121: Kenishaa Francis: Window To The Soul: A Singer’s Cross-Cultural Journey Through Pain and Loss
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Kenishaa Francis: Window To The Soul: A Singer’s Cross-Cultural Journey Through Pain and Loss
This is all about learning how to live a good life. That’s our tagline and our mantra is having intention in the tension. Intentionality is what we believe is one of the greatest keys to living a good life and that’s what we’re learning how to do in the process of becoming as an Up and Comer. Thank you for joining our community, being a part of this movement and being a fellow Up and Comer in this journey of life. What we get to do is unpack this process together through solo episodes, through fellowship episodes, which are peer-to-peer conversations and with interviews. I’d love to remind you that the best way to help us out is in three different ways. They each take just a few minutes of your time. Very small amount. The first way is rating and reviewing on iTunes. We’ve got 75. I would love to get up to 100. It’d be so cool. If you could just take a minute to help us out, that would be one of the best ways to help our show and get more people. That’s the goal.
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In this episode, we have Kenishaa Francis. Who is Kenishaa? Kenishaa is an artist, singer, performer, dancer, entertainer, radio host, designer, and therapist residing in Los Angeles, California. She was a finalist of The Stage Season one, a singing reality show in India. She also had her own primetime radio show called Keeping It With Kenishaa on India’s biggest radio station called Indigo 91.9. She represents India with two Latin dancing styles Bachata and Kizomba. She is a therapist and has been practicing cognitive behavioral therapy for several years. She always wanted to give some form of her freely to society and she chose to do that with therapy. That is a little bit about Kenishaa. In this episode, you’re going to get to know a lot about her story. We dive into her background, her childhood and her experiences.
She grew up in Kenya before moving to India and then to America in LA specifically when I got connected with her. She is such a loving person. She has a wonderful heart. She has a hard challenging story, a thought-provoking journey that as experienced immense hardship, pain and loss. Through that all, she has used that to help and bring flourishing to other people’s lives along the way. It’s a fascinating story. It’s a humbling story. We talk about overcoming her childhood adversity. We talk about differences in cultures. She’s lived in three vastly different cultures. We talk about being motivated, earn parental love. We talk about how to use pain for good. She talks about empathizing with others. She gets to share some of her wide-ranging career path and some of her future dreams and goals and so much more.
Kenishaa Francis, welcome.
Thane, thank you for having me.
It’s so great to finally get to do this. Ever since we met, I remember hearing your story. I believe it was in Hollywood in a cafe late at night. I was blown away by the story and the life of Kenishaa. I knew then that it would make for a great interview.
Who would have thought?
There’s always the first time for everything. From what I’ve heard from some people I’ve talked to, there was a fun experience for the first time driving for you. Tell me a little bit about that first experience of driving.
I know who said this to you. I didn’t drive too much before that. Most of my first experiences are with her because she’s the most important person to me. I surprised her with my new car when I got it and I wanted to take her out on a drive and she was frightened. She wanted to get out.
One of the things that I also heard about and very known by everyone that knows you is that you have an intense love affair with dancing.
Who are these people? What are they’ve been saying to you?
What do you love about dancing?
When I first started to understand music and rhythm with my body, the first thing I connected with was dancing, even before I started singing. I felt like actual toxins would release from my body every time I danced. No matter what kind of dance it was, my soul and spirit were ready for it all the time. My best friend Deepthi as well, she’s a dancer. I get to go out dancing a lot more with her and then it just became a part of my routine. At some point, I neglected working out completely because I would dance like a maniac.
It’s a good workout.
Yes, it is. I am always after dancing, no matter what mood I’m in or if I’ve had a tough day or a tough experience. I put on my headphones, dance out for a bit then I’m a new person.
It is such a therapeutic thing. That’s where this whole realm of ecstatic dance is a new therapy that people are discovering. It’s not being discovered. You’ve been there. It’s cool to see the power of dance and how you can be therapeutic. What is your favorite style of dance?
I do love Latin dancing. I love forms of Kizomba, Bachata and Salsa. I also love Bollywood dancing, because when you’re a Bollywood dancing, it’s like the world is coming down. Everyone’s screaming. Your hands are in the oddest places ever. No one cares. Everyone is just enjoying the beat. Sometimes you don’t even know what the singer is saying in the song. It feels home.
I’m a big fan of dance too. I haven’t gotten too much into Bollywood yet, so maybe that’s on the bucket list for me.
I’ve not done a very good job of being a friend of yours or anyone I’ve met in LA right here. I should’ve introduced more Bollywood to you guys.
It’s such a nebulous fray. I think a lot of people in America might just be ignorant. How would you describe Bollywood?You'll never know how strong your God could be in your life when you overcome a struggle. Click To Tweet
Bollywood is love, romance, anger, hatred, fun, dance. Pretty much all emotions that you can think of, exaggerated. Bollywood is all about the music. It’s all about the songs that people make in the industry that is so cheesy, cliché, and vulnerable, but people are still like, “I’m a Bollywood fan.” You guys will experience that if and when you’ll come to visit me in India.
Speaking of India, that is next up for you. We’re going to start with the future. What does the future hold for you?
I’m getting into a super big production. God has upgraded me. It seems a lot more light and fulfilling. I’m going to be producing a musical with one of the biggest publishing boards in India. They’ve been around for 700 years. I’ve worked with them in the past, but this time they’re producing a self-script. Something that would be knowledgeable and that’s got a social message and involves diversity. They wanted me to produce it because I do have a background in musical theater. When I got that call I looked at God and said, “I never know your God. I never know what you can do and what you can’t do in a person’s life.” I’m super grateful because I did not want to go back to India ever since I’ve been in LA. This could change so many things for me.
It is crazy how much one thing can change everything in many ways. We don’t even know that things are on their horizon and radar, and then all of a sudden God just puts it on our plate. It’s remarkable.
That’s what he says, “Why do you have to worry?” I realized this concept. Why am I worried when my God is not worried? He definitely knows what he’s doing with me. If I confirm in a God like that, there is no reason for me to worry because he’s got me this far. He’s got me surviving after so many things that have happened in my life. He’s definitely not going to let me fail.
I think that’s a great way to highlight the fact that faith doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by refinement over a lot of trials and suffering.
You’ll never know how strong your God could be in your life when you overcome a struggle. If he’s going to give your ten struggles, then it’s only because he knows you can overcome that and then your bond with him is only getting that much stronger. I’m grateful for that.
I’d love to dive into some of that. A lot of people want to know and I want to know as well a lot on your perspective with different cultures because you have lived in various cultures. You have a decent understanding of them. I want to start with the struggle side. What was your childhood experience like and when were struggles present in that?
I grew up in Kenya. My mom is from there and my dad is from a city called Bangalore. My experience from that side of life was torturous. I would see people outside of our house killing people because there was definite poverty there and famine for sure. Maybe 20% of the whole population in the country that had jobs. It was super difficult. My granddad was a police officer. We never knew any struggles because he worked for the government and we would have fancy meat all the time. There was good food at home. We grew rice and tomatoes in our backyard. We were blessed all the time, but it was so difficult for me as a child or any of my cousins living in the same house to get out there because it was dangerous.
My school would finish at 1:00 PM, which is not ideal for any school because anything after 3:00 PM was going to be so difficult to exist around. I hated that part because I never had that time of my life where I could get out, play with friends, go to the beach, have a good time, unless my whole family walked out with me for safety. Having said that, I grew up in a Catholic family. My grandparents were staunch Catholics. They had a ton of rules, a ton of regulations that were so drilled in us that most of my life all of my understanding or my behavior came from there for a very long time. That was definitely something that I remember from my childhood much until we moved to India where my dad lived and then things changed.
