Welcome to Work It!, a new interview series on MsBehaved featuring fascinating folks who work outside the traditional 9-5, to amuse, inspire, and light a fire under your butt to start pursuing the career of your dreams.
Our first installment features Kenna King, a woman I met at the Moral Panics of Sexuality Conference at Arizona State University last fall. She gave an amazing presentation about a day she spent walking around the mall with a giant fake blood stain on the crotch of her pants, as a social experiment examining menstrual panic. After the conference, Kenna took me to a lesbian Country and Western bar, where she taught me how to two step and told me about her work as a promotional model and hairless cat breeder. She’s a one of a kind dame who doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks, and that’s what I love about her!
Name: Kenna King
Location: Phoenix AZ
What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?
I currently am a full time student at ASU, I work part time as a promotional model for Sway events and Bud Light, and I breed hairless Elf Cats. I have been modeling for about a year and a half with Sway events and I have been breeding cats for three years.
What was your first job?
I was a barista in at Seattle’s Best Coffee.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
“Weird” is such a subjective term! I think my hairless cats really surprise people because they’re just so unexpected.
What led to you pursuing your current work?
As far as the modeling, I was approached by a man in a popular lesbian bar. He asked me to send a photo for consideration, and I did it right there on my phone. The next day I got an email saying that I was a finalist for a modeling competition. I competed in a pageant and ended up winning a modeling contract. The company liked me and ended up keeping me on.
With the cats I think it was a mix of things. I was interested in the breed and I ended up contacting a breeder who was going out of business. She ended up mentoring me and I started breeding Sphynx. She liked me and ended up giving me my foundry Elf Cat Apollo, and because of her I connected with the founder of the breed and she started mentoring me. I fell in love with breeding and now I can’t imagine my life without my cats!
What do you love about what you do? What do you hate?
With the modeling I love all of the pretty pictures that are professionally edited, although sometimes they make me feel like a fake. I wish I looked as good as I do in my print work! (She does! -Bianca)
I love kittens and I am always really excited about new babies and sharing them with pet owners. Theres something really special about hearing about how much people love the animals I put so much time and love into. The hardest part by far is losing kittens. I do everything that I can to keep kittens alive which sometimes means hand feeding them and giving them fluids. Its always the ones that I have spent the most time with trying to save that end up not making it, and its devastating for me every time. I often have to have someone else remove the body because I am too distraught to do it myself.
I breed Elf Cats, which are similar to Sphynx. They are hairless but have been outcrossed to American Curls.
You also study Women’s Studies at Arizona State University, and are a feminist intellectual, which people (including myself) might not expect based on your appearance. Have you experienced any challenges participating in feminist and LGBT communities as someone who often presents as highly feminine?
I am actually a Psychology major and Women’s Studies minor. You know it’s funny, within the gay community I have received quite a bit of negativity for being so feminine, but within the feminist communities I participate in, it’s been really easy. I will show up to classes and events in heels, red lipstick and pushup bras one day, and another day I’ll be wearing men’s clothes. No one ever seems surprised or offended by it, although I’ve been warmly reminded of how strange I am.
What do you like to do in your free time for fun?
I love to dance! I spend a lot of time at Cash Inn Country, a local lesbian country bar, where two-step and line dance. I also love playing computer games like world of warcraft, and reading sci-fi and fantasy novels.
Wow, thank you! My philosophy is that when it comes to style, there is absolutely no reason to commit! I love play with radically different styles and bright colors. Im also inspired by combining men and women’s clothing to create dramatic contrast. I love brightly colored bras and have one in almost every neon color, and I am a HUGE fan of fake eyelashes.
What are some of the most memorable moments with your jobs and school?
I participated in the Moral Panics of Sexuality Conference last fall, where I wore white pants that appeared to be drastically stained with menstrual blood around a popular mall. There are no words to describe the panic that incurred!
What triumphs and challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur, and what advice would you give to other women hoping to start their own business?
I think that a lot of people have a hard time with me being a young, attractive woman who breeds cats. There’s an assumption that most cat breeders are old ladies. I also have had a difficult time dealing with feeling objectified by other women in the same contexts that are typically reserved for men. My biggest advice would be to focus on the things that matter to you, and to do your best to ignore the expectations of others. People will try and regulate your behavior and encourage you not to take risks and to conform to societal expectations, but thats always about them, and never truly about you.
What future projects do you have planned, and what are your long term goals?
When I graduate from ASU, I want to get my PhD in clinical psychology and continue being a crazy line dancing cat lady.
Do you know someone you think should be featured for the Work It! series? Email Bianca.