October's LeadHER of the Month: Kennedy Jennings

 

 

Deni Dedmon: Tell me about yourself 

Kennedy Jennings: My name is Kennedy Jennings, and I am a sophomore (but I’m class of 2021) Public Relations major, African-American Studies minor from Houston, Texas. This academic year, I serve as Public Relations Chair for Ladies of the Quad Social Club and Texas Club and I am also Graphic Designer here at Her Campus. I am also a member of the NAACP Howard Chapter and Howard University College Democrats. I believe that I am a leadHER because I never take no for an answer. I persevere through the hard times and force myself to bounce back from every L that I take. My drive is contagious, and I believe that I inspire others to keep going.

 

DD: What led you to graphic design? Did you always see yourself working in the arts?

 

KJ: I’ve been doing graphic design for 8 years now. In sixth grade, I was a Tumblr nerd and I spent time writing up characters and plots, and I saw a lot of pages that had cool graphics to go with their characters. I forced myself to learn GIMP and made some really really low quality graphics until in seventh grade, when I applied for my school’s yearbook staff. My advisor at the time, Allie Schielack, sat me down one day after school and had me learn how to use Photoshop and StudioWorks. In middle school, I was known as the Queen of Cutouts to my fellow staff members, and I was actually copy editor. Going into highschool I expanded my horizons to Illustrator and InDesign, and I was design editor and editor-in-chief. Back then, I swore that I was going to be a photojournalist of some sort or an OB-GYN. I still don’t see myself working in the arts per se, I view it as a hobby and hustle if you will. I love art, but I believe that my future lies within the fields of Law and Public Relations. 

 

 

DD: How do you plan to combine your passions and your career?

 

KJ: My passions are advocacy and creation of any kind. I’ve spent most of my life studying the figures of social justice movements and have advocated for my peers throughout my academic career. Last year, I actually helped to successfully restore CHN’s visitation via the Visitation Project, created by my friend Alonte’. Upon graduation, I plan to continue creating and advocating by completing law school here at Howard University School of Law and potentially completing culinary school. With my law degree, I would love to be either a Civil Rights Attorney, Entertainment Lawyer, or a Celebrity Publicist. As a Civil Rights Attorney, I can combine advocacy and creation by working on cases while funding my own non-profit organization, where I could serve as the head of Public Relations or Media Relations. 

 

DD: What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?

 

KJ: My greatest accomplishment so far has been being accepted into Howard University and thriving here all on my own. My home is a 22 hour drive away (Houston, Texas) and growing up, my parents never even let me spend the night at my friends' houses, so being this far away from them was a huge adjustment. My dad and step mom both attended colleges that were most convenient for them and their parents budget, and were not even able to apply for their true dream schools. My mom also was not able to attend college on a full-time basis, so I know that they are proud of me and my accomplishments everyday. My dads friends also paid for my housing fees prior to attending Howard, so I know that I have a village of people rooting for me and that’s what keeps me motivated everyday.

 

DD: What is the greatest obstacle you've overcome and how did you do it?

 

KJ: My greatest obstacle has definitely been dealing with my mental health. Throughout my teenage years, I often had suicidal thoughts and viewed myself as lesser in comparison to my peers. To further these issues, I suffer from anxiety. It eventually got to a point where I realized I could no longer hate myself and the things that I have no control over. In high school, I used to force myself to spend summer and winter mornings staring at myself in the mirror naked-- dancing, smiling, crying, and reflecting. I also began to consistently write poetry and keep a journal to track my thoughts and form new opinions about myself and the world around me. Now, beng at Howard University, I feel as if my confidence is contagious. This environment forces me to test my limits and break down the walls that I unknowingly put up for myself, and I love this school for that reason.

 

DD: What advice do you have for other students looking to get involved in graphic design?

 

KJ: I actually never know what to say to this question. Watch Youtube videos? Practice? It’s genuinely just a hustle and a hobby for me, I don’t necessarily see myself as a mentor for graphic design.

 

 

DD: What do you feel is the most important aspect of you being a student leader?

 

KJ: When you are a student leader, you must realize that there are students that look up to you and there are even more prospective students that are watching you. For example, my mentee, Mia, chose Howard University because she has been following me since I was a freshman in high school. We never even had a real conversation prior to her applying to Howard University last fall. Everything you do has an impact on somebody, whether you realize it or not, so everything you do must be done with intent.

 

DD: What is your favorite quote and why?

 

KJ: “And in the end, we were humans, drunk on the idea that love--only love-- could heal our brokenness.” I love this quote because we often try to find love in others that we should be putting into ourselves. Me, especially, I tend to romanticize the idea of someone loving me for who I am, but my love is the only love that I truly need. Without self love, you will not be motivated to expand your mind and change the world around you, and without that, there is almost no point of existing.

 

 

DD: Who inspires you most and why?

 

KJ: My great-grandmother, Callie Lewis Watson. She is the founder of her own modeling company, Forty Plus Models, Inc. 40+ is a modeling company that embraces women and men that are above the age of 40 of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and race. Before her company, however, life was not all glitz and glam. My great-grandma was in an abusive relationship that forced her to hide her getting her education. She locked herself in the bathroom with her textbooks so that he wouldn’t know that she was bettering herself. After their divorce, she completed college and became the Head of Nursing at St. Luke Hospital in Houston, Texas. In her days, dark skin women were often chastized and viewed as lesser, and she constantly fought to change that stigma. Through 40+, she gives out annual scholarships to C-B average students at her fashion show that takes place every April and she has even received the key to the city for her philanthropy. She truly is every woman, and I can only aspire to be as head-strong as she is. 

 

DD: Oprah Winfrey once said, "doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment." What does this statement mean to you?

 

KJ: You have to put all of you into everything you do because you never know that the universe if preparing you for. If you try your best at everything, you can never be disappointed in the results that you yield. To me, that is passion.