What age did you move to India?
Around twelve years old.
Growing up in Kenya, did that feel like home for you? Was that all that you knew in that sense?
At that point in time, yes. I felt like there was no going away from all of this. If I grew older here, I’m either going to be killed, raped or eaten someday by someone if I went out by myself. That feel was always in us, much until my dad one day just landed in Kenya and he said, “No, you can’t do this to my child.” Both my parents made a decision to move to India though we know nothing about the culture. We didn’t know what we were getting into. It was difficult because when I was in Kenya, I used to speak like one of them. I used to talk like that because I never understood anything else. It was difficult for me to make peace with people in India when I moved because it’s a completely different dialect.
Until then, I’ve never met my dad’s side of the family. I don’t know how they felt about us. Much of my surprise, I didn’t know the story of my birth for a very long time. This is an interesting story. They got married and then they didn’t have me for sixteen years. Everyone in India considered me to be like a miracle child, but they also were like, “She’s born in one of the richest families.” My dad owned half of the city we lived in at that time. There was jealousy. There were conflicts about why I needed to be the only heir to so many things. In front of us, people would be nice and bubbly because my dad’s always helping people out, but my mom and I would always hear things about us. That was the most difficult part of my life to make peace with how someone can be a different face to you and a million other faces behind you. That was when human reality with humans hit me because until then, it never made sense that it was even possible.
I know I’ve heard a little bit before, but I’d be curious to know a little bit more about your parents’ story on that. Because when we were talking, I remember you say, “My parents had a love marriage.” I was like, “I’ve never heard it called that.” That’s a specific thing and there’s a difference, so I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about what a love marriage is about.
In India, you got three different kinds of relationships. One is the arranged marriage where your family or your peers get two people to meet and they decide who you’re getting married to, no questions asked. You get a few hours with them to see if you’re vibing with them. They pick a date and they get you married and then you start your life no matter how and what that person is going to be. The other one is the love marriage where people fall in love but without the knowledge of their parents or people in their family. They weighed or worked up years together to get their families convinced that they were in love with someone to make that relationship work. Yes, India’s not that backward. A lot of people can find a love marriage, parents always saying, “Don’t put this on us, you go find your own person a let us know. We make sure we counsel you towards having the right person in your life.”
Back then it was a strict no. I remember one of my cousin’s brothers, my big mamma’s oldest son. He was the first one to fall in love in the family. He went thirteen years without getting married to anybody else because he fought every single day that he wanted to marry the love of his life. Nobody agreed to it. My mom was his godmother, she was always standing up for him, always trying to make this work, but it took him thirteen years. The third kind is where people live in with each other without the knowledge of anybody because if people found out, you’re dead.
It was a taboo back then with my parents. It’s the greatest love story. I’m always going to be proud of that. Hence, I will not believe in divorce. My dad was a businessman. He worked with a couple of furniture and he had a lot of real estate so he was super-rich. He owned 40 buildings in the city and every building would have 50 or 60 apartments. My mom, when she was seventeen, she came to India on a charity project because of all the famine that’s going on in Kenya. They wanted money from different countries. India even back then was known to be a globally rich country at the time. She was on stage doing her presentation about Kenya and how they need what they need.
My dad’s a part of the audience trying to write all the checks possible for that day. The first time he saw her, he fell in love and he decided that this was it. When she got off stage, he asked her out and she hadn’t seen love like that. Men tend to be a little distant from you in Kenya because they want to respect your space or you’re not allowed to be in the same room as your dad is or your brothers are. It was always like that. They met each other and had moments for about six months when she was there. He surprised her by getting on the same flight as her back to Kenya.
When she was going home, he went and met my granddad, asks for the hand in marriage and the rest is history. They lived a beautiful life. I’ve never seen my parents eat their dinner apart from each other. My mom would serve her complete plate for her at dinner, and then from that, she would give half to my dad. That was a practice they always had at home. I was always the third wheel in the house always. Sometimes when they wanted to go out and dates, I’d be like, “Ma, can I come with you guys?” She liked, “Can you please not be the third date, this is my time?” They loved each other way too much.
We have a shift to India. At that point, did you speak any other language other than Swahili?
English as well. I went to St. John Bosco School. My English was okay, but not refined.
You’re in a completely foreign environment at 11.5 years old and trying to learn a new language, dialect and culture. That has to have been a challenging experience.
It’s very challenging. What I remember of that experience was before we even got to India my mom would always say, “Never tell anyone that you were from here,” because racism is just about getting better in India. I know of a lot of places where African American people are being killed and in India as well. We had to be hush about it until we can find people who can make peace with that decision. When I first moved there, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone where we were from, who we were. We tell people that we were from Dubai just to get with people. I was going into a new school with a completely different speech or else people were going to mock me.
I had to go through speech therapy to get my English to British English. That’s the English that most common schools in India use, which took me a while and I also practiced behavior. India is still orthodox in many ways. You can’t do the stuff that you do anywhere else in the world in India. Sometimes when you’re walking on the street with your head held high, they would consider it wrong. They’d be like, “She’s a girl child. How does she like walking with her head up? She supposed to put her head down and walk on the streets.” If you lived in a society, you’re not allowed to look at the boys that were passing by. Boys around the society had all the rights to walk about and do whatever they wanted at any given point.
The girl child is not supposed to leave our houses after 5:00 PM. If dad got to know about it, he would be super upset and he would belt you out. That part of it was definitely difficult for me. I was pretty strong as a child. I think I always had God in me. I always knew that there was this supernatural big man in my life. All I needed to do was stick with him and I don’t need to worry about anyone else. One day I walked up to my parents and said, “I don’t understand what’s going on in this place. Why can’t I get out there when I finish school and play with my friends in the park? I’m still a baby and I don’t want to be sitting at home and watching TV. I don’t like watching TV.”
My mom explained to me at the whole thing and then my dad goes, “Would you promise me that you’re never going to look at another guy or make boyfriends at this age?” I said, “Dad, why would you ask me something like that? I adore you guys. If I’m going to fall in love, even before the guy knows, you are going to know it. What is the whole thing?” My parents and I, I’m grateful we established trust between us way long time with my life. Until the day they left me, they never once questioned me, who was I with? Why was I coming that late? Did I do something wrong? I think that’s the power of trust and love.
That’s a hard thing to do I can imagine as a parent, but it’s so empowering when that happened. What was the thing that you got to miss the most from your time in Kenya when you moved to India as a kid?
The different animals that I’ve eaten, the wild boar, the alligator, and the giraffe. They were such amazing tasting meat. It was a huge shift in India because all we got was chicken and lamb when we moved. I was like, “What? That’s not food.” Now my palette is more like, “I don’t need that thing, just salads. I’m a good child.”
What was the next season of your life there? When did India finally become home for you?
In my sixth grade, we had a singing competition in school and I happened to bag the first place, which I didn’t know I like singing. I became famous in school and everyone wanted to know who Kenishaa was. Everything else faded and I became a part of Indian culture and the people. I’ve always loved having friends. It also comes from me being the only child. You give a little extra to all the people who want to be a part of your life. I went to a good school back in India called the Sacred Heart Girls High School. It’s a Catholic school that promoted much of the beliefs. I got a scholarship into one of the most happening colleges in India as they may say, Mount Carmel. I’ve been famous.
