*Photo credit: Emily Assiran
*This interview was conducted prior to the start of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike
First discovered in 2018 for his viral food reaction videos, media personality Kalen Allen has garnered millions of followers online through his infectious energy and witty personality. Now, stepping away from his ring lights and into the spotlight on sets like Prime Video’s rom-com series With Love, Allen is paving his own pathway to success and leaving his mark in the digital age.
Model D awarded and Shorty Award-nominated, Allen has gained many accolades for his social media presence throughout the years. Today when looking back on his career beginnings, Allen attributes much of his long-term success and connection with his audience to his midwestern roots and welcoming Kansas City spirit.
“I really loved Ted Lasso because when I was watching it, I was just like, this is exactly how people from Kansas City are” Allen affectionately recalls “So I think that’s where a lot of it comes from…I like to give out to the world what I would like to receive, that’s how I operate…their experience of me is the same experience I would want from them back.”
Pivoting away from his traditional content and chasing new aspirations, Allen’s career follows the path of many other media mavens who gained their start via social media and used their platform to expand their presence. For Allen, this furthering of his brand and dreams didn’t come as a surprise, as it was always a part of his plans when charting for his long-term success.
“I think from the very beginning, I knew that I needed to branch out…I knew that I had all these other dreams and aspirations and just because this one was working and it was giving me money, fame, popularity, or whatever you wanna call it, I knew [it] wasn’t sustainable in the long run.” shared Allen. “I am always playing the long game in anything that I do…I knew that I wasn’t gonna be 40 years old, still reacting to food, so I wanted to start planting seeds at the very beginning so that once one thing ran its course I was prepared and ready to take on the next adventure.”
Since making his feature film acting debut in 2020 on then HBO Max’s An American Pickle, Allen has gone on to make a name for himself within acting. Making appearances on shows and films like A Black Lady Sketch Show, With Love, and set to be a judge on Roku’s Celebrity Family Cook Off, Allen has worked to expand his success past his social media presence – to this he attributes to trusting his gut and taking time for regenerative self care.
“I think ever since I was a kid, I’ve always believed that I was divinely guided. There’s always been some type of force or something that is driving me towards certain things…. I also believe that when it comes to the work that I do, I have to make sure that I take care of this vessel. In order to be able to pour out joy and entertainment and laughter. If something is wrong with me, then that’s going to then seep into the content.”
For many creators and media personalities, the determination to produce viral content can often be a driving factor and a metric for success. But for Allen the removal of the need for virality has proven far more useful than the latter. As he takes on his next chapters Allen is protecting his peace and giving himself room and grace to fail forwards.
“…whether it’s an entertainment career, or whatever you want to do, and you have social media available to use, use it to your advantage.”
“We are all failing in front of millions of people…So I think the way that I have been able to protect my peace and my mental health when it comes to that [is] if a video doesn’t perform well…or people say something’s not funny or they don’t like something – that it’s not a reflection of me,” expressed Allen. “I try to give myself a little bit more grace that some things will hit and some things will miss, and that’s okay.” ♦