FAMU grad breaks boundaries

Khaneshia Smith, a Tallahassee native, is on her way to becoming a multi-award winning actress.

Smith, who often goes by the title “KJ,” is making her mark in Hollywood with grace and charisma one role at a time. What started off as just a high school dream her senior year developed into what is now her everyday reality.

Smith’s extensive career includes guest starring on LeBron James “Survivor's Remorse,” “Queen Sugar,” “Mary Jane,” national commercials and hair care print campaigns just to name a few.

Smith accredits her only sibling Lanetra Bennett, a Tallahassee WCTV- Channel 6 news reporter, as the inspiration to her acting start. She also credits Florida A&M for helping her to excel to higher heights.

“Grad school at FAMU was by far the hardest experience I’ve ever had in my life. Honestly, it was the first time I had to really work hard” said Smith.

Smith believes that work ethic helped shape her acting career.

“The professors I had constantly preached we want you to be the best. It was the best academic experience for me though,” said Smith.

She says it was there she came to understand the term “black excellence, or just excellence period.” Smith prides herself on being a role model for the younger generation by using her platform to inspire other black women.

“I have a role and responsibility to move my culture and inspire my culture, this is how I want to influence my family,” said Smith.

Erin Fallen, a FAMU Business Administration student says, “black representation is important to me because it’s important that we aren’t just represented, but represented correctly,” said Fallen.

Succeeding in Hollywood is not an easy task. Many lack the physical, mental and spiritual toughness to endure the industry.

“I would tell anyone that is an inspiring actress, know who you are. Make it a mission to research yourself,” Smith said.

Smith remains humble regardless of the amount of success she had within the last year. Keisha Lockhart, a Tallahassee native says, “I love the show ‘Queen Sugar’ and I love what she represents as a black actress. A fresh face is need within black Hollywood, and the more representation for our people the better,” said Lockhart.

“Overnight success” is a foreign language to the successful actress. She is a strong believer in hard work. The end of this year marks an impressive 10-year journey for Smith’s acting career.

“Sometimes there’s not a direct correlation between the work you put in and the outcome… But I’m a strong believer things always come into fruition,” said Smith.  

Black actresses are now getting the opportunities that they were not previously offered and are maximizing their platform.

“Seeing other black females just winning Oscars and other awards it’s really inspiring because their breaking barriers, and at one time we weren’t able to do that,” said Fallen.

I want black women to understand we are good enough and magical: “I am black girl magic,” said Smith.