with Kesha Monk
Anne and new special guest co-host Kesha Monk kick off the Entrepreneur Hustle series of episodes by talking about the power of intention, the importance of community, and the art of hustling to make your VO dreams come true. Kesha’s impressive radio career and family ties to music royalty did not give her instant success in voice overs. Hard work and determination have always been two of Kesha’s top motivators. Showing people that she could do anything she set her mind to even if they thought she couldn’t is a delightful bonus of her success. Listen in as these two friends, and respected colleagues talk about what drives them, never giving up, gratitude, and how support from the VO community inspires growth.
Kesha Monk is described as a woman who is a young, spirited “go-getter.” Kesha Monk is a phenomenal radio personality, instrumentalist and voiceover talent. Kesha Monk has been wowing people with her voice for over 25 years. She has voiced projects for brands such as: McDonald’s, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Coca-Cola, Dunkin Donuts & more. Additionally, she is the current live announcer for the Soul Train Awards aired on BET. Kesha’s professional career began as a radio personality in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her talent took her to many cities across the country including major markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago & Boston. Additionally, she was the co-host of a syndicated countdown show with Randy Jackson of American Idol fame. The show ran for 5 years and aired in 50 US cities and internationally in Japan and Kenya. After 20 years in radio, her career path shifted after a devastating cancer diagnosis. During a chemotherapy break, Kesha decided to enter a contest that was awarding a hefty voiceover contract. Coincidentally, her actual audition was a script that included the role of a cancer patient. Because cancer was her reality, that audition got her in the door of a reputable talent agency and catapulted her into the world of voiceover.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Trying new things that you aren’t sure you are good at might lead you to unexpected success
If people tell you you can’t do something, let that be your motivation
Knowing how to effectively use research tools can help build your path to success
Manifesting and hyper-focusing on your goals helps you build success
When you find your passion, you know it. It instinctively hits you, and nothing can stop you
Unexpected life obstacles, even illnesses, can cause you to refocus your life and choose a new career
Touching people emotionally with your reads increases your chance of booking any given job and finding success in the industry
We are never at the “top” of VO. There is always more to learn. We can continue to grow and evolve
Connecting with others in the voiceover community can help motivate you to have success
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Recorded on ipDTL
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with a very, very special guest co-host, which I am so excited to introduce you guys to. Good friend, colleague, we’ve known each other for going on — we’re just trying to figure out how long we’ve known each other, going on six years at least — my awesome friend Kesha Monk. Kesha, thanks so much!
Kesha: Anne, I’m so honored to share the space with you. Thanks for inviting me on. This is great.
Anne: Oh my goodness, honored is, is, gosh, I can’t even say the word. Kesha, I have been following you on your journey for years in voiceover, and you have just made leaps and bounds of success. And I know that when I first met you, I mean we clicked, and I knew back then that there was nothing that was gonna stop you. And I am so happy to see that today, and you’re still not stoppable.
Anne: So —
Kesha: Well, thank you.
Anne: You’re welcome. I thought it’d be great to talk about your journey because it’s so inspirational to me and motivational, and I know that you have a long history in radio. I mean, over, what, 20 years?
Kesha: Yeah, over 20 years. Telling my age, right?
Anne: [laughs] Starting off as a personality in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then somehow got yourself into some pretty major markets, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston are just a couple of those, those markets. [laughs]
Kesha: Yes, little tiny cities.
Anne: Little tiny cities.
Anne: And just an incredible career in radio, and I think that that probably will shed some light as to how, what that did for you to help you succeed in your career in voiceover. And I know that, you know, working as entrepreneurs as we do, it’s super important to have that motivation. So tell us a little bit about, tell us a little bit about your radio career and how you were able to kind of work your way up into those major markets.
Kesha: Sure, no problem. Well, it’s an interesting story. I”ll need to preface it by saying that I am a music lover. Music literally flows through my veins. My great-uncle was the great Thelonious Monk jazz pianist.
Anne: Oh yes.
Kesha: My mom and dad both sang professionally as gospel artists. They’ve been all over the world, and as soon as I came out of the womb, they started, you know, making sure that I could learn how to read music and sing. I can play the piano and bassoon and violin.
