…Always Remember That It’s Bigger Than You — The best idea wins so in your creative circle of trust, that must be encouraged and that bond must be impenetrable.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kenny Burns.
Kenny Burns is an entrepreneur, producer, brand developer, marketer, mentor, motivational speaker, and most of all, a loving father and husband. Earning and creating the title “The Lifestyle Specialist.” Kenny Burns’ 20 plus year career started as a party promoter in college and has since organically woven across the entertainment, music, fashion, spirits, radio, television, and marketing industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a single parent home with my mom. As a child, I moved around a lot because my mom was a free spirit and always searching for a new adventure.
I was born in Washington, D.C. where we started moving around to nearby areas when I was young, then we moved on to Detroit, then San Mateo, California and Atlanta.
I guess that’s how I got my passion for people. I always had to make new friends and figure out how to maneuver through new neighborhoods and cities, which taught me a valuable skillset. It taught me how to survive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I always say, “Never let your expectations exceed your efforts!”
At an early age, I realized there wasn’t much I couldn’t talk my way in or out of, but there came a time when I had to back all the talking up. I had to learn the hard way a few times, teaching me all about the hard work that I had to actually put in to achieve my goals. Whenever I do anything now, I set those expectations and aim to exceed them through my actions.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have two that are equally significant to me, the book, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown by Berry Gordy and the book, Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier.
The book was significant to me because Berry Gordy’s superpower was connecting people. Although music wasn’t necessarily my passion, I saw those same superpowers in myself. And after reading the book, I applied what I’d learned and have never looked back. The ‘people’ business is my favorite business, which is why this book resonated with me.
This book was a reminder that it wasn’t all about me. Once I fine-tuned my gift, I had to share the information freely and often with people by providing a safe space to entertain, encourage and inspire. I had to mean something to somebody and my community, and that being selfless was truly the “measure of a man.”
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
For the past 20 years, I’ve been known as the “Lifestyle Specialist,” working within the lifestyle and entertainment space ranging anywhere from music to television and fashion to marketing. Before the Pandemic, I was primarily hosting and emceeing high-profile events at least three to four times a month around the country.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Just like many people, the Pandemic affected normal business for me, which did lead me to pivot portions of my career. I naturally became vulnerable and concerned.
After talking to my wife and mentee, Jessica Burns, I was encouraged to open up on my Instagram Live social platform, where I created my movement, The Kenny Burns Show, having some of the most intimate and important conversations during quarantine.
On Instagram Live, I spoke with megastars like Kevin Hart and Jamie Foxx, contemporary artist Daniel Arsham and activists including Tamika D. Mallory and Shaun King. My goal was to provide a platform where we all could come together virtually to have the conversations that needed to be had.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
There wasn’t one specific “Aha moment” for me but it was simply knowing that it was time for a change. We were going through times like never before and what we knew to be normal was not anymore. Times were changing and so would I. Because of my passion for life and people, I couldn’t sit idle.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It’s going amazing! I’ve created a safe place where people nationwide can come to share and receive information. Together, we laugh, we cry, we sang… it’s a magical place. What started as a show on my Instagram became so much more when I was able to secure The Kenny Burns Show on ATL’s №1 station for hip-hop and R&B, The People’s Station V-103.
Thanks to great partners such as Truly Hard Seltzer, Wingstop, LIFEWTR, Pepsi Wild Cherry and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, I’ve been able to monetize my platform and provide the best content to my followers.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, my wife of 21 years, Jessica. But also myself because I had to buckle down and figure this out for myself and my family.
I do not like to ask for anything, so it took a lot for me to ask my friends, acquaintances and peers to join me on my Instagram Live. I want to thank them as well for being open to having those intimate and vulnerable conversations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
One of the most interesting stories during the Pandemic was when Jamie Foxx reached out to me and asked if I was interested in politics. He had seen an interview that I did with Shaun King and never knew how I framed culture and people.
King and I had a difference of opinion on a few things, and I was able to get him to understand some of my logic on why our people felt a certain way about an issue. Foxx told me he thought I had the power to persuade and lead.
That was indeed a pivotal moment and highlight for me during this journey.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The 5 Things I would tell someone that is taking on the Challenge of Leading a company is…
1. Mean What You Say — Certainty should exude in your words and leadership.
2. Know When To Pivot — As challenges arise, leaders should always be ready for the next move.
3. You Are Right Until You Are Wrong –
A true leader has done the work and knows their business inside and out. You want to be challenged, but you also want to be right. I always say iron sharpens iron.
4. Build a Team of Visionaries, Not Just Employees — Everyone you hire should bring something to the table that you don’t. And that is okay and it’s necessary.
5. Always Remember That It’s Bigger Than You — The best idea wins so in your creative circle of trust, that must be encouraged and that bond must be impenetrable.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I personally had to shut everything down and meditate. I found that complete silence helped my mind slow down so I could focus on being still. When the noise went away, the calm came.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’ve actually created that movement and it’s The Kenny Burns Show nation.
It is a safe place where we lead with grace.
Grace allows you to be open to receive.
Grace allows you to be seen and heard.
Grace is the initial offering that allows for a foundation of understanding and growth.
I am going to continue to lead this movement with grace and with occasional cursing for inflection.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
It would be an honor to have lunch with former President Barack Obama.
As a Black man who grew up in a single parent home like Obama himself, with no real consistent father figures or big brothers, I can relate and appreciate the importance of having that energy present.
When President Obama took office, I changed. I saw my ultimate potential. I’d like to thank him personally. In my mind, of course, we became family and he was like that phone call you make for advice and for that calming feeling.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!