Kendell Renee Kelley is a beautiful, down to earth, intelligent, woman of color with so much flavor. What drew me to her role on Money. Power. Respect, a new hit reality show currently airing on WEtv, was primarily how she handled her scandalous ex-lover (his name doesn’t matter). During the first episode Kendell is persuaded by her good friend and co-star Wendy Credle to meet some of her colleagues in the New York area to expand her network. During her visit to New York she receives a phone call from the, “other woman” saying she’s been knowingly sleeping with Kendell‘s then boyfriend (whom she was currently living with at the time) for some years. Kendell arranged for the, “other woman” to show-up at the restaurant where she and now ex were having dinner. The look on the guy’s face when the “other woman” pulled up a chair at the table was priceless! Needless to say he hauled ass and hasn’t appeared on the show since.
As a graduate of Georgia Tech, Spelman, and Georgetown University’s Law Center Kendell specializes in intellectual property, business, sports and entertainment law. I recently met up with Kendell for some girl talk at the Blu Cantina in Atlanta, Georgia where she was hosting a premiere of episode four of Money. Power. Respect. She allowed for us to talk in depth. My aim is for people to get to know Kendell outside of reality TV.
Yiskah: Who are your inspirations?
Kendell: It’s a little bit different rather, than say folks who influenced me to become a lawyer it's people who shaped the woman I am today. Ingrid Saunders Jones previously served as Senior Vice President of Global Community Connections for The Coca-Cola Company and Chair. Saunders appreciated my value as a woman. I met her a couple times through my significant other at the time who was her mentee. I met her in the context of him but had seen her a few times and interacted with her. The next time I saw her away on a trip at Coca Cola Essences festival. I walked up to her and said, "Hey, I’m ex’s girlfriend” and she looked at me and she said, “Don’t you ever introduce yourself in that manner again,” and she proceeded to chastise me for a good couple of minutes about my own value and making sure I place my own name on everything I did and my own experiences. That was an early experience on first and foremost branding myself. Making sure someone remembers you for you and separate from other things. In the context of a woman I am no one else’s shadow.
Yiskah: Did you ever imagine yourself on a reality show?
Kendell: Yes! I had an extended period of time to process it and because I am an engineer I go through processes with everything. The fact that I not only will be on reality TV but that I will change for life and what that meant in terms of how I would work and allow people to see me on a lot of levels. I wanted to figure out how to drop some of the inherent walls that we put up so we don’t get hurt but then also put up a couple of walls in terms of my cause and action and being able to propel even more when under extreme pressure like reality TV.
Yiskah:As a woman of Color in this profession do you feel like you have to hold back that strong black woman approach?
Kendell: I think early in my practice I did. I think on one hand that was to my benefit and on the other hand it was to my detriment. So my benefit I think everyone has a certain level of deference you have to practice if it’s something that you are new to. Through learning you have to obtain those levels of respect. If I’m going into a law firm, to start with, I don’t have a strong opinion whether it’s a black woman or other to start with because, I’m learning I’m the new kid and I need to feel that out with my understanding. Now to that extent that was a shift in personality or a shift in who I am for the benefit of others that’s where it came to my detriment because the longer I practice and given what I see of the coming generation I’m discovering that transparency is actually a lot better and living in your truth and being who you are people respect that. If who you are got you through the door don’t shift for someone else if that’s what got you there.
Yiskah: Do you think woman of color are treated differently in this profession?
Kendell: Yes of course you see it in the classroom, firms, courtrooms, and meetings. That story of being mistaken for the secretary, being mistaken for court reporters all those things is what we came up hearing and I’ve been practicing for 12 years and those things are still happening.
Yiskah: What advice would you give a woman of color pursuing law?
Kendell: Be fluid. The mistake I’ve seen with a lot of women who don’t make it in the practice of law is the fact that there's an extreme rigidity. You say you’re going to go in this area of practice or you’re going to do this or you need to go and practice at this firm first or need to do this or that etc. because we are taught in the same manner that we co-shift in terms of work space or put away our black woman when we come into the workplace. We are taught to do that same thing when it comes down to the path we choose in our careers and how we actually address that and go about it. So don’t think you have to follow someone else’s path. Like, I’m doing reality TV, I have three degrees but, this is what makes sense to me at this moment. Will I catch flack for it? Absolutely. Will the flack be less than the benefit? Absolutely. Is it worth it to me? Absolutely. I think we get to wrapped up as black women in what society expects us to represent or be the spokesperson for the entire race for the entire sex. There are enough of us. We have enough in numbers. We are speaking out and showing the world how amazingly hard we rock out and as we continue doing that these stories exists. We can now decide to be individuals and go our own individual paths.
Catch Money Power Respect every Thursday at 10pm Eastern time on WEtv and watch what these professional women of color are cooking up in the field of law while balancing their personal lives.