Anne: Oh my gosh!
Kesha: I played — yeah.
Anne: Bassoon! I was getting all excited because I was gonna say I play piano too, Kesha! I don’t know if you ever knew that —
Anne: I do!
Kesha: I did not know that! Get out!
Anne: Yes, I love piano —
Kesha: Why didn’t you tell me that?
Anne: Absolutely — but then you said bassoon, and I thought, well now, that’s pretty interesting.
Kesha: [laughs] Absolutely.
Anne: I love that.
Kesha: Well, I went to the high school of music and art, the world renowned music and art, you know, the “Fame” school in New York City?
Anne: Oh yes, yes, absolutely! Debbie Allen.
Kesha: It had a lot of — yes, exactly. “Remember my name!”
Kesha: Yeah, so it’s like, you know, a lot of people, you know, they audition to get into the school. And there are a lot of people who play piano, so you can’t have all these piano players —
Kesha: — once you’ve been accepted, so they actually give you a choice of another instrument that you want, you know, may wanted to — bassoon, I’m like, ehhh I don’t even know what that is! But I’ll learn. And I really became good at it. Like I, you know, I started playing in like citywide bands and orchestras, and trust me, I’m probably one of — yeah, go ahead.
Anne: Do you still play?
Kesha: I don’t. But the thing is it’s almost like riding a bike. I’m sure if I picked it up, I’d be able to get right back into it. So long story somewhat short, you know, I was a music lover, music enthusiast all my life. And when I got to college, I thought that I was going to be a teacher. And once I discovered that I wasn’t going to be a teacher, I kind of wandered up to the radio station one day. And I was like, that’s it! I can take my love for music and kind of intertwine it in like a radio career. Like I can talk and you know, play music, and this would be great. And a lot of humps and bumps along the way. People said that I didn’t have the voice, I didn’t have you know, the spirit to do it. And that kind of propelled me to say, “hey, I’m gonna, I’m gonna show you!”
Anne: So they said no, you can’t do this. And you said mmm… [laughs]
Kesha: Girl, let me tell you. I started out working at a public radio which is basically a volunteer position. I got fired from that radio station. I don’t even remember why, but I’ve just always — you know, I guess I’ve been honed to deal with adversity. I’ve been fired, I’ve been, you know, told what I couldn’t do, I’ve been told I wasn’t cute enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t whatever. You know, fast forward, I just kind of like slowly got into — I went from public radio, and then I did AM radio, and then I did commercial radio, and then I said you know what? I want to be able to do this full-time. I went to Pittsburgh, and then I went to New York, and I worked with Isaac Hays —
Anne: But what did —
Kesha: — and… yeah…
Anne: But what — ok, North Carolina, and then Pittsburgh and New York. That’s just such a jump. That couldn’t have happened easily. How did you, how did you advance to that major market?
Kesha: Well, to be completely honest with you, I got pregnant. I think I was about, I don’t know how old I was, but anyway, I ended up being a single parent. And I think that that propelled me to —
Anne: Oh yeah.
Kesha: — say you know what? I have this baby, and I have got to make it. I have got to be super successful. I’ve got to raise this child in the environment that I, you know, would be great for her. That propelled me. And I lost a lot of friends. They couldn’t understand, you know, this level of determination. Some people would think I was obsessed, but I just did a lot of research. This was when the Internet really wasn’t a thing, but I knew how to utilize it and to research, and you know, I learned on my own basically that the larger the city, the more people were in the market, the more money you could possibly make. And so I put my eyes on New York. Now I am a native New Yorker. How — you know, people think “you’re from New York! You’d be able to work until —“ but no! It’s very competitive. You know, radio —
Anne: Oh goodness.
Kesha: Yeah, extremely —
Anne: And I grew up in New York listening to the radio, so I know! [laughs]
Kesha: Did you really?
Anne: I’m originally from New York. Not New York City but New York State.
