Kayla Lyons is a God fearing Black woman first before anything. My conversation with her had me shook at times because of how much she exemplifies her spirituality. As a Digital News Anchor for KLTV 7, she has accomplished a lot in her young career. However, no matter how many accolades I tell her that she has, she always reminds me that it wouldn’t be possible without God. He put her in this position and she absolutely deserves it. I talk to Kayla about being a digital news anchor, being a Black woman in the news industry, being honored in East Texas, and much more.
Did you always envision your life and career to be like how it is right now?
Absolutely not! For most of my life, I told myself and I told my parents that I was going to be in the medical field to be a doctor because that was what I wanted to do. I was dead set on it even when I went to college. I was little watching people give birth and my mom would say, “Eww… what are you doing?” It was my dream for real until I got to college and I got a wake up call. I was sitting in chemistry and I thought, “I love biology but I hate chemistry. So how can I be a doctor if I hate a whole part of what I am going to be doing?” I had a literal come to Jesus moment, I called my mom, and I told her, “Mom, I hate this.” She honestly asked me one of the most transformational questions that I’ve ever been asked. She asked me, “If you could do anything in the world where money wasn’t an issue and you can just live your life, what would you do?” I told her that I would love to be on TV. It seemed really cool to me, but it seemed so far-fetched. She stopped and said, “If that’s what you want to do, then do it. Let’s try it. The worst thing that could happen is that you have to go back to school.” I changed my major that day into Marketing.
What made you want to become a digital news anchor/host for KLTV 7?
I was applying for jobs and I applied for an MMJ (Multimedia Journalist) job. I was originally thinking that I was going to be out in the field. The way journalism works traditionally is that you have to go and put in your time as a reporter. So you’re going out, gathering the story, shooting them, and putting them together. After you gather that experience for three to five years, then you can start looking at opportunities to become an anchor. Which means that you don’t go get the stories. You sit in the chair and read the stories that other people put together. It’s kind of like a hierarchy. Anyways, I was applying for a bunch of MMJ jobs and I said a prayer. I said, “God, any door that is not for me, I need you to close it because some look real glittery and You know how I am. I will jump the gun. Let the right door open for me.” By this time, I was already two years into my college experience so I needed to make up for lost time. I had 7 multimedia internships within that time because I had to get experience to make my dreams happen. I was qualified for these positions because I did a lot of internships, but nobody was calling me back. My goal was to have a job secured 6 months before graduation. That was my prayer. After that, month three came around and I said, “Alright, I need to be getting a job here.” Now, we have two months before graduation and I’m confused about what’s going on now.
Eventually, I received an email from KLTV and it was from the Assistant News Director that worked there. I had built a really good relationship with everybody there because that’s what you’re supposed to do. When you have any experience, you’re supposed to build relationships with the people around you. He had heard really good things about me, he asked reporters and anchors about their experiences with me, and everybody gave me a glowing report. They had a job opening for an MMJ and they asked me if I was interested. I contemplated for a bit because I’m from Houston and I’m a city girl. I wasn’t sure about East Texas, but a job is a job. I’ll go for a frickin’ interview. I go to the interview and the boss basically tells me, “Well, we really weren’t considering anyone else for this position.” After he said that, I thought that in my head I was going to get hired as an MMJ. That’s what my contract said. Well, I had started a YouTube channel called Koffee with Kay where I just literally talked about all kinds of crazy stuff going on in my life. It turns out the News Director saw that.
So when I was negotiating my contract, I wanted to make sure I had a clause in my contract that didn’t give up the creative rights to the brand I had built under Koffee with Kay. I told them, “Hey, this is a brainchild I had. I want to make sure that this is still going to be mine as I’m working for you guys.” He told me to send the link to him and he would check it out. He called me back the very next day and said, “Oh my God! I took a look at your YouTube channel. It is phenomenal! We actually have an opening for a Digital News Anchor position because, ironically, the lady that was doing it at the time wanted to switch to a different department. If you want this job, we can test you out as a Digital News Anchor. If all else fails and you suck at it, you can still be an MMJ.” I’m not the type to pass up on an opportunity to at least try something so I was cool with it. Fast forward, I get to the position and I’m excited about it so I called back to follow up because it’s getting close to graduation. I asked him if the position is still going to be mine. He said that they were looking at somebody else that had multiple years of experience in radio. I thought for sure the job was going to be mine. However, I talked to God about it which made me not worry. I’m not going to stress over something that I can’t change.
Anyways, I don’t know what happened to the man that had multiple years of experience. I don’t even know what happened to all the other people that I felt were way more qualified than me. I just know that he called back and he told me, “I don’t know what it is about it, but I think you can do this. I’m going to give you a shot at this job.” Also, keep in mind, the person that accepts this position will have their own eight hour show. Nothing but God. The rest was a wrap. I never worked as an MMJ. I got the chance to be an anchor right out of college. One of the first of three ever in the nation to be a digital news anchor full time. Nobody is doing what we’re doing yet.
As a Black woman in the news industry with everything that is going on, is it difficult not to be biased on a subject such as racism?
