In the past few months, you may have heard the name Kiki Layne, and been wondering why. She’s on the rise, so you better pay attention. At the end of last year, the actress was dubbed the breakout star of Barry Jenkins‘ “If Beale Street Could Talk.” In the film, she plays a young, pregnant black woman in early-70s who has to battle for justice when her partner and the father of her child, is wrongly accused of rape. Her performance was quite impressive for a newcomer on-the-scene.
And it shows in the award nominations she’s gotten for her feature film debut: Best Breakthrough Performance by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and Best Breakthrough Actress by the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Get a glimpse of her skills in the film trailer below:
Not to compare, but it might be a fair assumption to say that her rise in Hollywood could be similar to that of Lupita Nyong’o after “12 Years A Slave.” In due time, we’ll be hearing more and more about the 27-year-old. It’s even hard for her to believe her own buzz.
In an honest response, she said: “I’m just trying to soak it all in and take it one day at a time, because it can get overwhelming,” according to The Undefeated. “There’s just so many new things happening so fast. Even when people keep talking about awards season…I’m just like, ‘Well, right now, in this moment, and on today, this is what I’m taking care of.'”
After beating out about 300 women for the role of Tish Rivers in the 2018 film, Jenkins had nothing but praises to sing of his leading lady and what she brought to the table: “It doesn’t matter if you’re the most experienced actress or least experienced,” he said. “If you give an audition or performance that shows me the character, then we’re gonna go down the road. And with KiKi, she just had this duality, where she could be very young, innocent. So many of the things in the film she’s experiencing for the first time, and yet [the character] still often speaks, especially in the voice-over, with this voice of a woman, someone who’s evolved because of these experiences.”
And to think, it wasn’t even in her plan to audition for the role that would change her life. Check out this interview with Stephen Colbert where she explained how getting her life together was the key to putting everything in motion, and how she almost didn’t answer the director’s phone call (start at 1:35):
But not only are her acting chops a reason why you should know her, but she is killing it in the fashion game, especially as a dark-skinned black woman. Let’s be real, sis knows how to work a room. Take a look:
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Bruh, I presented an award for the first time at the @criticschoice Awards. Thank you Lord that I didn't trip or forget how to read lol. Congrats to @alfonsocuaron and all the winners. And of course, congrats to @bandrybarry and @iamreginaking for winning Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for @bealestreet #CriticsChoiceAwards #BealeStreet #IfBealeStreetCouldTalk #Versace
And designers are noticing her! Currently, Layne is starring in the spring Kate Spade ad campaign with Stranger Things‘ Sadie Sink. According to Elle, the Cincinnati native loves what the brand represents: “I’m just excited to be working with the brand now as they’re moving forward with what this brand represents today. The Kate Spade woman is a classy sort of working woman who’s still stylish. To me Kate Spade represents a woman who still has stuff to get done. She’s like, “yeah I’m stylish but I need to be comfortable and able to move. I’m excited to be a part of a brand that’s meaningful to women in that way.”
In continuing to be meaningful, her latest movie, “Native Sun” which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Kiki explained why she does what she does: “I’m just feeling thankful that right out of the gate, I get to let audiences know that this is the type of work that really matters to me, and that I recognize that I have the ability to say something with my art, with the projects I choose,” reports Variety.
But one project she’d love to tackle could be seen as a different type of significant. Kiandra (her real name) wants to play the character of Storm in “X-Men,” who has been portrayed by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp in the past. One thing’s for sure, she’s not afraid to say that’s she’s actively plotting for that role: “She was an image of myself, of a powerful chocolate black woman, and I just think that’s an amazing image to have and I really want to play Storm.”
TELL US: What genre would you like to see Kiki Layne take on next?