What is the difference between the English you grew up speaking versus having to switch to British? What were the things that were hard on making that transition?
It’s just the vowel sounds because in Kenya you’re more O’s with your mouth. In India or British, your mouth is more wide open. If I had to talk to you in Kenya, I would not talk to you like anything else apart from covering my mouth. You got to understand what I’m saying because that’s how I would speak. When I came to India, it’s different. When I would go to the grocery store to buy a pack of milk in the mornings for mom, first of all, in the local grocery stores, they don’t even speak English. They only speak the multiple dialects that India has.We can never compare another person's experience with ours. Click To Tweet
I would go to them and say, “Can I have a box of milk?” They would be like, “What? Who is she? Where did she fall from? Go away.” I would be so afraid because I wasn’t making sense to anybody. The speech therapy was super hard for me. My teacher hated me for the first three months. She always thought I’m never going to speak proper English until much later. I had to watch a lot of American movies, a lot of English movies in general to understand the A, E, I, O, U. U was never U for me. I don’t even know how I sound anymore. I know all my accent is. Every time people talk to me, they’re like, “You have an accent, but nobody knows where that’s from.”
You could be from five different places.
Yes, it’s a combination of it because then I studied in London for four years. That is completely different as well.
You said that as an only child you’re always giving more to everyone else. Talk to me more about that experience because I think that is probably more common than not. What was unique about being an own child in that sense that naturally led to you wanting to give more to other people?
I don’t know what was unique about being an only child because I hated it. I still hate it. The fact that I was born pretty late to my parents and they come from a Catholic background, they always prayed to different saints and angels that we want to be blessed with a child. Maybe I think two years before I was born, my mom committed her life to the church. She said, “Jesus, if you gave me a baby, for the rest of my life, I’m going to serve you in church,” which is great but it was bad for me. It was not fair to me. My dad was always off for work. He would leave at 7:00 AM, come back at 9:00 or 10:00.
I’m a child. I’m going to school. I go to bed at 8:00 and I never see my dad, or mostly in the mornings. My mom spent all her life in the church. She would wake up, send me to school and then I would only see her back maybe a few minutes before my dad came back home. As a growing child, when I came back home, I came back to an empty house every single day. I would have my kitchen set at home, no friends trying to play with my own kitchen. I would mono act. I would be 100 different characters by myself just to be able to kill that time. I remember my neighbors bringing me up, feeding me and stuff. I never had my parents do much as a growing child.
I also think because, at some point, poverty struck us because my parents were not careful with everything that they had made. My dad used to be an alcoholic. One day we lost everything we had. We went from eating with a platinum spoon to having one meal a day for the whole family. Sometimes my mother won’t eat even to feed me. It was very difficult to understand why they went through that. The one thing that would have kept us a lot stronger at the time was if we stuck together, which didn’t happen. I always found hope or love in my neighbors or people I met in the park, the kids I met in the park. When I would go to school, I would want to be a part of every group. Your class would have multiple groups, multiple friends.
I wanted to be able to have everyone and I tried so hard. Just from school, I have 45 certificates with the talent club in school. Because I would want to do everything only because I wanted to make friends. Eventually, I got interested in all of them, but at that time it was just to find friendship. When I did make friends, I would bring them sweets every day. I would save my pocket money and buy them candy bars or snack packets every other day just to make them feel like, “I’m such a good friend.” That pattern in me still exists. If I do have friends around, whenever I’m traveling, I’m always buying stuff for them. I’m always thinking about them because they mean a lot to me than family or anything else.
It’s interesting to think about that experience of coming home as a childlike, “I’m going to create a bunch of characters because I’m here by myself.” In one sense, I’m sure that that was a catalyst for creativity you use, even the different gifts and talents you have. As you shared how it led to your commitment and your emphasis on friendships and relationships pouring out, which is a beautiful blessing, but how hard is that to go through as a kid?
It was the toughest times. I cried myself to sleep pretty much every other night. I don’t remember a good night where I’ve been like, “It was such a good day. My parents and I had a great time.” That never happened through my school time. In fact, I remember one particular incident. When my dad lost all the wealth that he had.
How old you then?
I think I was twelve years old. That was one of the biggest reasons why we came back because my dad pretty much lost everything and he needed my mum by his side. There’s this stupid, most idiotic belief in India. They believe in bad omens. It doesn’t even make sense. Just because I was this child who was the heir to all the property that my dad had, my dad’s side of the family was definitely jealous. When he lost it, which was because of him being an alcoholic, they turned it around on me. They said, “She’s a girl child.” Because a lot of people in India back then never wanted to have a goal child. Everyone wanted to have boy children, but it’s better. Because of that, there was so much hatred and they would all tell my parents, “Maybe because Kenishaa was born, you lost everything. She took your luck away.
She took everything away.” I think my parents come to it at some point. I remember during my tenth grade, I was up for five awards in school on my graduation day. I was up for the singer. We had a Nightingale award. We had what was called “The Michael Jackson Award,” for the best dancer. You had the best writer award, the best student and something else that has to do with acting. I was up as a nominee for all of this and I didn’t care about it. All I prayed that night before my graduation day was, I said, “God, my mom’s coming for graduation. My dad didn’t have the time to come, but I just want my mom to feel like I made her proud and not feel like I’m the bad omen. I want her to know that I am going to get out of school and make them rich. I’m going to do everything it takes to make them happy and living a peaceful life.”
I left it at that and went to school the next day. My mom was being herself. If for some reason everyone was treating my mom super special when she walked in like she was the most important person in the room. It didn’t make sense, but after all the gala thing happened on stage, we came to awards. My teachers were announcing the awards and it started with all the smaller ones and I was like, “It’s fine. I was never up for any of that and stuff.” When it came up to all of these awards, I got all of them one at a time. It was scary because I didn’t expect that I was going to get all those five awards. The last one was the best student of the year.
For that, they didn’t invite me. They invited my mom up on stage to give it to her because I got all the other four awards and I crying my heart out. I couldn’t be happier that I was serving a magnanimous God like that because I as a child set the smallest prayer the previous night. When my mom went up on stage, she wasn’t happy for me. She was like, “I know she must be good at all of this. How does it matter? It’s not going to bring me the bucket home.” I think at some point it became too much around how much is she going to be able to help us with in terms of money or finances. I wish it wasn’t that way.
How do you process that in tenth grade? How did you get through that? Because that is crushing.
I think tears were my best friend at the time. For a very long time in my life, I pretty much cried every day. I also remember before I went to London once, I pray to God and I said, “Are you ever going to stop the tears from my eyes?” I feel like I’m a living waterfall. Every time something happens, I’m always crying and because I don’t know what to do. I’m so helpless. I wouldn’t lie. When I was seven years old, I had a personal encounter with God and I felt like I didn’t need anyone else apart from him. He made me stronger. He was always with me. There was always a sense of calmness or stillness in me that reminded me that I needed to concentrate on him and he’s going to have my back.
I would always pray, “God, you’ve given me parents, but they’re not parents. They’re not with me. They don’t love me. They don’t like me. It’s always been you.” At some point, I was dreading my life. I was like, “Is this what my life going to be? Who am I going to have in my life?” Even if I fell in love with someone, what am I going to tell him? That my parents don’t love me? None of that ever fancied me. All I did until I lost my parents every single day was striving to get them to be with me for who I was. That’s it. I didn’t want anything else apart from my parents.
