WHO IS KIYOMI LESLIE?

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TWho is Kiyomi Leslie? That’s essentially the big question on everyone’s mind. Is she an Instagram model or just a girl who’s been featured on Nick Cannon’s Wild N’ Out? Or, maybe she’s just another pretty girl holding on to a rapper’s arm. Believe it or not, Kiyomi has been a fixture in the entertainment industry for a while now. She has managed to stay fairly below the radar until recently, when she was confirmed as being the girlfriend of rapper Bow Wow and a new cast member on the upcoming season of WEtv’s Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta.

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K Camp’s “Money Baby”, Future’s “Monster”, Translee’s “Somebody’s Girl”, The Dream’s “Summer Body” featuring Fabolous, and Lil Baby’s “My Drip,” are just a few of the music videos that Kiyomi has been featured in. A Raleigh, North Carolina girl, she arrived in Atlanta back in 2013. Her reason was feeling like a “fish with all the nice and shiny scales swimming with goldfish.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t a place where she could grow so she opted to take her talents to “The A,” where she has obviously thrived.

As the new season rolls out, Kiyomi will not only open her relationship to the world but also showcase her passion for music. She’s demonstrated her killer rhymes on Instagram, but is now facing her biggest challenge yet; putting together an EP. She’s found that it’s kind of a struggle, piecing together a complete body of work while shooting a reality show.

Though not a stranger to the spotlight, Kiyomi is very new to reality television and was initially uncertain of how the experience would go. “My role in this season of Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta is basically coming in as a new main cast member; being introduced as Bow Wow’s girlfriend,” she explains. “At first, I was kind of offended because everyone else is coming in as an artist and other things.”

Kiyomi goes on to describe the hardships of filming, stating how the experience gave her more self-awareness. Her experience is almost like being the new person at school and trying to figure out the do’s and don’ts of the game.

“Sometimes when you’re put in a room with people who know act. It’s not even acting, but they know how to hold their composure in certain situations. I had to get used to not letting my emotions get the best of me. At the end of the day, I know my anger and I had to get used to being filmed at all times. Any little f*ck up that you do they are going to catch it. The cameras do not stop rolling. The times where you think you need privacy are the times when they’re really ready to film.”

 On the show, Kiyomi has managed to create valuable relationships with fellow cast mates Ayana and Jhonni Blaze. She describes Ayana as a very a “very real and down to earth” girl and says that they hit it off almost instantly. Iconically, she and Jhonni go the same hair stylist and have managed to spend a lot of “girl time” together.

Currently, she is focused on her music and putting together an EP. “I am working on my first EP. I just wanted to call it an EP because I dont think that I’m ready to drop a mixtape,” she explains. “I want people to focus on just hearing me. When you say mixtape or album it puts a lot of pressure on the work, and I want people to get introduced to me first.”

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Her passion originally from music grew out her love for entertainment and nightlife. Kiyomi discusses how she started working in nightclubs and worked her way to the stage, where she realized what she was enjoyed doing.

“I came into the entertainment business in nightclubs and worked as a front door girl. I really got intrigued by the nightlife. I started bartending, became a bottle girl, and eventually the VIP girl. Later I started working as an entertainer in the club. Being an entertainer, I saw my name in lights. Just being on stage and people throwing money and screaming, and enjoying you on stage, I knew I wanted to be in the limelight. I started doing videos, I was a video vixen. From there, I was always rapping; especially in my spare time.”

After her taste of the stage, she began writing and creating music every day. First privately, and eventually shared bits and pieces with her Instagram following. However, she found it hard to pursue her purpose with the current patriarchy that exists within the music industry. “Sometimes when you are in the industry guys don’t really take you seriously as a rapper. I always said that I want to go to the studio and guys were like ‘Okay, you’re cute. You can watch me.’” Fortunately, her followers love her music and it’s through Instagram that she connected with Bow Wow.

Like so many other women in entertainment, Kiyomi identifies with what’s it’s like to be a female in the music industry. “When you’re viewed as a sex symbol, guys are going to try you first. I had so many guys that say let’s do business and then you sit down with them and they start calling you he bae, boo, or cutie.” A common problem for women everywhere, Kiyomi strives to make that not her reality. I’m all for women’s empowerment,” she says. “I want us to be seen and heard, and not just seen because they’re beautiful.”

Outside of music, she’s been working on putting out a book and has two years worth of work put into the project. Essentially, she would like to create a manual for women using her own experience to guide them. It’s a book for the chick who wants more for herself and doesn’t rely on just her pretty to get her to the top.

Kiyomi is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. She plans on starting a cosmetic line and helping domestic violence survivors who remind her of the women she knew growing up. It’s her drive and determination that allows her to prove that pretty faces get ish done. Despite what anyone thinks, Kiyomi proves that being true to yourself and working hard for what you want will get you further than relying on some guy. 

ARTICLEMartel S. Sharpe @markopolowe

PHOTOGRAPHER:  Nathan Pearcy @npearcypics

STYLIST: Jumar Edward @jumar_edward

MUA: Corey Rodriguez @facebossbeats

HAIR: Jayshoun Williams @jayshaun22

VIDEO: Eliot Jones @eliotjtv