What inspired you to start your non-profit Embrace Your Cape?
I’ve always had the gift of helping people see the best in themselves. Somehow, I could always see bigger for them than they saw for themselves, especially when it came to people who had experienced trauma. Even as a kid, people would come up to me, tell me their life stories and I would listen and help them. As I came into my own, I realized this was one of the gifts I had to share with the world. That is how my one woman show came to life. I have a degree in Psychology and my show allowed me to bring acting, dancing, writing and my ability to transform lives all together. My show led me to a place where I knew I had to do more. I knew I had to find a way to bring women and men together to tackle the cycle of violence. That is and was the inspiration behind my non-profit, Embrace Your Cape. Can we stop the violence together? I feel together is the only way to healing, to transformation…to change.
What actor/actress would you like to work with in the future?
Now that is just mean, lol. For real though, the list is endless, so I will try to narrow it down to a few. One of my dreams already came true, working with Jason Bateman in the movie “Bad Words,” that was definitely life changing and it would be wonderful to work with him again. I would love to work with Samuel L. Jackson, I really feel like we could slay together. Then there is Viola Davis, Laurence Fishburne, Meryl Streep, David Schwimmer – what an honor it would be to work with any of them. Whoopi Goldberg, for sure as she is the one of the reasons I wrote my one woman show. I could really go on and on. Even though this is not a part of the question, Quentin Tarantino, oh boy would we have fun in a movie, where of course I would be the lead and he would be directing me.
Where do you see yourself in five years contributing to acting?
I really feel that my major contribution to acting in five years is to be one of the major voices that is bringing content to the world in a unique and honest way. Storytelling is everything to me, I believe there are voices and stories that are still not being heard. As a producer, creator and actor I feel it is my job to change that. Through humor and heart, I believe we can transform how people see things.
What inspired you to write your first book?
It came at a trying time for me. My father had just passed away out of the blue and I felt in my heart I had to do something to honor him. He never got to see my show or really hear my story. I knew the only way for him to hear it was by writing it. At that exact moment, I was asked to write this book, because they felt I was an expert at what I do. I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and I immediately said yes. The birth of this came out of all that I was going through. I truly found a way to embrace my legacy and somehow make my father proud at the same time. I knew he was looking down on me, smiling. I always say, “if you want to get out of the pain and sadness…give your gift, share it and the light you shine on others will begin to shine in you.” Writing healed my grief, allowed me to heal others and freed me in a way I never saw coming.
How did it feel to become a published author?
It was surreal and amazing at the same time. I honestly never thought I could write, let alone become a published author. I am not going to lie, it was a secret dream that I felt was most likely unattainable, lol. This was definitely a dream come true. Writing my one woman show, T-O-T-A-L-L-Y! was the first time I put pen to paper seriously and realized that this gift was hiding inside of me ready to come out. Being published was definitely the icing on top of the cake.
Any events planned for Sexual Assault Awareness month?
Yes, we are putting together a “Consent Is Sexy” promo to play through the entire month. With Covid limitations we aren’t able to do an in-person event, but we are planning to do a live virtual reveal of the promo with a talk back. Personally, I will be speaking virtually on April 17th for an organization called She Is Hope LA: sheishopela.org.
Bags or shoes?
OMG, shoes for real. But you gotta have the right bag to match the perfect shoes. I am going to choose both, as a delicious matchy combo can pull together any outfit.
Concert or Broadway Play?
Broadway Play! I love walking into a story and becoming a part of it. Storytelling and its truth are everything to me.
What’s the oldest thing you own and still use?
My maternal grandmother’s antique chest of drawers with this beautiful mirror. She passed away, but she was a real live Superwoman. She had 12 kids and this chest of drawers was with her every step of the way. Just before she passed, I got to spend a summer with her taking care of her and loving her, it was one of the best memories I have in life. When she passed away, she left me her chest of drawers and it has been with me ever since. I also have my father’s turntable, reel to reel, stereo system and all of his albums and that too will be with me forever. Music is my ultimate thump and it was his too. He definitely passed that down to me.
Name one thing from your childhood that kids these days wouldn’t understand?
I was born and raised in Japan and when I was a kid, we had pencil boxes. Mine was so special, it was Hello Kitty and it opened on both sides with magnets that would hold them closed. There were little compartments on each side to put stuff in. I cherished that pencil box and it was sweet and simple. Nowadays, kids have huge backpacks and they aren’t playing with pencil boxes. There is not enough room in a pencil box for kids today, lol.
What are your favorite spring activities?
Hiking, biking and swimming. I love being outside in the spring.
What are the top three places you need to see before you die?
I have travelled a lot of places in my life, I love to travel. I feel so lucky, but these are the top three places at this moment. Japan as an adult as I haven’t been back there since I was 10 years old. Africa, because I want to see where my people came from and honor them. Last but not least, I am torn between Brazil and Costa Rica, both for different reasons, I would have to do a coin toss.
What’s one thing you must experience at once in life?
I feel I must sky dive into the Grand Canyon and hike back up. It was my wedding dream for a long time. The wedding ceremony would be deep in the canyon and last for several days. My husband and I would sky dive in, greet everyone, have the ceremony and we would all hang out for days. Then together we would all hike back up to the top, celebrating every step of the way. It would be the ultimate destination wedding.
Who is someone in your life that encouraged you to pursue your dream?
My high school gym and cheerleading coach, Tamra Strano. She always believed in me and encouraged me to do what I was meant to do. To this day she is still one of my dearest friends and biggest cheerleaders. She encourages me to keep following my dream each and every day.
How can everyone keep in contact with you on social media?
Instagram is @totallykimleigh, Twitter is @totallykimleigh, Facebook is @kimleighsmith and my websites are kimleighsmith.com and embraceyourcape.com.