Anne: Yeah, then lived in New Jersey for about 23 years, so yeah, I grew up listening to the radio, and it was just, it was my think that I loved to do. However I never got into radio personally. But I love how, I love how you, when you knew it, you knew it. You walked into the radio station, you’re like, this is it! I remember in college when I walked into like — because college to me, I was “what should I do?” I was you know, everybody told me to go and be an engineer, which I started doing in college. But I walked into a room where there was — it wasn’t really engineering — well, it was engineering but it was also computers and it was 3D visualization. I went, ohh! Now that’s cool. And it hit me, and I did that and loved it for awhile. I love how you kind of went with your instinct and knew it. And then nothing could stop you, once you had that focus.
Kesha: Yeah, and you know what, Anne, to be completely honest with you, that’s kind of like how I started. You know, this is it, this is what I want to do. But then my desire to really want to be successful, it really intensified at one point. Because after awhile, as I’m looking back, I realize that whatever I wanted to do, wherever I wanted to go, I just made up in my mind, oh yeah, I definitely want to work at KKBT in Los Angeles. Ok, I’m tired of them. I want to go to Chicago WGCI. I told myself, this is what I want. This is what I will get. Watch me. And then it happened like that!
Anne: I remember with my girlfriend in college and just saying, look. Whatever we want [laughs] we’re going to get what we want when we want it, and we would set our sights on it and just super like hyper focus on it, and there’s a lot to be said for that manifesting, focusing. It really drives everything that you do, and your mental state, and all the things to get you to where you need to be.
Kesha: Absolutely. Manifestation. I promise you no exaggeration. Every single radio station that I have wanted to work at, I managed to kill the noise. I’ve managed to separate myself from the madness of “you can’t do that. You’ve only been doing this for three years. You can’t work at a major market.” I shut all of that out. I focused, and I was able to manifest every single radio. I’m telling you, every job I’ve ever wanted, I got.
Anne: Love it. Love it.
Kesha: I got. And that’s a promise, no exaggeration. I worked in New York, Los Angeles. I worked in Chicago, Boston, and I even managed to get a syndicated deal with Randy Jackson from American Idol when he was at the height of his success on that American Idol stuff. We had a countdown show that aired, you know, internationally. It was awesome. It was really, really awesome. I’ve been blessed.
Anne: So I only imagine that this has propelled you in all aspects of your career, from radio now into voiceover. So I’d love to hear about how you got into voiceover, because I have heard a little bit about that, and it’s a really fascinating story.
Kesha: It is kind of crazy. So let’s see. It’s 2012 and I’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer. And I am sick, sick, sick. Like I literally thought that it was over for me, like I was gonna die. I’ve been experiencing a lot of abdominal pain, and I was misdiagnosed for like eight months. They kept telling me “you just need to eat more fiber, just eat more spinach, you’ll be fine.” Meanwhile there’s this tumor growing inside of me that’s literally cutting off my air supply. And finally when they discovered it, it was stage three. And I did, you know, a bout of chemo, and then the cancer immediately came back, and I was just like hospitalized for like three solid years. It was bad, Anne, where I, you know, lost my ability to walk. Obviously with chemo you lose your hair and your touch and your taste and all that. I just kept having major complications. I kept bleeding out. I had to get a hysterectomy, I ended up having thyroid cancer, and just all this horrible stuff. And you know, I’ve given you a taste of how determined I am when it comes to, you know, hustling and getting things that I want. It makes me shake every time I talk, and I’ve talked about this so much over the past month. It’s so triggering for me, but it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing.
Anne: Yeah, yeah. It’s a good thing. And I want you to know, in so many ways, we are so connected. That was also my year of diagnosis as well.
Anne: And that was before we had met each other, which is so interesting. Like I feel like we are soul sisters in so many ways. But yeah, that, and I think that we could probably have an entire podcast episode about how, how this has helped, how this has actually helped us in a way to be able to, yeah, to be able to get what we want and be where we want, be successful —
Anne: — because we’ve endured, you know. And I’m not, I’m not, certainly not saying there aren’t people out there that haven’t endured. But it really speaks to, you know, I think motivating and inspiring you —
Anne: — to just do all that you can do and make the most of your time, and be the best that you can be. I think that it’s just, in a way, you know, and I say this, like in a way, it is the light at the end of the tunnel or the blessing that comes out of such a thing, that you can really see where your priorities are. I think that that, that probably had a lot to do with it. You are at this… you are sick, sicker than sick, and?
