Kia René didn’t feel that there was room for a gay, black woman on the radio when she began her career. But today, she’s out and proud, and she’s using her radio show, The Satin Lounge, to let all LGBT people of color know that there is a place for them, too, on the air.
TRUTH Magazine: You’ve had a long and impressive history in the radio entertainment industry. How did you become involved in this business?
Kia René: Music has always been a huge part of my life. My uncle used to DJ house parties when I was growing up. He had a huge collection of albums; this was back when you kept albums in a crate! We were always comparing and sharing music—it’s history, it’s energy. He later became a local radio personality and was the one who trained me at the first radio station that I interned with while I was in college. It was there that I found the confidence to pursue a career in media. I’m humbled to have had some of my first experiences with him.
TM: Who are some mentors that you identified with during your early years?
KR: There have been so many influences that have strengthened and empowered me through the years. First and foremost is my uncle, Tommy Ridge. I am, obviously, as I mentioned earlier, a part of his legacy. I’m very proud to embrace that fact.
A few other important names that I want to mention are Scott West (www.scottwestonline.com), Al B. Sure!, Crystal Chappell, and J Anthony Brown. Each of these amazingly gifted individuals saw something in me and took the time to encourage and invest their love and creative energy toward me. Their actions played a huge part in my growth creatively.
Possibly, the most influential person in my life has been my pastor and mentor, Bishop Deatria L. Gates. She and I connected at an incredible crossroads in my life. She gave me spiritual principles that I, for so long, had been searching for to balance my existence. These simple tools changed my mentality of being a competitor to becoming a creator. I no longer compete with others or with myself for that matter. I’m busy creating love through whatever creative avenue I find.
I’m also heavily influenced by conversationalists like Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, James Lipton, Barbara Walters and Anderson Cooper. I hope their influences are evident in my life.
TM: On your radio show, The Satin Lounge, you are a wonderful representative of a proud gay black woman. Was it always so easy for you to let it all out on air?
KR: To be perfectly honest with you, radio was not my first love. I wanted to be an actress, filmmaker, director, and writer. I didn’t begin aggressively pursing broadcasting until I “came out.” Although I was “out” to my friends and family, I was not as brave when it came to my career. I’m embarrassed to say it, but at that time in my life, I felt that anonymity was the best road toward career success for me. So, I hid myself behind my microphone.
My insecurities followed me for many years. However, what I did focus on was an incredible work ethic and drive to perfect my craft, and I eventually fell in love with radio. It became my creative voice. I did face the challenges of not being taken seriously in beginning. Just like in any profession, I had to pay my dues. I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, and to add to that, I was a woman of color. The possibility of my sexuality being exposed was terrifying to me! I was afraid the doors would close and the career and credibility that I had taken so long to build would be destroyed.
I believe my turning point came in both my career and my spirit after I moved to Los Angeles. There, I was privileged to work closely with and was mentored by some of the best in the field of entertainment, and they encouraged me to be completely and authentically me creatively. So, I don’t know that the industry has changed so much as I have changed. I feel as though I have finally come to a place in my spirit where I am celebrating my own uniqueness, which I believe to be a direct expression of my Creator, and I am a prism of that expression. I feel fortunate to be able to express myself authentically and creatively merely because so many before me, from all walks of life, fought for it with the simplest motivation in mind: “Because we want her to be able to…” It’s overwhelming at times.
TM: Your show, The Satin Lounge, is such an inspiration for the black LGBTQ community. What was the catalyst for creating this show?
KR: The Satin Lounge is a place where our LGBTQ community and our friends who support our causes, ideas and dreams can gather and ‘escape their hectic realities and get lost inside the most seductive soundtrack in the atmosphere.’ We play such an eclectic mix of music from Sade to K.D. Lang. The hope is that, for just a couple of hours, listeners can relax and unwind and allow the energy of the show to soothe and inspire them. We want our listeners to be seduced by the soundtrack and the positive energy it evokes.
