EntreprenHER is a revamped series that focuses on highlighting Black women-identifying founders, changemakers and thought leaders. We believe that the versatility in our stories is our superpower - and we want to feature these amazing women because of the difference they’re making by following their dreams and amplifying their passions.
This month we chatted with Kortlynn Jenae' Johnson, a true multi-hyphenate. She’s a model, host, comedian, events and media maven, and more.
Brittany: Kortlynn! Thanks for chatting with us. Tell us a bit about yourself for those who aren’t familiar.
Kortlynn Jenae’: Thank you! I’ve always been passionate about entertainment media. I’m born and raised in New Orleans and earned a degree in Broadcast Journalism from LSU. I was heavily involved in student media in school as an entertainment correspondent and ended up helping to create and produce the school’s first all-Black student media show.
Fast forward to my journey with podcasting and radio hosting, and then eventually moving to New York to really pursue my dreams. Now, I’m a signed model with Dorothy Combs Models, a Video Production Coordinator for Hearst Digital Media, and an Events & Programming Manager for Black In Media.
B: A true multi-hyphenate! Talk to me about your experience with podcasting. I know you are kind of like an OG in terms of podcasting before it was a “thing”.
KJ: We started podcasting in 2015 before they were a huge thing. I started a podcast with friends called “Clearly Misunderstood”. It was an entertainment recap podcast - imagine if breakfast club was 3 people from the south who were Black millennial recent college grads. I’d like to think we were sort of pioneers in the podcast game, especially in Louisiana at the time.
B: So, fast forward to after the podcast ended, you made the move to New York. Talk to me about the emotions surrounding such a huge switch up. Were you scared or nervous?
KJ: When I decided to pursue working in media, I really had to bet on myself. I decided that I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all. I moved to New York without an official job secured. I found an apartment, cashed out my retirement, sold my car, and packed as much as I could fit into 3 suitcases and a backpack. It was definitely scary, but I couldn’t let fear stop me.
One of my mantras is “do it scared, do it ugly”. I have been scared throughout the entire process, but I chose purpose over fear. The only thing that truly drew me to New York was purpose. Before I moved, I had only been to New York a few times, and briefly at that. One time in high school and then I lived in New Jersey for a few months after Katrina, and came into the city during that stay. I prayed a lot about comfort before I left; I prayed to God and received His answer: “Are you ready to be uncomfortable? I will elevate you but you have to be ready to be uncomfortable.”
B: I love that. Your faith reflects in everything that you do. What are some words of advice you can give to someone who’s figuring out how to pursue their dreams?
KJ: You have to break up with fear. Do NOT allow the fear of doing something imperfectly to hinder you. I'm not saying that magically you will wake up one day and be fearless. But I am saying that you have to decide that you will no longer allow fear to keep you hostage. Whatever it takes to follow that dream, just DO IT. Do it scared. Do it ugly. You can always grow and improve, but you have to actually START. You have everything you need inside of you to be who God has called you to be. But you HAVE to give God something to work with. You have to exercise your faith. If you put out the "natural," and God will come through and meet you with the "super" and that is how supernatural things happen.
Now, don't be reckless out here though. If you feel stuck or unprepared, then do your research, make a plan and then work that plan. In order to make a solid plan, you have become a student of the game, which means whatever field that you want to be in, study it! Study the journeys of other people who are doing what you want to do or something similar to it. Seeing other people excel at your aspirations can help close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Why? Because it makes your dream appear more attainable to you. Everything you do should be in efforts to close that gap! Your dream is attainable. I do not believe that God will give you a vision of something that is unattainable. Pray over it, give it to God and ask for the alignment, discernment and strategy to make it come to fruition.
B: Tell me something that you wish you knew before starting your journey.
KJ: One thing I wish I knew before setting out on my journey of moving to NYC to pursue entertainment media and modeling is that being in rooms that you prayed to be in can possibly trigger and amplify your insecurities. When you receive the growth and opportunity that you prayed for, you will be put around people who are more experienced and advanced in their careers than you are. Or, you may come across people whose strengths are your weaknesses, and it can make you feel undeserving or unworthy or just like there is no space for you in your field.
I have experienced all of these feelings, and they truly caught me off guard and made me question my worthiness. But it's like, "Kort, what did you expect? You can't pray for growth and elevation and expect to not come across extremely talented people!" Still to this day, I struggle with shrinking myself when I'm in those types of rooms. I'm working on it though!