Kesha: Mm-hmm, and I’m at home, and I’m on the computer, and I don’t even know how I came across this. There was this contest, like this nationwide contest that an agency was doing. They were going to be giving away a six-figure contract deal. And to be honest with you, even though I had done radio for all those years, I don’t really think I knew what voiceover really was at the time. The word “voice” kind of jumped up at me. So I’m like “oh, I have a voice. You know, I can do this.” I entered the contest. I think they wanted me to read a couple of lines of a commercial. I recorded it. I sent it in. And then you know, I passed the first round, and then the second round, and then the third round. Again it’s nationwide, and finally I’m at the fifth round, and it’s like the top ten finalists, and I’m, I get flown into [laughs] Virginia Beach, and it’s total American Idol style. Everybody’s with tuxedos and gowns, you know, there’s all these judges, and it’s kind of crazy. And so they hand me this envelope. Of course I didn’t know what was in it. It was the copy that I was supposed to be reading, and you’re supposed to read this copy live in front of all these people. And I rip open the envelope, and I’m looking at the copy, and damn it, it’s a commercial about cancer.
Anne: Oh gee, wow!
Kesha: [laughs] And I’m like, really? I’m kind of shocked, and I’m like, you know. And this is all live. I didn’t have time to let it marinate or anything. I’m literally looking at this, I’m looking at all these people that are in the room, and I’m nervous, and I’m like, “wow, this is my reality. This should be super easy for me.” And I don’t know if you’ve been able to tell, but I’m very, very emotional. So you know, I look at the copy and I breathe, and I’m soaking the words in, and I’m practicing in my brain for, I don’t know, 30, 45 seconds, and I’m starting to tear up, and then I read the spot. Then after I’m done, I’m looking around and everybody’s in tears. They just don’t understand why I’m crying, but it’s ok if I touched them in the way, in this way. There’s absolutely no way I’m not gonna win this gig. And so they, a couple of hours later, they announced that I did not win. So it’s ok. So — and I wanted this so bad. You know why? Because I couldn’t work in radio anymore. I’m literally on disability, and you know, I’m visualizing me doing this thing, voiceover full-time, $100,000. I was super, super disappointed. and so they rolled me into the bathroom, I’m in a wheelchair and I’m sobbing. Hysterically, like I can’t believe I did not get this gig. I compose myself, we get ready to leave, and the owner of the company, the agency comes up to me. He was like “you know, you were really, really good. We want to offer you a contract anyway.”
Anne: Wow, that’s incredible.
Kesha: And that’s how I got started in voiceover.
Anne: So now then, so then your entrance into voiceover was getting an agent. And so did you immediately start working with this agent, or did you get multiple agents and just start — because I’ve seen you through the past years, and you’ve really I would say in this past year or two have really come into some really awesome gigs that have been very widely [laughs] — the Soul Train awards, I mean just promo, promos for you, commercials that have just been — you’ve exploded, and I think that’s amazing.
Kesha: I really appreciate that, Anne, but in all fairness — I don’t want to act like I don’t know how to accept, you know, a compliment. I’m definitely thankful for that. I still feel though that I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I’m grateful for what I have achieved, but I have so, you know, there are so many different stages and planes to this thing. I’ve only just begun —
Anne: Isn’t there? It’s an evolution.
Kesha: [sings] “We’ve only just begun” —
Anne: But I think that that’s probably a really wonderful way to look at it, because are we ever, you know, are we ever where we can, at the top, where we can’t improve or grow even more? I think that it’s a really great way to look at it. And I consider, you know myself have been in the business for a long, long time too, 12 years going on, and it’s like whoa, I continue to evolve.
Anne: And I continue to grow as an artist and continue to grow as a business. And I think that it is so important. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I would be happy if I didn’t. You know, I do want to say, yes, I’ve seen you’re doing some amazing things now, but again you’ve also worked your butt off, I’m quite sure. Because that was 2012, and we’re now in 2020, right, so we, you know, it’s been a little bit of time where I know that you have probably spent really working your tail off. Tell me a little bit about your day. Like what is it that you do? Are you auditioning all day, are you mark — what’s happening? Are you marketing? What’s going on?
