here's the odd part about that — what happens is that there's this assumption that because you do certain things that means you're looking for fame. I've been pushed a lot in the last year to possibly start performing my music, and I'm saying this just as of today, but no. While performing sounds like fun, there's this connotation around it that makes me really not want to.
Haha, you'd be a bit like an Ari Lennox, I feel, if you were to start performing. Very yourself and very talented.
Kennie: Oh my god, she followed me on Twitter, and then unfollowed me because she unfollowed everyone — I was so upset. I think me and Ari Lennox would get along.
A quick shoutout to Ari Lennox:
If you had to say though, what's one of your songs you think everyone should listen to?
Kennie: Probably, "Northern Lights", and that is the one that's the most listened to on Spotify so I'll just plug that one.
And, out of all of your projects, do you have a favourite creation?
Kennie: I hesitate to say, but I guess my music. I think because it's very personal to me since I make music when I'm feeling any form of heightened emotion. Also, I don't really promote it, so when people listen to it at all, it's like ‘Oh, fun you found it'.
"If I had to describe myself in three words or less? Organized chaos. I think that's a perfect answer for that."
So to change gears a bit, you mainly review not-so-great movies in your series, "Bad Movies & A Beat", and are on Twitter a good bit, would you say "Film Twitter" is a bop or a flop, and would you consider yourself a film buff?
Kennie: Bop, but what I'm going to say is a very particular part of "Film Twitter" is where I am, and it's amazing. However, if I am [a film buff] I don't know. Immediately I feel a bit of imposter syndrome because I ended up in film reviews on accident — before I discovered bad movies and then by proxy really good movies, I really didn't think I even enjoyed film at all.
And since you're a huge lover of more campy movies, do you have a favourite?
Kennie: Catwoman, Showgirls, and Spice World. They're all unapologetically feminine movies and that's what I love about them. I hate the notion that because they're so feminine, that they're frivolous —they're great movies that are greatly costumed.
That also might be a trend that I tend to like in film, though. I'm a tall woman and I always loved very feminine clothing and things like that, but they didn't really have it for me. Now that I'm older and they're making things with more size inclusivity, I'm gonna dress up like Catwoman one day, who's going to stop me?
Do you have a favourite time for fashion and makeup then?
Kennie: I really like the nineties, but I'm also enjoying some aspects of current makeup trends that I'm seeing — but they seem to be combining a lot of nineties and early 2000s vibes anyway. There's things I'm concerned about with that though, like with Y2K fashion; it's really uncomfortable to be fat and wear low-rise jeans, haha.
Is there anything on your bucket list that you haven't done yet and want to soon?
Kennie: I think I got a bit bigger in the pandemic and I didn't get to do any of the cool meeting subscribers things as much. I only did one convention in my entire career, so I want to do more in that regard — I want to actually meet people. As far as things that I would like to do professionally, I want to do some voice acting, and maybe more with videography or writing something. Just depends on what strikes me.
Lastly, is there a quote that you live by?
Kennie: "It wasn't a waste of time if you learn something."
Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.