Episode 40: Give the performance of your life

Episode 40: how to own your stage with K.J. Rose

K.J. Rose is the go to performance director for some of your favorite artists including Lil Nas X, Saweetie, The Lumineers, and Erica Campbell. In this episode she is breaking down how to deliver the performance of your life, because after all we’re all artists on a stage. A performance that’s authentic, full of confidence and as K.J. says, leaves no crumbs. Get ready to be introduced to The Rose Effect.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

As we were saying before we hit record, I first saw you at the Great Girlfriends Conference back in 2019, and you made such an entrance. So I felt like this wouldn’t be proper unless I asked you what your theme music would be today. What’s your theme music these days?

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Theme music? For me, it’s anything festive with horns, with trumpets. There is an announcement to be made. And so that’s the feeling I get, you know, so it’s whether it’s “All I Do is Win,” (by DJ Khaled.) I just did Drake for ADCOLOR, “Above it All.”  I will take anything that allows me just to penetrates my spirit in a way that makes me feel like victory is on the way.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I love that. I love that. And you enter with that intention that victory is on the way.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

I enter with the intention that victory has already happened. Now it’s my duty to walk in and share it with you. And so if I can’t get there, then I spend the first couple of minutes trying to convince you of somewhere that I’m not. And so it’s all the pre-work that I have to do long before I walk into it. That is my music of just thanking God. It’s my music of praise. And so all of that is so intentional so that I can have something to actually offer the audience.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I love that and that spirit. And your heart is so apparent. If anybody’s ever seen you, your heart is just. It’s like you wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s so apparent. It’s such a generous offering.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Thank you. And I’ve got to shout out Brandice (Daniel) and Sybil (Amuti,) who are the Great Girlfriends founders who were very early adapters to The Rose Effect. So, you know, so many good blessings have come from them seeing me more worthy of being on that stage. And it gave me a chance to meet you. So I got to shout out my girls.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Brandice was a guest on the podcast. So just, it’s all very full circle for me. Very full circle. Now, I know people best know you for your work with musical artists, but you say all of us are artists. Explain that.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Wherever you occupy space. Wherever you are spending your time, anyone that has a pulse and that has a heart, you are an artist, right? That is your stage. And your job no matter what medium that you’re speaking into, that you are the vessel for, it is your duty in that space to fully occupy every ounce of strength you have to squeeze every bit of offering that you can so that you can fully submit yourself to whatever that thing is. And fully, it’s not just doing it while asking permission to do it. It is doing it knowing that no one can duplicate what you bring. I don’t care if there are thousand tech people, 1000 speakers, 1000 nutritionists, whatever it is, they will never do it like you, right? Because their experiences don’t mirror yours. And the more you can tell your story in such a compelling and explicit way, the less likely it will be hijacked.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

You talk about hijacking, that people should not be able to hijack your story. Break that down for me.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Well, I just say when I work with artists, and I say, tell me something about you. If they give me general ideas, I feel like anyone else could actually step into everything that you name, right? So let’s just use myself as an example. I say, you know, I started as a performance artist, a vocal artist. I’m from Chicago, and from there, I’ve loved helping people with stage presence. I’m all about confidence. I’m all about empowering. That’s great, right? A lot of times, that’s the cost of entry. But what you don’t hear is, in order for me to get to the stage, I had such a debilitating stage fright that I was sick before every performance, right. That I had to stand in front of the mirror over 10,000 times to declare what it was that I was put here to do, to declare what that assignment was, to sing that song, that some of the most, I think, sad challenges for me were the rejection of not being in a video that I’d sang on the track.

 

And so I’m always pushing artists, executives to tell almost, like, the secondary pieces of your story, not just the top lines. Give me the bullet points, right. That no one else can step into, that no one else has lived nor experienced the way that you have. And so it’s giving me all of that kind of underbelly stuff. How did you feel when you went through that? How did that trigger you to then say, you know what? I was meant for this, and whatever that next kind of that mission was for you? It’s built on something. It didn’t just happen and so that is what I mean when I say, make sure I can’t hijack your story. Give me more. Go deep.