After receiving all of your awards, at the end of your high school, you went to a school to be at.
It’s the hardest college in India. It was called Mount Carmel College. All the hot women went there. All the pretty ones went there. It was an all-girls college. All the ladies in the city called Bangalore would die to get a seat in that college. I did not get a seat in that college because of my education. Mount Carmel College is always known to have a talent quota. If you are good at something, singing or dancing and you have something to prove it, then you’ve got that seat. I had 45 certificates. My name came out on the first list of the college and I was like, “Am I going to go to Mount Carmel College?” If you named that college to people you knew in India, they’d be like, “Really?” There’s this phrase called “Matcha,” which I want to introduce you to.
When you say dude here, in India we say matcha. There are a lot of here boy matchas standing outside the college and they’re always waiting for our gates to open. It’s like violins are playing in the background, pretty girls walking out of the gate and all the men are like, “Which one do I get?” I went to a super fancy college but didn’t get to complete it because I got married, but I live my life being pretty for one and a half years in that college, my prettiest life ever. I would get free chocolates, free Coke, fruit juices, whatever. If I looked at a guy and said “Hi.” He would go like, “What do you feel like eating?” I’d say, “A cheesecake?” I would have whatever I needed. I never needed to spend on it. That’s the power of MCC.
What this brought up is the music side. When did you initially fall in love with music? Was it during those high school years when you first found it through trying to find friends or what was that like?
My music gateway was always my mom. She sang like an angel. She was the angel. Both of my parents sang. My mom sang in the choir for the church. My dad’s also in the choir, but different dialects, so we were always in church. When she was home, she always loved singing for my dad. I don’t know if my dad fell more in love with it or me. Both dancing and singing come from my mom. She always said, “If you want to be honest about how you feel towards a person or do justice in a relationship, just sing to them and you’ll be fine.” I took that up and she taught me most of my singing in my earlier years before I went to do my education at the London College of Music.
She gave me the soul I needed in my music. This is one thing that I’m grateful for, whether she liked me or not as a child when I was growing up, every competition I was a part of. Every stage I’ve taken, the first seat will have my mom. I always only sang to her. Until the biggest things in my life until she left, she would never miss a show of mine or a performance of mine. I always felt that my mom was watching me and my mom validated what I did, I didn’t need anything else. It is the best and I’ve missed that many years, her voice saying, “My baby, you were so good.”
I relate to that too because for me, in golf, it was my arena. My dad was that for me. I knew that regardless of how excited or upset I was about the results or whatever it may be, I knew that my dad would be there for me and support me. Even in my professional career when my dad would caddy for me, he was a good caddy because I knew that he 100% believed in me and had my back. That helps me believe in myself when sometimes I didn’t believe in myself. Having that support of someone that is your family, you can’t replicate it.
I don’t think anyone can take that place.
You mentioned that she gave you your soul. How did she give you soul in music? What was that process like?
It was a painful process because my parents were going through a lot at the time. Still for her to hold on to God and find solace in music, I think that’s where she gets soul from. My dad, every time he heard me sing, he’d cry. His eyes would be red. Everyone remembers that, “When Uncle Francis would see Kenishaa on stage, he’s always crying.” I think both my parents have the biggest hearts. They were bound by so many other emotions in the family that they couldn’t give me. I think they always had it in them. For us, love precedes anything at all. In everything my parents did, there was love. I was never able to hate them, even though I never had them for tools for too long. Most of the soul comes from that. Soul also comes from all the experiences you’ve been through, the pain it gives you. When you sing a line and it’s got something that means something towards your life, it’s already picking up your experiences from the past. It colors the emotion. When you sing it, automatically your soul is getting deeper and deeper. The more your experiences, the deeper your volume is, the deeper your meanings are in life.
It’s so universal too. It doesn’t just involve music, it’s involving everything. You think about educators, preachers, speakers, you think about businessmen or women. You think about all these people. If they haven’t lived life, then they don’t have that much to give. Because living life is what gives you the ability to give to others. That creates the worth of what you’re saying. It’s so funny how that applies to everything. It’s so interesting how it’s highlighted, even something like music. Who do you look to musically that has the most soul? When you think of that soul, who comes to my mind?
I’m black in the heart, so my ladies be Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna. Also, a tad bit of the Tina in me would love to go with Shakira and J-Lo, but I’ve always looked up to these people, not because they could only sing so well. I could marry Jennifer Lopez because I can give her a bigger ring than A-Rod. It’s possible, but the way they present themselves on stage. They’re dancing and all of that, I love all of them.
They seem like holistic performers.
In India, every time I perform, they call me either the Indian Beyoncé or the Indian Shakira. For some reason, I don’t know why. Maybe because I went to Mount Carmel College. Maybe it’s that I go all out on stage, mostly dancing and enjoying. That’s what I’m referred too.
Honestly, I would say more like say like Beyoncé. I have enjoyed a little bit of singing of yours that I’ve heard and just excited to hear more because it is special. I think that’s something I hadn’t put words to before was that you have that soul and that’s something you can’t just manufacture. It comes from life.
I agree. You have so much soul in everything that you do. I’m sure it comes from everything that you’ve been through and experienced. Because when you talk to me, you change so much in me and my life and you know that. Things that are going to always stick with me. You taught me God in a whole different way. I’ve learned stuff like that with different people, but I’ve never held onto it because it didn’t make beautiful sense. I feel everybody who talks to you or anything that you say or give is also super holistic and super soulful that it’s not going to fade.No matter what you are going through, when you need someone, never make them suffer for what you are going through. Click To Tweet
It’s been interesting for me and the same is probably true for you, for people that don’t know the full story of who you are, but see you from the outside looking in. It’s very easy for a lot of people and the same with me to think, “They’ve had a great life. They’ve had an easy life. Everything’s just gone right for them.” As much as the cases with me, the same as with you, we’ve suffered a lot. It looks different for everyone. We’re not trying to put weights on this. Life is not easy. You don’t get to certain places by chance, usually it’s by suffering. I think we share some of that and it’s very different for both of us.
I’m sure each story is dredging. We can never compare another person’s experience with ours. What you went through was super tough for you. I wouldn’t be able to go what you went through and maybe you can go through what I went through. Our sufferings are established just for us. When you do go through it and you come out colorful, honestly, at this point in time, I don’t care about anybody else because I have a lot of people who say, “Have you seen Kenishaa?” I do a lot of these college or school motivational talks. When people see me, they go, “Kenishaa; she’s the most fun person. She’s always smiling and she’s always happy. She’s always cracking jokes. I’m sure she’s had a great life.” It’s sad that people assumed so much about another person and they deal with you because of their assumptions. Only when you’ve been through so much, you do feel like you don’t want to give that pain to anyone else because you’ve had enough of it and you don’t want anyone else to go through it.
It seems like there’s a point in time that it’s continual that we have to keep realizing this, that pain isn’t meant to just pass on to others. It’s meant to be born by yourself. It’s not to say you shouldn’t seek support and help from others. That’s important too. A lot of times early on we’re like, “I feel this pain, so how can I pass it off so I don’t feel it anymore or put it onto someone else so that they can experience it that I feel better about myself because they’re in pain now?” That’s always a short-term solution that doesn’t work. We learned that it doesn’t work, I’m like, “I got to do something else.” It is a process. Even now we still have to go through that process. I’d love to rewind back to where we left off about marriage. How did the prettiest of the pretty get married at Mount Carmel College?
