“Google was my mentor,” said entertainment reporter and publicist Kiki Ayers on Sept. 14, and she advised students to make it theirs.
“Every internship and company you can find are on Google and LinkedIn,” said Ayers, CEO of Ayers Publicity based in Los Angeles, in her talk before the philosophy class of university President Walter Kimbrough.
“All the information is there. You just have to put yourself out there and apply,” said Ayers.
Ayers, a first-generation Howard University graduate, said the difference between her and her classmates was while they were partying and enjoying college life, she spent her days in the computer lab doing her work and applying to all the internships she could find.
She interned with MTV, BET, NBC and CBS. She said the biggest lesson from those experiences was that no one was going to hold her hand to make sure she understood, so she had to watch and learn workplace expectations and standards.
Ayers has worked red carpets and has had high-profile interviews with people such as Samuel L. Jackson, Morris Chestnut, Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Ayers was hired after graduation at Revolt TV, a music cable network by Sean “Diddy” Combs, but Ayers said she discovered the corporate setting was not her place. Ayers said she often wondered which was worse: the racism or sexism.
She said she was frustrated when she was talked down to by co-workers and noted some male associates behaved inappropriately. At one point, she had to handle a harassment complaint about an executive, but she felt unsure about how to manage the situation because she was a woman and he was the boss.
Ayers said she has had to fight stereotypes of black women.
“As women, we have to learn how to talk to certain people. You can’t seem too sassy, and you do not want to appear too passive,” said Ayers.
When asked about media beauty standards, Ayers said, “I keep in shape and my hair straight. The closest appearance to a white woman’s is the best, and is the standard for beauty in this industry. But it doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Now running her own company, Ayers said she felt confident about starting the business “because of the connections, now friendships, I have built over the years.”
“Connections are everything.”