 

Where are those unhealed places? Right? Because if they’re unhealed and you have not reconciled them nor embraced, or you’re just not even aware of them, that leaves you open and susceptible to somebody coming and poking at it and then you reacting, as opposed to being proactive to all the things that make up who you are.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I don’t think people really think about that, being on stage, I would always say, because my background is journalism, and so I struggled with doing live shots, right, for so long. And I said, once I was more solid with myself, the way to get better was actually not learning things about performance. It was actually feeling better about myself, and then I could show up better. Tell me about your process, about how you dig deep with your clients and the artists that you’re working with.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Yeah, well, it starts with me. I have to make sure that I’m never bringing ego in, right? Because that says, if I were you, I would do it like this. As opposed to saying, tell me what happened the moment before you walked in. How was your week? What is something that you want to work on? How do you see it? Which could be contrary to how I see it, but you can’t be on stage and do all the things that KJ would have done. You’ve got to do the things that KJ has agitated and irritated in you, that now is who you are and naturally is what comes out when you’re on stage. I say a lot of times, for me, as a singer, as a performer, it was getting in front of that mirror so that I could see what it looks like, so I could spend less time figuring out what you think about it when I’m on stage, right? Because that first ten minutes, if you’re not confident, then you’re wondering what everybody else is seeing, what they’re thinking, as opposed to fully understanding, embodying what it feels like, what you know it looks like, because then you can be present. I always say I hate the idea of losing twice, right? The loss of feeling like I didn’t do great on stage. I could have done this. I wish I had have been more focused on this, but then the loss of,  I never gave myself a chance to be present at all. 

 

And so it’s like, if you can be present in the moment, if you can have such an arsenal of wins that you’ve declared to be wins, not what anybody else has declared, right? Based on your own metric, your own barometer. This is a win. And sometimes a win is, I can envision, I’ve done this thing so many times that I can pull from my arsenal a win, and it’s not so foreign when I get on stage. Right. So you’ve got to be able to pull from victories that you’ve already kind of collected along the way and that you’re collecting because you’re still cultivating your gift.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

So it’s so interesting because these people that you’re working with have won a lot. Like, they’re in places that other people would want to be in right already, even if they’re new artists. Like, they got the deal. Everybody was waiting to get the deal. They got the deal. They got the song recorded. They’re ready to push them out there to the world. So it’s really interesting to hear that you need to agitate them when they’ve already gone through so many kind of fires and they’ve beat so many odds already. What is it that you’re trying to spark in them that you still see that they’re not, I guess, getting or that they haven’t fully embraced?

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Yeah, well, I think I have been fortunate to work with artists from the inception of their careers to help to build that level of confidence. And then, yeah, you’re right. There are artists like, Saweetie that I’ve been able to work with, the Lumineers, Erica Campbell, that have already have declared, they’ve walked in what the win is, right. But the win is perpetual. So what you might have declared as a win yesterday, now you got new goals. Now you see yourself differently. With every kind of new level of victory requires a new level of confidence, of the ability to empower yourself of new spaces, that when God is expanding your territory, it requires expansion spiritually in you as well.

 

So it is the agitation of gifts that have already been there. Like I always tell my artists, I’m not giving you anything that you don’t already possess. So it’s the agitation of those things that may have just been lying dormant, you know. The agitation of beliefs that you forgot about, of dopeness that you left behind. So now I’m just really requiring you to go back and pick them up. And then artists like Lil Nas that I got to start with in 24KGoldn, that I got a chance to start at the beginning of their careers, a lot of them have successfully been able to fight or flight. They have just been able to pull themselves up all by will alone and by small measures of confidence and belief. But my job is, as a solid rocket booster, is to make sure that it becomes so seamless that you go from win to win to a level of confidence to a greater level of confidence without a break in it, and to help them to understand that they already have what they need.  I’m just really pushing you beyond your perceived capacity. 

 

If you thought you were benching 75, I want to get you to 150. And so I love it. I feel like your external expression is truly a reflection of your internal narrative, and that’s really the job. What do you think about yourself? And so it is imperative that I help artists get out of the blocks from a cold start. Then I always run the first leg, and then I pass the baton to the next person that’s on assignment in their careers.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

That’s beautiful. The mindset shift is one thing. That’s the hardest part, I think. But what is the external, the outward expression look like where you’re saying, I’m taking you from 75, benching 75 to 150. What does someone who’s benching 150, how is their presence more physically different?