I am going to say that my parents got me married when I was eighteen years old because a lot of child marriage was celebrated back then in India. I think it still is, but only in very remote places. It’s getting better. Other times, because my parents had nothing in their life, we were struck down poverty. I was going to the fanciest college in town, but my clothes didn’t seem so. My food didn’t seem so. My ways of transportation didn’t seem so. It was all very difficult. I was starting to get insecure as a girl because there were such fancy people in my college wearing the best brands possible. I would go in all rugged clothes and be laughed at. It was tough. At some point, the idealistic views that my parents had about a girl child also had got to its brim where they didn’t want me to exist anymore.
They got me off. They got me married off to this guy named Gary Michael. He’s also from another Catholic family, but he came from a broken family. I think when they did all of this, nobody dug into the details of the kind of family that they were marrying me off too. It was a tough journey because they did not know that. Another huge belief in India is that when you’re married off to someone, no matter how worse your husband is going to be to you, you have no right to come back home. You’re not allowed to come back home. They’re done with you. That’s the biggest reason why a lot of people get their children married off. I’m saying this as an experience because I’m so happy that things are changing.
I wish I was a part of that change. I wish someone came and stopped the day I got married. Someone came up to my parents and said, “No, she’s pretty, don’t do this to her.” I have not said this to anyone in LA at least. I always wanted to be an IAS officer, someone who worked for the government and signed bills for the country. I’ve always wanted to study and do all of that magic because my end goal was to bring back all the riches my dad lost. For me, nothing was coming in my way. No guy, no pretty boy or nothing fancy or the best food or the best clothes, never came in the way from me. I remember my dad, one of the days in his drunk state of mind telling his brother, “I have a girl child, where is she going to bring me the money? We’re never going to see better days in our life.”
I promised myself that they’re going to live a better life with me. That was important, but I didn’t get to do any of that because they got me married and did not realize that my husband was an alcoholic as well. He was also a womanizer. I didn’t realize that again. I’m allergic to tobacco. If I stood next to someone who smoked, I could literally faint and not wake up. My husband was a heavy smoker. The number of health issues I had at the time was in the numerous, and my in-laws would never take me to the hospital or help me out because they’d be like, “She’s not doing anything in life. Let her just stay at home.” I became the official maid to their house.
I would wake up at 6:00. There were eight people living in that house, including my husband. It was a five-bedroom house, so I cleaned the whole house, cooked for them, make breakfast, and packs their different boxes for work because everyone went out at work. When they came back, I’ll make dinner for them and then get abused until 3:00 AM because all of them would drink. The only thing they do when they get drunk is abusing me physically and mentally. It was the toughest part of my life. Four months of marriage ended with me losing my baby, which you know about. I’ve never been able to rely on a man after that. Men are nice people, but I haven’t met the nice one. I’ve been single since that happened and been pretty maybe not in Mount Carmel, but in my own ways of life, God sprinkling his happiness in me.
One thing as a testament to that is all the people I talked to, they all said that you had incredible joy and that you had incredible energy. I don’t think they’ve ever been around you when you aren’t smiling or wanting to do something. It is not just you saying that is the reality of your life and who you are. I think it’s an amazing testimony to your strength and endurance.
Something that I believe in personally without anyone teaching me this is that I’ve been through a lot of struggles and I’ve had no one to see me out of it. I’ve not had a friend, a cousin or a family member to sit me down and say, “Did you have your meal? Are you feeling better with what happened at home?” I’ve always experienced pain, sat and prayed, then got out of it and said, “It’s going to be fine.” When I do meet people after I would morph myself completely into hiding that sadness, making the sadness disappear once I was with them because I wanted to enjoy that time. From when I was a child, I learned something that no matter what you’re going through, you could be having the toughest or you may have not eaten the whole day, but when you need someone, you never make them suffer for what you’re going through. You never put your pain on anybody else and definitely not hurt anyone. Pain is powerfully painful and if you can’t take it, you don’t want to give it to anyone.
Has there been a point that you felt has been the lowest of low? In your life, you mentioned that it’s almost like there’s never been support there.
Until I met you guys here, we have to talk about that because I’ve never had support like that ever in my life. It was literally God in all of you. Whoever’s going to read this in America or everywhere else, I wouldn’t even be surviving or doing whatever I’m doing if it wasn’t for Thane, Katie, and John and so many more names in LA, Sarah and Hunter. The Legacy church, there are so many people. I felt like when I moved out of India, everything that I’ve given there, God’s given it back to me through your guys, but no one never helped when I was around there.
How do you think about suffering? It doesn’t go away in life; life is hard. What is your perspective when hard times come, and when there are things where you don’t see a way out or it feels like you can’t win? Because that’s an experience everyone faces. What is your approach or perspective or how do you go through those seasons?
I celebrate a God that is incredibly big, strong, mighty, magnanimous and beautiful. I’ve learned that he’s already paid for everything, which I didn’t know until year ago, though I would always pray to him. I feel like anything that I go through is not going to be tougher than what Jesus went through for me. That’s my first realization. When pain strikes me or I have a roadblock, I’ve always wondered, have you ever thought about how many roadblocks Jesus had when he carried the cross to Calvary? He never complained about it. I’m not allowed to. On the brighter side, nobody is going to be in the same situation for more than that couple of minutes that you’re going to be therein. I know the phrase, “You’re going to see to light at the end of the tunnel,” is pretty cliché, but it is the truth.
If you just endure what you’re going through without complaining and cribbing about, “Why am I going through this? Why is this for me? There are so many more people in the world. Why can’t I be happy?” I just went through it. I understood why you went through it because I believe everything that you go through like pain, trauma or anything that you’re troubled with is always coming to you because there is a part of you that needs to change. There is a part of you that needs to learn and be better. That’s why you encounter the experiences you encounter because you do not have the same experiences as everybody else. If something is coming your way, that means it is coming to teach you a lesson. You can be sad and be childish about it and be like, “I hate this.”
Take it up and be like, “Maybe there’s something for me to learn. I want to come out of this as a better person.” I have always used that for me. I have never let anything bring me down because there is nobody else who will lift me up. If I fall, I’m by myself. I have no siblings, I have no parents. If I fall on the street, there’s no one to come and pick me up. I can’t complain about it because I am blessed in so many other ways. I need to know that I have to get up, walk back home, and maybe if I arrested it out, I would know why that happened. That’s the only way I go through whatever comes my way. I’m a huge believer, so I know God’s got my back at every minute. Sometimes it’s so scary that I would think of something and I would ask him and it would be there.
It’s sweet too, the power of space. As you said, you’re just sleeping it off and trying to get more perspective on it. I think a lot of times we don’t realize how much support we do have. A lot of people reading this probably still have family, they still have community or people in their life that would care or support them. Without that, it becomes such a harder and scarier place. What has that experience been like for you, and when did your parents pass and how long has it been since?
After I lost my baby and my marriage, my parents had realized that they haven’t been the best and this is because of them. They led me up to all of this and then I had to suffer through it. I never punished them for it, but it was a good five years after that I had my mom being my mom. She took time off from church. We would spend time, we were girlfriends, we would go out on the streets checking men out and having a great time. I would have a couple of drinks with my dad. It changed all of a sudden after that experience. They were the best parents ever. In 2013, because I was the only breadwinner at the time, both my parents weren’t working and because they had me late, they were older.