I am continuing to ask God to show me MY lane and be secure in what I am called to do. I'm tired of stressing about something that I am literally called to do. Why stress over something that God built you for? It just doesn't make sense!
B: Words of wisdom for anyone, whether they’re starting something new or just dealing with day to day hurdles! Who inspires you the most and why?
KJ: It is literally impossible for me to answer this question! But I will answer it in relation to the layers of my career and personality. As a model, Halle Deneen, Tabria Majors, Lessance and Devorah Story are currently my biggest inspirations. These ladies are killing the game, breaking down barriers as plus size models, and can serve and pose for the GAWDS! They literally just don't miss, like EVER.
As a host, Danielle Young, Gia Peppers, Sylvia Obell and Eboni K. Williams have been super impactful and inspiring, especially in the quarantine. To see these hosts still consistently put out quality, relatable content in the midst of a pandemic has been beautiful to witness.
As a comedian/media personality, I would have to throw it back to my childhood favorites - Raven Symone', Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique. I cannot say enough that without these women and their impactful sitcom characters, I don't know if I would be the woman that I am today. Not only did their iconic characters help shape and mold my personality, but their presence gave me the opportunity to see myself in them. They gave me (as a plus size woman) the representation that I needed to see when growing up. I will forever be grateful to them for that.
And spiritually, I would NOT be pursuing my dreams in NYC if it was not for Pastor Michael Todd and Pastor Sarah Jakes Roberts. Their sermons poured into me the encouragement and confidence that I needed to take the leap of faith to move to NYC. Pastor Todd has a series called "Planted Not Buried" that changed my life, and Pastor Roberts has this one sermon called "Wild Woman" that spoke so much life into me. THAT sermon made me feel unstoppable, and the day I listened to it was the day I decided to move to NYC.
B: The way that you have go-tos for each area of your life is inspiring. Who’s supporting you and keeping you grounded day to day?
Keeping a really good circle of people around me has been huge. I have a handful of beautiful, intelligent, God-fearing Black women that I can tap into at any moment. They can pour into me, pray for me, and it’s amazing. They remind me WHO I am and WHOSE I am.
B: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and for dropping all these gems! What’s next for Kortlynn?
KJ: I am excited that I am just growing in my career, honestly. I just interviewed the House of Payne cast with BET for the show's season premiere a few weeks ago.
I am also officially live on the Dorothy Combs site, so I should be booking clients soon. And, I’m leading programming and events for a new organization called Black In Media. We are curating a monthly career workshop series for Black creatives who want to enter, transition and grow in media.
There's a lot of things happening, chile!
B: So many things happening, and so well-deserved! Ok, switch gears - your hair is EVERYTHING, so I have to ask. What are some of your favorite products?
KJ: I am truly obsessed with my natural hair, and I am always looking for the best products for it. There are two deep conditioners that I am using religiously right now - EDEN BodyWorks Jojoba Monoi Deep Conditioner, which I use every wash day, and SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Protein Power Treatment, which I use as my deep conditioner once a month to keep my hair extra strong. If you have type 3/4 hair that's low porosity, these products are GAME CHANGERS.
B: Love that and this 3C/4A girl will be trying them out. Give us your social and site so people can keep up with your journey.
Kortlynn gave so many amazing quotes during our interview, I had to share some of my favorites. Let them inspire you and if you share, give her credit and a shoutout!
“I decided that I’d rather try and fail than to never have tried at all.”
“I’ve been scared throughout it all, but I chose purpose over fear.”
“Do it scared. Do it ugly.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being scared, but you can still LEAP.”
“I value my voice.”
“I’m Black. I’m a woman. I’m charismatic. I earned my degree. There’s nothing in this world that I cannot do.”
“I couldn’t handle continuing to feel like I’m avoiding what God has been calling me to do.”
“It’s literally a disservice to God to not show up and do what He’s called you to do.”
“Allow God to give you the Super to your natural.”
“The definition of faith for me is: ‘Alright God, I don’t know what I'm doing, but I’m here’. Show up and give Him the space to work.”
“I’m constantly reminding myself that God doesn’t ask for your resume. He asks for your heart.”
“A person who is aligned in their purpose is the enemy’s worst nightmare.”