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

You see it in their posture, you see it in their movement, and the external expression is really what we see on stage. Right. So you’re either watching someone that’s asking permission to be on that stage, or you’re watching someone that clearly knows that there are layers to their narrative and to their story. They have embraced them all. They take different liberties when they perform. There is a freedom that they have in performing. There is a connectivity that they have, and they’re able to surpass and penetrate the lens so that they are capturing the spirit. The person on the other side of the lens is able to capture the spirit.

 

They’re making sure that every lyric counts. They’re not filling up any of the space with sound for the sake of sound. They’re not moving on stage for the sake of transportation. But they’re moving to push the narrative forward, to find other ways so that their energy abounds in the room. They are captivating. They are fully accessing all of their power and their force. In that room, there is eye contact. There is a presence that surpasses what their circumstances may be at the time.

 

Right. They understand what their assignment is in a space. They understand that it’s bigger than them, and they’re able to tap into kind of that core that says, I am here, I deserve to be here, and I have something to contribute. 

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

So what is it like for you to see an artist like Lil Nas X, whose outward expression, because of his internal work, has literally set people free? You know what I mean? Because he’s so unapologetic? What is that like for you, knowing that you have worked with him from the beginning, before old town road became what we know it to be now. What is that like for you?

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

It says that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s the greatest reminder that what I may encounter, good or bad, that I was always on a journey that had someone else connected to my outcome. Someone’s blessing was connected to my ability to move forward, my ability to take chances, my ability to have faith that nothing that I’ve done has been in vain. And so it gives me just even more momentum to keep going. Right. I don’t look at any artist or any client that comes my way as simply a client. I believe that whoever God sends me, that I was meant to impart something to them, that it was a divine order. And so I don’t take anything lightly. Whether I have artists that I’ve had, these guys at one point, that were just their language, I was like, what in the heck? Lord, tell me why I’m here.

 

And it takes me from the ego. It humbles me, in a way, to look at all my clients as my family. Like, what would you share if this was your brother and your sister and your cousin? To never stand from a perspective of thinking that I’ve made it or that I’m better in any way. I’ve just been able to experience more. I’ve seen more at this juncture. And my job is really to pour into you because you have no idea how God will use them once, how they use them before they got to you, how they will use them, how he will use them after they leave you in the work. And so I’m humbled by every encounter that I have. And it gives me such a feeling of divine accomplishment that I was here for a purpose bigger than me.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

And let’s talk about you finding this purpose, because this is not something that’s going to come out on a career assessment. Right? Like your job description, title, you know what I’m saying? How did you find, or be able to say, cultivate all of your gifts in this really beautiful package and then say to the world, this is what I have to offer, and have people say, yes, this is what we actually need.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

It started out well. Number one, I think that I’ve been blessed to have people in my village that saw something in me before my own belief could develop fully. And so whether that was at FAMU, whether that was my soros of Delta Sigma Theta, whether that was my FAMU BFFs, my Camp Cuties, just my family, Chicago, my brother, who’s always been my biggest supporter. I think there was something in that that helped to fuel me. I had this level of stage fright that made it pretty obvious that singing was not what I was supposed to do. In fact, I was sick before every performance and my mother was like, well, why don’t you choose something different? I was like, no, I believe I’m supposed to be here. And so it was really just kind of like I was going from belief to belief, like one opportunity after the other. It gave me a platform to show myself that it was possible, you know? And so, you know, going from working a nine to five, to then saying okay, I need to be on the road, I need to travel. To having management that says, hey, so and so needs a singer for this record and then that record ending up to be the single that they never expected. 

 

I thought I was going to be a singer for the rest of my life. I worked for Clive Davis. I collected information there. I shared music with A&R’s there. And then I remember getting a call from an executive at J Records while I was working there, Carolyn Williams, who said, hey, we’ve got artists that we believe that you could actually add value in the space of stage presence. And of course, I’m like, what about my record? You don’t want mine?

