Clarissa Kenty, a Former Miss Black USA, goes online to talk local, national issues

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Clarissa Lester-Kenty (PROVIDED PHOTO)

What began as a radio show to keep women in the know has become a popular weekly talk show on Facebook Live for Birmingham’s Clarissa Lester-Kenty.

Her show, The Ladiez Room, airs on Excel Radio and began initially for women to discuss local and national issues.

“Sometimes [being a mom, being a wife] we have a tendency to be aloof to what’s going on around us,” Kenty said. “We’re not aware of what’s taking place in DC, we’re not aware of what’s taking place in the Congress, in the state. We’re not aware of things taking place locally and nationally because we’re so busy taking care of other things in our own lives.”

Kenty, 48, a Miles College graduate and 1990 Miss Black USA pageant winner, has a background in mass communication and broadcast. “I have a lot of experience in voice overs and voice work,” she said. “I used to do voice overs for commercials.”

Going Live

When it came to going live on Facebook Kenty wanted to make sure she did it the right way. “I didn’t want to be in a car or doing it as a selfie,” she said.

She had the right equipment, a microphone, videographers and proper lighting. Her first show, on Oct. 3, 2016, centered on the Birmingham Police Department.

“We wanted to know their viewpoint, going out on the beat with people who don’t trust you to protect them.”

Kenty, 48, received a lot of requests about doing more live videos and began going to more events and programs. Those events included the annual anniversary of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, a visit to Morris Brown College, the Historically Black College and Universities in Atlanta, and talking with the cast of BET’s original series, The Quad. Her team now averages 2,000 viewers for their shows.

“It morphed into something and people started reaching out to us,” Kenty said. “There are people now in different states who listen in. The status of the show outgrew us. We have interns who really help. We have people from University of Alabama, UAB and Miles College. We couldn’t run it without them. They do video, social media, marketing, editing. They are amazing help.”

TLR has also had its share of celebrities “step inside the Ladiez Room.”

“We’ve had [comedians] Faizon Love, Sinbad, Earthquake, [radio personality] Tom Joyner and R&B group After 7” all within 14 months, she said. The next step is to use YouTube to grow the market, Kenty said.

The show has not lost its focus on local and national issues. TLR has a weekly segment, Eyez on D.C., where a political analyst talks about Capitol Hill.

“My goal is to . . . educate people on what’s going on early enough so they can contact their local congressman, senators to voice their opinion. You need to utilize the people you put in the office.”

Another segment, “Strutting in the Kitchen”, has local chefs, and wellness coaches talk about living a healthy life.

All of this is in addition to her business, Divine Images Finishing Institute, LLC which consults and helps small businesses with their branding and marketing.

Getting Started

Kenty, originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina, first started in radio at 17 years old when she was a contestant in the 1990 Miss Black USA pageant after graduating from high school, and went on a radio show with her fellow contestants to do voiceover work.

“The program director said, ‘hey I need to talk to you afterwards,’” she said. “He said, ‘you have something, and I need you to come back and do an interview.’ I was 17, so I was like, ‘what?’ I came back and they hired me. They trained me how to speak on the radio. I would fill in for people and do voiceovers for commercials. Out of that I was able to host a [television] talk show for years for teenagers, called Synergy. It became well-known in the upstate part of South Carolina.”

Kenty first entered beauty pageants to help make money so she could go to school. Her parents could not afford to send her to college, and she considered herself an average student.

“I just wanted to get out,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t get an academic or athletic scholarship. I thought about what I could do. I could sing, I could speak well, I had great posture and poise, so I said ‘let me try this pageant thing and see what happens.’”

Kenty would do pageants and some she would win, but whatever money she received, she put towards college.

“I had a mentor at the time, who passed away the year I won,” she said. “I had to go to her etiquette school every single day for a year. I was trained by the best. She called the national organization and said ‘I have this girl who is going to take the crown.’ She worked hard to get me there.”

That year the pageant was set in Birmingham and the prize was a partial scholarship for the winner.

“After I won, the Miles College president changed the scholarship from partial to a full ride,” she said.

After met her husband, Ernest, at Miles and they had three children, two sons in college and a daughter in middle school daughter – Ernest Josiah, 20; Matthew Payton, 18; Taylore Rae, 13. They now live in Birmingham.

“Communications has always been a part of me,”Kenty said. “After getting married and having children, I slowed down, but I still did voiceovers. I was still in the game, but not how I would have liked to be. Since that time technology has changed.”

“I don’t have to be at a local television station to do a show,” said Kenty, who has a studio in her house. “I can do what they do, and just as good.”

To see shows from TLR, visit the www.facebook.com/theladiezroomwithclarissa.