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Khadeen Ellis on Overcoming Her Inner Critic and Stepping Into Her Own
by Ayana Iman
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April 24, 2020

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14 Minute Read

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Khadeen Ellis on Overcoming Her Inner Critic and Stepping Into Her Own

Khadeen Ellis (Photo courtesy of Joshua Dwain)
Khadeen Ellis (Photo courtesy of Joshua Dwain)

Multi-hyphenated talent Khadeen Ellis is a mother, wife, actress, podcaster, and entrepreneur. After several years of taking the stage with her leading men, she’s now stepping into a new role, where she’s the main act. With the recent launch of her YouTube channel, Ok Kay Kay, Khadeen is proving you can have it all. 

Their family vlog, The Ellises, which features Khadeen, her husband Devale, and their three boys, launched them into the public eye. Not only does it showcase their comedic chops, but it also offers an inside look into the millennial married couple. Since launching, several of their videos have gone viral, and together they’ve built a community of well over a million followers. This was the catalyst for them to become full-time content creators, allowing them to use their platform to secure their podcast, Dead Ass, with Devale & Khadeen which is in its second season and advance their acting careers. And it paid off! Khadeen booked her first feature role this year, and Devale has a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s Sistas on BET. 

Related: Are You Ready for Change? Here’s How to Design the Life of Your Dreams

If you’re thinking about working with your partner, they are proof that it can work. “Devale is my biggest cheerleader and my biggest critic. Together we’ve developed a tough skin where we can be completely transparent in every facet of our lives.” And if you’re struggling to find balance, you’re not alone. “The downside is that he doesn’t know when to clock out. Our work ethics are different. It helps that we’re in the same field. There’s mutual respect for understanding what goes into the craft, which is ultimately our saving grace.”

But with so much success, why now? “I was able to partner with a good friend of mine to produce content. The Ellises is mostly from Devale’s point of view. He would share his opinion on topics, and women would ask for my thoughts and feelings. For a while, I struggled with keeping up with his platform because if he put something out there, then I would have to give a rebuttal to what he said. When I decided to do this channel, I knew this would be my voice. Naturally, I love to entertain, but I also want [Ok Kay Kay] to be a channel that women can relate to.” 

She added, “I’m hoping that regardless of who’s watching, women can say:Wow, I didn’t think of this in this way,’ ‘I don’t feel alone,’ or ‘Girl, you hit the nail on the head. This launch means it’s going to help someone.”

Switching in and out of a Caribbean accent, Khadeen’s West Indian culture has a significant influence on how she communicates. She shared that growing up in a Caribbean household, you’re either one of three things: a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. While she didn’t follow those “traditional” paths, she did get her education, which was equally important to her family. Khadeen holds a bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism and has a master’s in Speech Communications and Performance Studies from Hofstra University. 

I think my channel will be a form of therapy for me. Having the opportunity to find out things about myself during filming or helping others.

“Ultimately, one of these days, I would love to have a daytime talk show. What better way to do that than to showcase my skills on YouTube? I’m going back to my days of broadcast journalism when I was the one-man-band. It’s been great; this gives me a 360-degree view of producing.” 

Devale and Khadeen Ellis (Photo courtesy of Joshua Dwain)
Devale and Khadeen Ellis (Photo courtesy of Joshua Dwain)

Although her father was initially apprehensive about Khadeen choosing a creative career path, he has since come around and to terms with her decision. The launch of her Ok Kay Kay YouTube channel features the picturesque island of Jamaica, where she’s planning a vowel renewal with Devale; 2020 marks their 10th anniversary and 18 years together. In comparison to the family vlog – shot guerilla-style – there’s a difference in the style and pace of her videos. 

“On the [Dead Ass] podcast, Devale and I joke about how it’s a form of therapy for us. I think my channel will be a form of therapy for me. Having the opportunity to find out things about myself during filming or helping others.” 