My mom was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2012, but she never told me about it because she didn’t want to burden me with extra money for medicines. It’s just a couple of tablets every day. She denied that. In September of 2013, she had a fall in the church when she was singing in the choir. She was paralyzed on her left side and people had to rush her to the hospital. I wasn’t there. I was singing at a bar making money at that time. She was in the hospital for a month. She had a clot on the right side of the brain. We did surgery, it cost me everything. I sold everything that I had to help that operation happen.
She survived the surgery, but she had to go through a second surgery after one month in the hospital to just put back the skull bone to her head. She had a heart attack in between that. She died on her birthday. I remember I decked up the whole hospital because we were there for a month. I got hats for the doctors and nurses because we made so many friends there and she was turning 60 that year. She never met her to her cake after the surgery. I lost her then. Because my parents were so in love, my dad developed Alzheimer’s as soon as she passed and it got worse by the year.
On September 23rd, 2018, I lost him. I had to take care of him after that by myself, which I never will regret. It’s true that it’s a huge loss that they’re not there, but the chance that I had or the chance that God gave me to stay around them for 5 or 10 years when they decided to be my parents to be able to take care of them in every sense of the word gave me immense pleasure. I worked ten jobs for the last few years. I’ve done everything possible to pay their bills, to keep them alive for one additional day. I’m sure they’re in a better place, but they would have been at their best place if they were still with me.
It’s such a beautiful story and such an amazing picture of redemption in a lot of ways and unconditional love. I think it’s a powerful testimony of who you are. What were those jobs you were doing to survive? What brought in the bacon?
I used to be a receptionist for a couple of hours. I used to take care of old people and help them. I used to cook. I am a therapist by profession, so I help a lot of people, but that was the only thing I did for free in church and everywhere else. I didn’t want to charge people for that. I used to sing in a bar every day until I got the biggest break in my musical journey. I would dance and act in a lot of projects.
How did you get into being a therapist and what brought you into that space?
My mom. A lot of things are because of my mom. My mom used to be an emotional counselor in church. A part of her service in the church used to involve five hours of therapy for people who came to church. Sometimes after school, if I didn’t have the house keys, I would go to church, sit and shadow her. That happened for a lot of years. When she died, there were 5,000 people in the church. I still have a videotape of it. We’ve never had a funeral mass like that. She did impact a lot of lives. I sat beside her for years together listening to people and their stories. How much joy my mom brought in their lives with the way she spoke to them. When my mom died, they didn’t know where to go. They wanted to talk to me. I was natural because I’ve shadowed my mom. I would say the same things that my mom would say. One of the priests met me one day and said, “I think you should just do a certificate, study it so you can do this for good.” I did my cognitive behavioral therapist associate degree for eight months. Since then I like to talk to people for free and help them.
What have you found to be most effective? Along with that, what do you find as some of the greatest needs that people have?
Love and affection are the biggest. When I see love and affection, I know it sounds like a big subject, but the right kind of love and affection, a lot of people crave it and they don’t get it. I know of a lot of people that have families and don’t have families, have boyfriends or don’t have partners, married and not married. Even though they are in such fulfilling relationships, there is a huge part of their life that’s missing to be happy and joyous about their lives. Most people don’t know why that is. Because even if you have a partner, it’s such a burdening affair. I feel bad sometimes when people are in relationships or have to deal with their parents to bounce off everything that they have.
Everyone has their own life and they love you. They want to give you a part of them, but they can’t give you 100%. You have to be understanding about it. I know of a few girlfriends that have wanted everything from the guy like, “Do not look at anybody else but me and make time for me.” It’s clogging the relationship a lot more. I am a huge believer in space. When you give space in anything, not just in a romantic relationship, space and time heal so much that the human body and mind cannot even try to even. For example LA, I was upset with Thane for a while because they never had time from me. I never made phone calls, nothing. No matcha was available.
When we met, a couple of words along the way and the time that has passed, it’s healed everything. There was no need to sit and grunt about it. I feel like a lot of people that come to me for therapy come because of that. They come to me because they’re not getting the right amount of love, affection or the right kind of understanding from their partners or their parents. They just want to talk to me and make me understand that they’re not doing something wrong and I understand. I wish people in their lives also give them that benefit of the doubt.
There’s something to the power of being affirmed that you’re doing what you think is best. Isn’t it amazing? Can we understand that we’re doing what we think is best? We need the affirmation that because we’re not crazy. We think that is the best path that’s why we’re taking it.
That’s all you can do. You can’t do more than that. Also, the very fact that people make time for you, even if they make ten minutes for you, they’re making it out of everything else they are going through. You rather accept that with humility or complain about the next 24 minutes that they don’t have for you. I used to date this guy a few years ago and we had the best relationship. He is also a traveler. I see him probably once in a month, or sometimes once in two months, I don’t see him. Not a single day has he asked me, “Why are those men around you? Why are you going out with these guys? Why are you so late or neither have I?” We’ve never had anything wrong between each other. When you give trust, you get trust. When you give love, you get love. If you’re in a place that you’re trying too hard to establish that, then that’s just not meant to be.
It reminds me of the trust that your parents gave you. It works even with parent-child relationships and in spousal relationships, dating relationships. I want to circle back to the big break. What was this big break to go from singing in a bar every day to the big stage?
Matcha, this is a big thing. When my mom passed, I was a wreck. I didn’t know where I was going to go. I had no girlfriend left in my life. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. It was terrible. I decided to sing it out. I made a cover of Diana Ross’s When You Tell Me That You Love Me. That was the song my mom would sing me to sleep. I made a cover of that. I put it up online. Suddenly I had one of the biggest producers in the Bollywood industry write back to me on Facebook and be like, “We’re hosting this singing talent show.” You guys have The Voice here in America. There’s like that in India. It’s called The Stage.
He messaged me and said, “I think you should totally audition for this because this is a great color. You want to be on the stage and you have a story. Come on and let’s do this.” I was like, “Reality show? No. It’s so lame.” I did it because my mom always wanted me to be on a reality show and I’ve never done that for her. I went through all the rounds and much before I knew I was on the show, I was in season one. One of the finalists, I was one of the two voices from my city out of 600 people. It was big for me and I had to move to a city called Mumbai and get help from my dad because he still had Alzheimer’s. I did pretty well on that show.When you give love, you get love. Click To Tweet
Did you win?
A huge part of it, yes. The wins in India are very different. There are multiple wins, multiple people who are getting the same titles or different titles. I was definitely in the top five amongst one of them. Not that I did get anything out of the reality show, but pretty much a lot of people in India knew my name after that, and then life just became about music. Everywhere I’ve walked, people will be like, “You’re from The Stage, I love you.” I could make a career out of my music. I have a band and we started performing around. That definitely helped me and my dad at that time back at least halfway from what we lost.
What has the journey been since then? What has the path been with music specifically and how long has it been since The Stage?
The Stage happened in 2015. I’ve just been around the globe performing. It’s been amazing. I sing in eight languages.
Five different Indian languages, and then Spanish, Swahili and English. Five Indian languages is a lot. It became a part of me, learning languages and singing it around. I would be so happy when I’m on stage. I would forget the world. It was my 90 minutes of happiness at its peak. I’ve had the greatest times. I’ve done a lot of TV shows, I’ve done a lot of songs from movies in Indian languages. I got my degree from the London College of Music. I’ve got an eighth-grade degree with musical theater and pop vocals. My dad had a business that I had to take over because he couldn’t at some point.
