Kia Damon, 25, is a wunderkind of the culinary world. To quote her Instagram bio (and Nina Simone) to be, “Young, Gifted & BLACK,” is no cake walk when you’re climbing to the top of the culinary world. She splashed into NYC as the head chef of Manhattan's Lalito and now, she’s conquering the culinary world as a renegade chef. Here’s what makes her feel powerful…
I feel most powerful when…
I feel powerful and empowered with myself when I’m able to make actual differences in other people’s lives and see that I can open the path for other people who either look like me or have been watching me for a while and that in turn, help them make decisions for themselves and the betterment of their lives, their careers. That’s good power.
But I also feel powerful when I’m with my friends, because I feel like I can do anything when I’m with my friends and my peers and I’m able to be the most vulnerable. I feel like I can show up as my true self and open myself up in ways that I’m able to exchange with other people in a symbiotic relationship. That’s definitely when I feel most powerful.
Power to me means…
In all honesty, I really don’t like the word power, for what is insinuated in having power. When you look at history, we talk about people who have power actually abusing it. Every time we talk about power it’s always to dismantle it, or the redistribution of power. So for me, what I really relate to is empowerment. To me that’s almost the opposite of power. It’s how to give people say, agency and tools, and with empowerment it can be distributed to lots of people. Anyone can be empowered. Not a lot of people have actual power. I’m like, power: bad. Empowerment: good!
I feel powerless when…
When I realize I don’t have a choice and when I realize that I can’t protect other people from things. This industry is already so tough and painful, and even now, in the place that I’m in, I still experience a lot of microaggressions and I still experience being underpaid, I still experience people not thinking that I am who I am. Or just really whack things that happen when someone else has all the money and you don’t. And I know a lot of other people behind me are trying to come up because they see me, but I can’t protect them from those things or filter the things that happen above me. I do feel so deeply for people, I cannot stop things from happening to you as much as I cannot stop things from what this industry truly is because I can barely shield myself from it. It makes me feel extremely powerless.
What’s your power anthem?
I’ve got a playlist based on this question: The obvious choice is my girl Megan Thee Stallion’s “WTF I Want.” And then a not-so-obvious song “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.
Who’s your power icon?
Daniella Soto-Innes; she is a chef that runs Cosme and Atla. She is doing her cuisine for her people. And also, for her people who are working in the restaurant. From speaking to people that worked at her restaurant and reading her interviews, she is doing everything that I would aspire to do in my restaurant. I really hope to meet her and actually have that conversation on how she came up through the culinary world and how she established true empowerment and love and goodness and well-being in her restaurant – in the food, in the service. How did she do that in a world where that doesn’t exist? It shows me that what I want from a restaurant isn’t impossible.
What do you wear when you want to feel powerful?
A pair of Nike’s, a light tapered pant that’s kind of high-waisted. I can wear those to work. I would wear a shirt of the same color, because I always love a monochromatic look, a few gold shape-y pieces. Some kind of colored socks and my Warby Parker frames. And that’s it and people know.