 

I had to, in that moment, say, while you may kind of venture into this part of the business, it’s not in lieu of something else not working right. So a lot of what I’ve had to do was to make my own declarations to myself. Not have the focus groups, and they’re great, but there are times when God requires you to only use him as the focus group. And so I was like, okay, I’m not doing this because something didn’t work, right? I’ve been in music for years as a singer, and maybe you do this, and. Right. So once I understood and settled it within myself, I didn’t feel like I had given up. Even though I’ve had parents that are like, well, why didn’t you make it? I’m like, oh, the first time I was like, okay, I didn’t make it. All right? And then I’d come back and I’m like, I did make it, you just missed it. 

 

So it was a lot of just kind of me settling these ideas that, number one, what is making it? Me creating my own barometer, my own metric for what making it truly is. And then from there, as I’m enjoying being this performance director, I realized that I found more victory, personal victory, in that there was professional victory in that. And it wasn’t in lieu of the singing again, it was just that, okay, maybe this can exist, and maybe I take everything that I’ve learned in music as a singer, and now I pour into artists. But I had to first kind of resolve and reconcile it myself that I’d already won, won enough to now take these wins and share and contribute to other artists. And so I think it’s been a process. And even as a performance director living in New York, I couldn’t do it outside of my nine to five, which was at Sundance. And then finally coming to LA and seeing that I could make sense in so many other spaces. My first meetings after watching tons and tons of Disney and Nickelodeon, and there was still something I felt like you know could be utilized, which was accessing a level of presence when there’s no choreography.

 

When there’s no eight count, how do you still show up and count? Right? So it’s like always say, if you have an eight count, my job is to make the eight count count. If there’s no eight count, it’s to make whatever you’re delivering count. And so it just started to take shape as I moved here. And then before I knew it, I was in tv as a performance director for Kelly Rowland’s Chasing Destiny, (and) for Revenge Body on E. Entertainment with Khloe Kardashian. And I was huh, there is a space for me here. But for every space that I was able to create, it was still very much an attitude on the other side of it, of, we still don’t get it. Why would we need you? We’ve got a vocal coach, we got a choreographer.

 

I’m like, vocal coaches deal with the instrument. Choreographers give you the eight count. I deal with the behavior on stage. If everybody fell out, if all the dancers fell out. If the musicians fell out. If there was no sound, how do you still show up for everything that you are? I could go on, but it has been, just seeing it blossom and to unveil itself. And every time that I think that I have figured it out, God was like, ah, there’s more.  Even with working with Lil Nas (X) as much you know, the work was about being on stage, there was also work that was about sitting on the curb and talking. What do you think about yourself? Why do you care? Before you ask us to care? That is the work that then helps to almost undergird the work that you see on the stage.

 

And I pray before I go into every artist, I can’t take the same information from the last session into the new one. I’ve got to stay open. I’ve got to make sure that… how do I allow them to access my energy? And then it’s the work that I do on the other side of it to actually get back to center so that I don’t have so many tentacles out there that I’m not able to have enough fuel for myself.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

You said so many things that I hope people. I hope people get and I hope that they don’t just keep it in the artist spectrum. Right. I really hope people deconstruct it for their own lives and that servant leadership, because especially with these folks, with celebrities are often around people who are working with them but want to be them, want to be in that space. And that makes it very difficult. Right. And the fact that you’re able to reconcile what success means, what it looks like, but also saying, and because of that, because of what I’ve done, I’m bringing something to you that you can’t get anywhere else.

 

And I just really love that. And so this episode is going to air as the first one of the new year. I’m getting chills right now thinking about it is just, really wanting people to show up differently. Or not even differently, but fully. To show up fully in this new year of how you used to do it is not how you have to do it. 

 

ACT UP SEGMENT:

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

My last segment is called ACT Up. Those are my initials. And it’s perfect for you because you are the agitator, the make people act up in 2024. What are some things people can do to show up in their full power?

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

1. Leave no wins behind, big or small, you make the decision on what they are. Stay in front of your work. A friend of mine said it’s hard to put an IP on energy. We oftentimes discount, dismiss the work because it’s not in bright lights, it’s not in any magazines, it’s not being fully celebrated. But I have learned to celebrate my wins because I can’t wait on anybody else to do it. And it does something for your spirit when you do that.