His body wasn’t up to getting out and working. We used to make furniture. I got into it and I got the company back to where we needed to be. I lost my dad in 2018. That was a tough process because he just vanished in three days. It was uncertain. It was unnecessary for both of them leaving. After he left, a huge part of me did not want to reside in India anymore because I feel like I’ve seen so much in that country and from marriage to my parents do my child and so many things. I prayed to God that I wanted to get away, then he got me to America. I had a sponsorship with the Musicians Institute here in Hollywood to do a summer program. I came out here and did that. I got an A, which I didn’t tell you.
One of the things that a lot of people mentioned and I would agree with, I think it makes sense in the life you’ve lived and the work you’ve done. A lot of people say that one of your superpowers or gifts is the ability to perceive and sense to perceive other people. Their underlying heart, motives and a refined sense of empathy. They can see beneath the surface. How do you think about that? Do you agree? Do you see that within yourself and how do you experience that with empathy and caring for seeing others truly? What would you say as a contributor to lead to that for you?
Definitely my therapy and my own life. When I went through whatever I’ve been going through as a child, my mirror was my only way to tell how painful I look. The nuances of how people move, behave and how it told me what they were going through because I would do most of it. I know what I would do if I had a bad thought or a good thought. I have always studied that pattern in me. As a child, even when I looked at people, I could just look at them and know what exactly they were going through. It was scary for me, but it was also so easy for me to look at them and feel. I always wanted to talk to them particularly about it because I could see that.
During my college times, I would talk to people randomly and be like, “Are you going through a job problem and stuff?” They would be so surprised that I said something like that because I can see it through their body language. I want to be someone who particularly helps people with what they’re going through at the time because everyone’s amazing, but they always have something that they’re battling all the time. I don’t want to waste time with everything else, but help them with that. I want all the people I know to have a fabulous life. I don’t want to see anyone in pain because it’s not nice. I can’t stop myself from getting to them and getting them out of that, whatever they’re going through.
It is something about taking responsibility. It’s not just waiting for them to figure it out on their own or letting someone else do it. It’s like, “How can I contribute to the betterment of them in society in this relationship?”
I’m definitely not judgmental or I don’t assume things about people. Sometimes you don’t want to tell people that things that they don’t want to hear. I’m very careful about that. The ones that I know and I feel like I can add something to, I try and do that.
That’s a beautiful humility. It’s needed. That’s a great point. Many times we make things worse by saying something we shouldn’t say because not what’s helpful for them or it won’t be received. It’s a discerning in a lot of ways. You’ve been in America for several months. I am curious to know what was your perception of America before and how it has that shifted, changed or obliterated?
I’ve been in London. I love London, but I don’t like the people because they’re so sarcastic there and nobody’s warm enough. I always think that Americans are, but you have to meet the right people. Some people can be like, “No, don’t walk through my door.” Some people can be like, “You have me all the time.” America is a little bit of both, but I did have a culture shock when I first got here. The biggest thing is, at least from where I come from, we’re not even allowed to wear a bralette on the street. People would stone you. When I see people in their bikinis, I was like, “I’m not looking at a guy, I’m not looking at anybody, sorry.”
The first few weeks I had a sweater on all the time, I’d be like, “I’m not showing my stuff. I’m covered.” Slowly I realize people don’t care because everyone thinks that everyone’s got the same thing just in different sizes, which is fine. It took me a while to get to that. The food has no spice, not enough oil. When I moved in I was like, “Where is the oil? Where’s the taste in the chicken, where is the masala?” That took me a while, but I love American food. I love my steaks. I know that I have to get them medium-rare. In terms of the people, yes, it’s been a little dodgy with the kind of people because I’m a therapist. In the first ten seconds, I’ve already cracked into the person. I already know most of that person.
It’s easy for me to talk to them, but I have met a lot of people who would have so many things running in their mind but that’s not the same thing they’re saying out. I wish people were honest. You are getting rid of half of the world’s problems if you’re just honest. Even if you’re wrong, if you’re honest about it, that person is going to feel bad for about ten minutes and then it’s going to be over. When you don’t give them the exact truth of how you’re feeling, you’re letting the other person believe that you’re fine with a certain pattern, which is not. That in turn, making yourself a lot more miserable than giving it to them. That, I feel like I haven’t met a lot of people who could be themselves completely. The fact that I can’t like walk to places in LA.
LA is not a great place for not having transportation, unfortunately. That’s so true that I love what you said because that would solve half the world’s problems. When you have a culture of being more honest, fewer feelings are hurt and more people are on the same page.
What is the necessity to lie? If you lie about something, even if it’s white lies, you’re just trying to push the truth a few days away from someone knowing about it, but when someone gets to the truth, it is so much uglier than the lie. You don’t want that.
LA probably more than other places in America because it is a very surfaced culture. The funny thing is the façade is a lie. That’s something we forget. Pretending to be something you’re not is lying.
People didn’t warn me about it. They definitely said you’re going to LA or New York or any other part. LA has got a lot of artists, a lot of culturally active people. When I would see people going to IHOP and they have lashes worn, I’d be like, “Why? It doesn’t make sense.” I think it’s the whole facade. There’s a lot of fake attitudes and trying to someone you’re not. I used to be very insecure about how I looked and dealt with my own life or the clothes I wore until I came across Jesus’ words that said, “I’ve made you in my own image and likeness.” Sometimes when I think about it, the line is so deep that when you talk about Jesus, when you look up to him all that you’re referring to him is flawless, perfection, such amazing skin, and such beautiful eyes, what lovely hair. If he’s made you like that, that you’ve got everything.
That’s true. It’s so freeing and fun when you realize that everyone is made in the image of God. It’s beautiful.
Your health is great, you look great and doing great if you just believe in that.
Since you’ve probably spent the most time in India, when you compare Indian culture with American culture, what would say American culture would benefit from being more like India or vice versa?
I do know the answer for vice versa. If Indians that have to learn something from here, it would definitely be the whole nonjudgmental attitude. When people are walking on the streets doing their own thing, you’re allowed to be who you are here. You’re not questioned for how you dress, how you move or how you talk. In India, you’re judged for every single thing you do, even the things you say to people, they will judge you upfront for it. The society always has a say in your life back in India, which is not the way it is in America. I have been so much at peace living in America. No one has ever told me like, “Don’t do that. Don’t do this. Why are you doing that?” That’s definitely what India should get better with. With Americans learning something from Indians, it would definitely be a lot more humility. Be more aware of relationships. Be more aware of the people around you.
Be very mindful of the things you say. You never know if you’re hurting someone or not. I feel like a lot of people here are self-centered, which a part of it is okay. When you do not understand that that part of you is hurting someone, it gets out of limit. People in India are very considerate about it. They’re always thinking, “I shouldn’t say something that’s going to hurt another person.” Another huge thing is people in American never make time for friends especially in LA. In India when you have friends, we always do things together every week and we always make time. In LA, people get so busy with their work, which is fine, but everyone’s headed towards monotony. That’s not helping your brain cells. You should make time for newer people. The newer energies you have in your life, the better the learning you’re getting.
LA is one of the worst places for that. It’s a hyper achievement culture. It’s something I’m honestly fighting all the time for myself. I think a lot of people in LA are. Kansas, does a lot better job of that which is good, but you’re right. Making time for fun, for rest, for people, for friendship is needed.
In a couple of years, I’ve lost friends who are my age to just nothing, heart attacks and stuff. You’ll never know how much time you got in your life. While still you’re, just give them whatever you can.