Yes, especially as it deals with the Black community. It is difficult to read stories about our people getting shot and killed and you can’t express the hurt that you feel. It is difficult to go to work everyday and hear people talk about how the protesters need to stop and quit. I live in East Texas which is a majority white conservative older area. It is definitely difficult, but I made a decision in my career that I’m going to stand up for what is right. I’m going to say it eloquently, but I’m going to stand up for what is right because God did it. He spoke out against injustices and He got me in this position. If somebody physically tried to take me out, He will provide a way for me to get where I need to go next. That’s where I am right now with all of this. I’m going to speak out about it as a Black woman. I have to live with my truth and my truth is a Black nappy-headed woman.
How important is it for you to make sure that the information that you give on television is accurate?
So important! It’s to the point where I can know something is true, but if I don’t have confirmation from other top sources then I won’t put it out. It diminishes trust as people see that what you are saying is not accurate and I never want to be a place where people don’t trust the information that I’m providing. That is vital and essential to being a journalist.
Are there any challenges that you face as a Black woman in your industry?
Definitely! There have been two big main points that I have experienced in the workforce. One of them is equality especially when it comes to pay. The first challenge I faced was knowing my value and getting my pay to match my worth. As you begin to start your career, you’re just happy for the opportunity and the job because it’s such a competitive field to get into. However, one of the things that God and Patrick Mahomes has taught me is that age in an industry does not matter. If God put you there, then He says that you’re qualified and your worth matters. People got on Patrick Mahomes because of his 500 million dollar contract, but being only 24, he knew his worth and what he brought to the table. He got it in the most humbling way possible. That’s the first thing and the second thing is to be able to be comfortable being a Black woman in my industry. I think that, especially starting out, it is really easy for us to want to imitate the big wings that are in the industry. The way I’m talking to you like this is how I talk to people on a daily basis but then, being on the newscast, feeling like I have to talk differently. It’s definitely something that I had to grow out of. You don’t have to be anybody else. You can have people that you look up to, but you need to create your own version of being a news anchor. A lot of times Black women have trouble with that because we’re told from an early age to put a perm on our hair, don’t love yourself, and that just messes with your confidence and self-esteem. I would say being comfortable and equality are the biggest things I’ve faced as a Black woman.
You always use your Instagram as a platform to share positive affirmations to your audience. It also seems like you’re using those positive affirmations as reassurance for yourself. Why is that important for you?
Oh, I definitely use them for myself. It’s important for me. Everything I do, I try to be more like Christ. Do I fall short? Absolutely. We all do, but it’s important for me to spread positivity on my timeline. I know how I felt at different stages of my life. I went through feeling inadequate. I went through feeling hopeless. I went through feeling ugly. I went through feeling like nothing was going to change and I was stuck. I went through not being able to sleep at night because of my circumstances and really feeling like God wasn’t there. If we can just give people hope, we can give people tools. If God can speak to somebody through us, then we are using His will. You see a wide variety of things being on social media everyday. You see killings, people acting stupid, images of people shaking their ass, etc. So you see a lot of things and you’re like “Ugh…well, this is getting liked so should I be doing this or should I be doing that?” A quote that one of my friends Nytesia told me was that “Comparison is the killer of self-esteem.” With that being said, I want to be a light in someone’s day. If somebody just needs to hear, “Hey girl, you look cute today. God loves you. Keep killing it. You’re doing great”, then I’m going to give somebody that because I remember when that was all I needed and I didn’t get it.
Around February of this year, you were honored as a Notable Woman of East Texas. What did that moment mean to you?
At that moment, I felt inadequate for a split second because I was sitting in the room with people that were over twice my age. Doctors, lawyers, council women, and powerful people in general. However, God told me, “I put you here because I need you to see the plans that I have for you. I need you to be in this room because one day you are going to make an impact like all of these women are. I need you to see what greatness looks like, be in the room with greatness, and not undermine the gifts I have given you.” There was a point in my career where I knew I was doing good, but I was down on myself. I was being really hard on myself and I didn’t give myself enough credit for what I was doing. God had to bring me out of that and I think sitting in that room just confirmed that God said I was going to be great. He told me the impact that I was going to have. He just needed to show me and He needed me to hear other women’s stories that were before me, so that I knew that I wasn’t the only one. However, that was the most amazing feeling. The biggest honor I had ever received. It was so touching. I loved it.
Any advice for Black women that would want to be in journalism/media/news?
I know that we feel sometimes we have to put on a facade and if we don’t act one way, then we won’t be accepted. If you think about it, all of our lives, we have been the most undermined species. We were exploited, we were abused, we were taken advantage of, we breastfed the people in this country that grew up to hate us, and we nursed our men back to health just to have them do us wrong sometimes.We’re constantly being put down and told by society that the only thing special about us is our bodies. If I could tell Black women one thing, especially Black girls anything, it’s that you need to see yourself how God sees you because you are more valuable than society tells you. Once you know your worth, never lose that because knowing your worth will give you the confidence to speak up in those rooms and sit in those rooms.We need to let other little black girls know that I don’t have to change anything about me to be at the table. I’m at the table because I deserve to be at that table myself. The way I am with all my curls. I’m smart enough and I don’t have to prove anything else to anybody. I deserve to be here because I deserve it and I worked my ass off for it. That is what I would tell Black women.
Follow Kayla Lyons on Instagram.