When was the last time that you heard another man call up a radio station and request a love song and dedicate it to his husband or his lover? When was the last time you heard a love song that was gender specific, besides Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” on the radio? We want our listeners to feel that finally there is a radio show that promotes equality and celebrates romantic love in the LGBTQ community. I can’t tell you how many times, over the years while I’ve been working in commercial radio, I’ve had listeners call up and request a song and ask me to keep their dedication to their same-sex loved one private. It breaks my heart. I wanted to create a platform where there was equality in romantic expression. I also wanted to create a platform where the talent and creativity of our LGBTQ community could be showcased.
With The Satin Lounge, every week for a couple of hours listeners vibe out to spoken word, poetry and stimulating conversations with celebrities and are seduced by the most seductive soundtracks in the atmosphere. They are encouraged, as the program says, to “Dim the lights, pour the wine, update their twitter and Facebook status, and tell their friends that The Satin Lounge with Kia René is on…”
TM: What has been your biggest surprise since the show went on the air?
KR: Our greatest surprise has been how quickly our audience has grown and the outpouring of love that we have received from all over the world. We’re hearing from listeners in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and South America. It’s been surreal! The audience has been multicultural, representing all demographics, sexual orientations and ethnicities.
Another incredible aspect is the support we have received—and are continuing to receive—from our LGBTQ celebrities and celebrities who support our community. It has been surprising how transparent and intimate they allow themselves to become during our interview sessions, known as Pillow Talk. The most common theme from everyone who has participated on our show, be it by request, interview or poem, is unconditional love. The Satin Lounge has truly become my entertainment utopia.
TM: What can we expect from the show in the future?
KR: We have huge plans for the show that will soon be implemented, including prizes and giveaways. We are planning to take The Satin Lounge from its virtual world into a place where we can physically gather and hear spoken word and unplugged live concerts featuring artists who have graced our pillows. We are planning on creating volume set CDs with a collection of some of the most seductive sessions on The Satin Lounge. We’re also working on ways to feature and celebrate same-sex couples, and we’re creating ways to make The Satin Lounge a more visual experience. There’s so much to come, and we are so jazzed!
TM: With The Satin Lounge, you give your listeners so much love and support. What do your listeners give you?
KR: Our audiences are so beautifully expressive and appreciative. I’m honestly touched by everyone who calls in. Just hearing a mature woman taking the time to call in and express her devotion to her wife, lover or friend is absolutely breathtaking to me. My listeners touch me all over.
And those who don’t call in but who take the time to send me an email or tweet or who post to dedicate a love song or who take the time to encourage me, they also bring tears to my eyes. I received an email from a man once who said that he had called a radio station back in the ’70s to dedicate a song to his boyfriend, but he chickened out and gave his boyfriend a woman’s name to ensure that his dedication would be played. He thanked me for creating a platform like The Satin Lounge, and 30 years later wanted a redo. He gave a beautiful dedication to his current boyfriend of four years. I mean, what other validation would a show need?
TM: You travel, you host The Satin Lounge, you’re engaged and you’re a parent—what do you do to help keep life in balance?
KR: I really never think of it in that way, as though my life is more busy or complicated than anyone else’s. I honestly try my best at being present in every moment I’m given. In recent years, my family has survived incredible bereavement from the loss of multiple loved ones unexpectedly. The operative word is, “survived.” Every moment in my life, even if it’s uncomfortable, is to be respected and deserves the most attention I can give it. I live in the center of these words: Everyday above ground is a good day.
TM: Your show is all about helping the LGBTQ community. What can other individuals do to improve the overall state of our community?
KR: I believe that the only person whom you can change is you. I also believe that all changes come from within and that the way we better our community is to better ourselves. One of the greatest challenges in our community is self-esteem. For obvious reasons, many of us loathe who we are and why we are who we are. May I suggest that we are beautifully made? There is not a brown toenail or crooked tooth that is not lovable about you! Try liking yourself, and you will soon begin to love yourself. Your existence is so necessary. Like Ghandi and Toni Morrison have said, respectively, “Be the change you want to see in this world,” and “You are your best thing.”
Don’t miss The Satin Lounge, every Tuesday from 10pm to 12am EST. For more information, visit www.thesatinlounge.com.