Akili King - Ready to Use Her Platform.
Photos & Writing by Ivan Gilkes
An early evening meeting over tea at The Plant Shed on Prince St. with Akili King (@akili_) led to a great conversation covering a range of topics from education and hobbies to her work at Vogue as Beauty Editorial Assistant. As a woman of color, King’s rise to her position is a big deal in a time where many outlets are recognizing the need for diverse voices. Already in her 7 months there, she is pushing to highlight people of color within beauty, as can be seen more than ever in her piece about Parisian artist Maty.
To understand King is to understand that she is a multi-faceted individual: a writer, a DJ, a driven individual, and a creative. All of these hats are the result of an active and unique upbringing and all contribute to the person that we had the pleasure of meeting.
King grew up in a diverse and unique neighborhood of Chicago. Her youth was spent focusing on the structure and routine of gymnastics which definitely contributed to her drive and focus. King also remembers being woken up by the bass of house tracks rattling her bed as her dad is a prominent DJ in Chicago.
After Chicago, King studied at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study (class of 2017) where she built a network of friends and developed her writing. After an accident she decided to really take her mom’s advice to heart: life is short and you can’t hide your gifts and passions. Since she wasn’t able to be active as a result of the accident, King focused on her writing. With the one-on-one help of her professor she took writing from her youth and supplemented it with additional pieces based on prompts from film to create Awakening, a book of poetry that focuses on the themes of pain, love, and growth. One film, Black Orpheus stuck with her as it showed a normally white narrative with black actors. The beautiful film, for her, was an example of a reclaimed narrative - black people living black lives, experiencing love, pain, and growth - living their lives.
After finishing at NYU, King hit the ground running, covering beauty through freelance writing with Milk Makeup, Fashion Fair, Neu Neu Media, and Drøme. This eventually led to her position at Vogue which she landed through a friend she made while in Paris and also completing many writing tests to prove her talent. All of this happened while King took up DJ-ing like her father, but instead of house she focuses on afro beats, spinning at Putnam’s Pub, for events with The Myriad, and at other events at pop-ups and galleries. I asked King if we should expect another book from her soon, but she says she has so much living to do before she puts another one together. This early on into her career though, she has already come so far and I feel she’s set to keep contributing to the sharing diverse narratives and contributing to the causes she feels are important in an extremely meaningful way. (I do, however, hope there’s another book that will come with that 🤞🏾)
As usual, we asked King what she was in support of. She responded: “First thing that comes to mind is “kindness”. A lot of the times in the creative industry, and just in the world, kindness is often lost in the hustle and bustle of everyone’s day. It’s hard; everyone’s going through things and sometimes that can blindside people from what’s going on. In all worlds small gestures go a long way. And as my career grows a big goal will be to pay it forward. Even if it means just sitting down with a young writer. Sometimes it’s harder to fix the big issues but small things do help to achieve that larger goal.”