Like many brands, the coronavirus pandemic has shifted the focus of Khadeen’s content, leaving her to find innovative solutions. Upcoming vlogs will feature conversations with experts, and a most recently aired segment featured her home birth, where she detailed the experience. “With the coronavirus going around, there are a lot of expecting moms who are now considering home births. Their husbands and spouses won’t be allowed with them into the labor and delivery rooms. I decided to go back into my vault of videos to share my home birth and interviewed my midwife so she could share her expertise.” The mom of three is an advocate for Black women receiving proper care and treatment both during and after pregnancy, especially since Black women have historically had the highest rate of maternal mortality.  

Related: Why Birth Stories From Black Women Matter

Launching this channel was always the plan, but Khadeen blames procrastination for just now making it all happen. However, I prefer to say she’s busy, and when you’re busy juggling many hats, you need a proper team in place to make things happen. When you need guidance and support, who else is better to call then your mother? “My mom gives us the most support. She uprooted from Brooklyn and moved with us to LA. My mom was a director of nursing for over 20 years, and now she’s retired.” 

The effortless looks and moments we stan for all come at a cost. The most refreshing part? Khadeen doesn’t pretend that she can do it all without help. “We have a wonderful team of family support, and I will always give them their credit. We are not doing this alone, and will never pretend as if we do.” For many women, our identities can become so wrapped up in our families, and it colors how we see the world and the actions that we take or lack thereof. It’s both a blessing and a curse; we carry the weight of our decisions and how it will affect those we love. It takes great courage to step out on your own.

For Khadeen, this was a familiar feeling. “For a long time, I got very wrapped up in Khadeen, the mom; Khadeen the wife; and really couldn’t find out who I was as Khadeen the person. That was a struggle for me because I felt a lot of guilt in trying to find myself again.” The guilt she’s referring to, also known as “mommy guilt,” is the feeling of doubt, anxiousness, or uncertainty when mom’s worry they’re failing or falling short of expectations in one way or another.

What I thought I wanted in my early twenties is not what I want now. Having it all is having my family, health, and autonomy over my life.

“I felt like I had to remove myself from being a wife and a mom. In doing so, I was taking away from my husband and my children. Then, I had an epiphany. I needed to pour into myself to be able to pour into everybody else.” Choosing yourself does not mean it has to come at the expense of others; some may never know that is a strength within itself. The journey to self-preservation isn’t without a few bumps in the road. 

“Self-doubt is every day. Everything I planned to record is canceled. I had every reason to push this (YouTube) launch back, because who knows when outside will be open again. But, I’m doing my best to be creative. I’m getting it done.” Self-doubt can rob people of their self-confidence, and it makes it easy to stop your dreams before they’ve had an opportunity to manifest themselves. Her optimism made it clear she’s dedicated to seeing this through. 

If you’ve ever seen Khadeen’s Instagram, then you know she’s always working on her fitness. She’s had a lifestyle change that allows her to make better gains. She suggests giving yourself grace when you’re not able to stick to a workout plan. “I have a love and hate relationship with the gym. God is still working on me. I know working out is good for my career path, how I want to look on camera, and for my overall health. I come from a family that has a ton of health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. I know we can alter the outcomes of our health if we make several changes now. I’m just trying to keep a nice balance. But, I will bake some brownies at night, sis!”

 

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Related: Khadeen Ellis vs. the Snapback

During the quarantine, she’s just trying to stay active. You would think her boys would do that. While we were talking, I could hear them in the background, vying for the attention of their mom; it was adorable. Khadeen laughed when they “found her,” explaining how she has to hide to get work done. One can only wonder how she stays in spirit. For her, self-care takes many different forms. “Self-care, for me, is taking time to myself and doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes, it’s putting my phone down, which is difficult for me because a lot of my work requires being on it. Self-care is not giving people instant access to me. Sometimes I need to give people 24-hours before I return a message.” Another thing that she’s learning is how to say NO.

So what is having it all? She pauses then says, “What I thought I wanted in my early twenties is not what I want now. Having it all is having my family, health, and autonomy over my life.” Khadeen has proven doing something scary can ultimately make you better. And that if you’re open to the possibilities of your dreams becoming a reality, then take a stand, or in her case, start your own YouTube channel. Ok Kay Kay!

Find Khadeen on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or at www.KhadeenIAm.com. The Dead Ass Podcast is available across all audio platforms. And be sure to stay up to date with all-new episodes of “Ok Kay Kay” dropping every Monday.

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