What you mentioned freedom, I thought it was profound because I think in society we see the shift to more judgment and less freedom in individual level of people trying to control what other people believe more. It is a regression. It’s good for Americans to hear that freedom is should be something that you prize and value. We shouldn’t try to put people to conform to our box of what they should be. That’s not helpful for us. That’s regressing and oppressive place. We need to hear that because it’s a good reminder of the blessing.
A lot of people in India get easily depressed because of that. They have everybody else telling them not to do a certain thing when they want to do it and want to be themselves, especially gay marriages and just being gay or celebrating that side of life. Nobody has permission to do that, so I think America is good in a lot of ways.
The humility you mentioned is good too. American pride is celebrated in unhealthy ways.
Generalizations are generally true. It’s not a prescription. I agree with that. It is great to hear from the perspectives of other people who have lived in very different cultures, very different places to help us know that there are things that we do that are dumb and weird just as much as anyone else in any culture. I’d love to know what your parents left in you. What did your mother and father pass on to you as a person?
My mother for surely has passed on her independence, courage and strength. Humility for me comes from her. Being modest about life. Cooking, singing, dancing, and always being mindful about myself and everyone that’s around me. From my dad, always worked for the money you earn. Never touch the money that you haven’t earned because it’s not going to be yours no matter when. Hard work. Always strive for success. Never try to be number two, but don’t bring down other people just because you want to be number one. Treat your body as a temple. Make sure you respect yourself before you ask other people to respect you. Carry love and light in you always because you never know when people may need it when you walk on the way. Never say no to people that need your help in whatever form or manner you are able to at that point in time.
What is the future goal or vision for you? What drives you and what is the impact that when you think about the ten-year vision of what you love to be used in this world for or had the impact you want to make? What has come to mind?Soul comes from all the experiences you've been through. Click To Tweet
My childhood dream that I hope I will fulfill, at least when I’m 40 or 45, is I want to open a huge home for old people that don’t have places in their homes, like a home for the aged and take care of them for the rest of their lives. That’s something I want to do. Otherwise, with my passion and stuff, I want to be the biggest artist and sing my heart out, learn more languages and be God’s shining star.
What is the song that makes your heart or soul come alive and most?
“It is well in with my soul.” If I have something that I’m going through, I sing that song out loud and I’m fine.
What section or part or lines that speak to you? It’s all beautiful.
Just to confirm that someone up there always got you. Nothing’s going to go wrong.
What do you believe to be true that you wish everyone else believed to be true?
That I was a nice person. It’s so easy for people to assume, especially everyone in India. Everyone’s always like, “I don’t know what is it about her.” You never know the person and they always have so many assumptions about me. They paint their own pictures about me. I wish they knew me as a person and then painted the picture. I am not a bad person. I wish people knew that.
What are your cornerstone habits or the habits that are parts of your life that keep the rest in place?
Definitely prayer every single day. Thank you for helping me with, Thane. I do morning and evening with the Bible and it’s kept me great so far. For me, affirmations of gratitude go a long way. Whatever happens in my day, I’m always thanking God or thanking the people that have helped me through it. It helps my body, my system, my soul, everything. Definitely workouts because so much toxins are released and it’s such a good place to be when you work out. You’re so confident about yourself. I like to eat a lot of vegetables and eat healthily, so that’s definitely adding to my habits. I am an anti-smoker. It keeps your health super fresh when you’re away from smoking. A lot of hugs, I’m a huge hugger. I love hugging people. I love doing the warmest, biggest hugs, especially when men come my way that is big and cuddly. I’d like to give them at least ten seconds longer because everyone can use a hug. They say six hugs a day is a true cure to depression. I hug all my patients.
What question do you ask yourself the most?
How can I get better? How can I be better than before? How can I have people see Jesus in me every day?
What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?
I have a lot of books that I’ve read that have personally made a lot of difference in my life, but that definitely The Secret, because it helped me get all my affirmations before I became someone like that. I like Wuthering Heights. It keeps a part of me knowing that I’ve been through pain, misery and a lot of things that I have overcome and revisit it in the nicest ways. It keeps me humble, and the Bible. It is my food every day. Another one is From Here to There: A Quarter-life Perspective On The Path To Mastery by Thane Marcus Ringler.
If you could teach a class for a semester, what would you teach on and why?
I would want to teach people about the whole belief system. In the world, you have too many beliefs and what you believe is what your reality would look like. If you started refining that, better days ahead. What you believe, how you believe in, how you need to get with it.
It’s amazing something as simple as self-awareness and understanding does. It unlocks so much. If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what message would you send and why? They get this on their phones every morning from Kenishaa.
It would be, “Love, you’re awake. Be grateful and you’ve got just the best day ahead of you because nobody else has the opportunity that you have. All you got to do is wear your shoes and your best smile. Get out of your house. Believe that this opportunity deserves you more than you deserve the opportunity. When you get to your place to deliver, just be yourself. Don’t try too hard because God has already invested the talent in you, the heart in you. All you need to do is show up and be yourself and people and the world will definitely see how bright and beautiful you are.” You can just come back and put yourself to sleep. I read an incredibly long text. Sometimes it’s annoying, but it’s okay.
Kenishaa, where’s the best place for people to find out more about your singing, your music and what you’re up to?
Definitely the socials. I’m Kenishaa Francis on Instagram, Facebook, wherever. I’m more than happy to connect with anyone and everyone through social media platforms. I’m happy to help anyone who thinks that I could add even 2% of value to their life.
Kenishaa, this has been a blast. Thank you so much for coming on.
Before I let you go, you have to give me at least 1 or 2 secrets of my friends have said about me. I’m going to always be like, “I don’t know what they’ve said to you.”
We’ll do a few things. One of the questions I ask is, how would they describe you in two words? Here are some of the words; tenderhearted, impassionate, smiley, bold, passionate, strong, determined, approachable, extra-extra, fierce, independent, sunshine and thunder. A lot of good stuff. People love you.
I love them too. I hope they’re reading this and they know that my heart is all about them.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your story. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.
Thank you so much for making time. Thank you for having me a part of this show. Since the day I’ve known you, I’ve read pretty much every episode. I love that you add so much value in people’s lives. All the stories you bring on the Up And Coming Show are so effective, so vulnerable, yet so strong and happy. Thank you for considering me to be a part of it. I’m honored and I will take your voice back to India as well. Let more people know this because I think a lot of people should know you, Thane. Your heart is obsessing to everyone that knows it. I’m truly blessed knowing you.
I feel grateful. For all of you reading, we hope you have an Up and Coming day. Until next time.
- iTunes – The Up and Comers Show on iTunes
- Patreon – The Up and Comers Show Patreon page
- Kenishaa Francis
- The Secret
- Wuthering Heights
- From Here to There: A Quarter-life Perspective On The Path To Mastery
- Facebook – Kenishaa Francis’ Facebook page
About Kenishaa Francis
I’m Kenishaa, an Artist/Singer/Performer/Dancer/Entertainer/Radio Host/Designer/Therapist, now residing in Los Angeles.
I was a finalist of ‘The Stage’ Season 1, A singing reality show in India.
I also had my own primetime radio show called ‘Keeping it with Kenishaa’ on India’s biggest radio station called Indigo 91.9.
I represent India with two Latin Dancing styles – Bachata and Kizomba.
As a therapist, I’ve been practicing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for the last 6 years. I’ve always wanted to give some form of me freely to the society, and I chose to do this with Therapy.
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