Kesha: Well, to be completely honest with you, I think the pandemic has forced me to really get my butt in order, you know what I’m saying? You know, I’ve always had a recording space at home. Truth be told, I actually just posted a picture of what my very, very first recording space looked like back in 2012. It, I mean, you know, your regular coat closet. There’s nothing wrong — in fact I recorded some national commercials in that coat closet.
Anne: Right? Yep.
Kesha: But I didn’t even have a desk in there. Like it was just, it was hot. I always had to just go in there with my underwear when it was time, you know what I’m saying —
Anne: Cool off session with a fan in between takes.
Kesha: Exactly. People just have no earthly idea. But you know, I, thank God, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve made enough money to truly invest in myself, where I have 1000% treated good space, an excellent microphone. You know, I’ve had more money to receive more coaching and guidance. Like I paid, I can’t remember his name, someone to actually review my recording space. Again we’re in Covid, I can’t have engineers coming through the thing.
Anne: Same with me, yeah.
Kesha: Exactly. You know the deal, right?
Anne: Well, I just got a new studio. How long have I been doing this, you know, and I had a brand-new custom studio built. I’m like ok, it’s about time. I deserve this. You know? I have a couple of mics that I can choose from, but again that’s an investment in my business, but it took me a long time to get there. And it’s so funny because people sometimes think that success is like oh my God, she’s such a success and it happened overnight. We know that that’s never the issue. And I will say that I know that, you know, unfortunately you’ve had some recurrences as well with your health.
Anne: And that could not, that could not have been easy either, because I know with my own, you know, I was diagnosed in 2012. And with my own recovery, and with my own things that go on, and we will talk about this in a future episode, there’s a lot of adjustments you make —
Anne: — in your business. And it affects your performance, it affects, it affects all aspects of your world. [laughs]
Anne: So I think that, to be successful in spite of all that is such a wonderful accomplishment. And it just speaks volumes. And I do want to tell the story, to the, to my listeners, our listeners here, that I, when I met you, and we immediately clicked, I remember meeting you that first year at VO Mastery with Randy in Florida. The following year, I think we decided it was the following year that we met in VO Atlanta, and then at another VO Mastery. And I think by that time, I don’t know, I don’t know what it is, but it’s just, it was an instant connection, and I said to you, “I love those earrings!” And you’re like “oh, here,” and you literally took them out of your ears and handed them to me. Tell you, BOSS listeners out there, this is just who Kesha is. I mean just, what a beautiful, amazing soul.
Anne: I’ve never, I’ve never forgotten that. Just like, no questions asked. Here. You love them, you should have them. And I just, I just love that about you, and I just love your energy. And I just, it just warms my heart to be friends with you and to be able to talk with you for a few episodes. I’m really excited about these episodes coming up.
Kesha: Me too, Anne. But you know, as I think about it, and these are the things that I’m hoping our listeners will really get from listening to this episode — being in voiceover, it’s only 10% talent, ok? Huge chunk of it is hustle. But me personally, I really do attribute my success to being in such a marvelous community. Like I am literally surrounded by greatness. You know, when you have folks like Anne and Randy, and I could go on and on and on, the people in our community, they’re just so giving, that just motivates me to want to succeed. I feel like whenever I do get these great gigs, and I’m able to share them on social media, it’s kind of like saying, well, Anne, you helped with this. Because the way you loved on me, it’s like this is my way of giving back. This is my way of making you proud. So you have a lot to do with where I am today, you know what I’m talk — I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought of it that way.
Anne: Oh my goodness! No!
Kesha: You know what I’m saying? I just feel that you will get what you give. You’ve given me love, and so I want to radiate that 10 times more out to not only, you know, reciprocating that love but everybody that’s listening to this podcast right now. That’s just the way it works for me, and I’m just really, really blessed and really, really grateful.
Anne: Well, thank you so much for that. We are absolutely grateful and blessed to have you. BOSSes out there, I can’t wait for more episodes with this wonderful lady.
Anne: You guys, I’m gonna give a great big shout-out to our sponsor ipDTL. You too can connect and love [laughs] love one another through the wonderful advancements in technology such as ipDTL and can find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys have an amazing week, and we’ll see you next week! Bye!
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.