 

When you declare it as such, and then you’re able to move into the next one. Right. But if you never think you’re winning, if you don’t know what a winning spirit feels like, it’s tough to get to the next win. You find yourself celebrating everybody else’s wins, which is not a problem. But what happens when it’s time to celebrate yours?

 

2. I would say stop negotiating your strengths. Only you know what they are. Only you know how they activate others. So stop negotiating the things about you that maybe not everybody gets.

 

They ain’t supposed to get it right. This is as small of an example as I can get. Just the other day we were celebrating a friend who purchased a new home, and we were doing photos, and we were putting the phone on a timer, and there was this ladder. I was just like, oh, we can use the ladder. And everybody was, ah, we don’t get it. K.J. that missed us K.J. And I was like, okay, and we’re taking a bit more, a few more photos, and we were about to just kind of like end the evening. I was like, no! I’ve got this idea. Denise, get on this ladder to the second stair. She got on the first (stair,) I was like, no, get on the next one. I need you now put your arm out. And everybody else fall in line. And it just ended up being the best picture. They were like, we got it. 

 

So everybody won’t see your ideas. They won’t see your vision from the inception, but only one person needs to, and that’s you. So move forward, because it’s really tough if it doesn’t work out the way you intended, to be mad at everybody else versus saying, you know what? This was on me. Now I know how to move differently. Right, because you don’t want to move according to what everybody else thinks. That is confusion. 

 

3. I would say, do the work to understand what your force is. Your force could be kindness. Your force could be service. It could be energy. But it’s that thing that cannot be negotiated. If someone says, we’re good, no, I’m to going keep being kind. I’m going to keep being compassionate. I promise that that thing is what will take you into what you’re destined for, the career you’re destined for, the life that you’ve envisioned for yourself. It is all based on what you believe because it gives you that guide, it becomes that navigational tool for how you show up in spaces, how you show up in the world. 

 

Someone gave me the best compliment the other day. I was speaking at the ADCOLOR conference and they said, I felt you because I believed it was source energy. And that’s energy that’s not squandered, right? It’s not energy based on how I feel that day, not energy based on circumstances, but it’s the energy that I lock into within the source to figure out how to feel the spaces and the hearts of the people that I’m speaking to.

And so I say that same thing to you in 2024. Lock into the source thing that you have, that you’ve contemplated, that someone else has made you believe that it wasn’t who you are. Or you’ve subscribed to something that did not agree with who you are. Take all of it back. Take everything back that you have given other people, the onus to have a say on. Take it back. And now recalibrate and move.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I love that. I love that. How can we support you? Follow you? I know you have your book.

 

K.J. Rose, Artistic and Performance Director

Yes. The book is called “The Rose Effect: Eight Steps to Delivering the Performance of Your Life.” It is on all the mediums, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

 

Then I also have power chants. I’m going to be working on some new ones. But these power chants are available on Pandora, Apple, (and) Spotify. And they’re really just short, bite size palatable chants that give you power, that give you motivation when you’re embarking on something new, when you’re walking into a new space, when you forget, you fall short of remembering how incredible you are and that somebody needs what you got and that you’ve already been qualified for it. And someone’s blessing is connected to your yes, to your moving forward. They’re just reminders of that, that you can consume very quickly. 

 

And so you can also follow me on IG @KJRoseEffect

 

And yeah, leave no crumbs in 2024. Any crumbs you left in 2023, please go back and pick them up so that you can make sure that you follow through and complete the assignment in 2024. So I want you to be able to walk through being very clear that you are making a difference in every space that you’re in.

 

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I love it. I love your energy. Thank you so much for being here, for doing this. I’ve wanted to do this for years, so this is amazing. 


Learn more about K.J. Rose: 

Website: https://www.kjrose.com/

Power Chants: https://open.spotify.com/album/2KjpxfRZLfJIOLztEUrzSc

Book: “The Rose Effect: Eight Steps To Delivering The Performance Of Your Life: https://a.co/d/116ZsFs


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