Kahshanna Evans began her career in front of the camera, working with networks like ABC and NBC in roles ranging from commercials to small appearances and even a larger day-player role on Law & Order. Originally from Southern California, she had moved to New York City to dabble in the film, television and entertainment industries.
Her immersion into this world of creativity sparked her curiosity for what existed behind the camera lens.
After experiencing a bit of career burnout, Kahshanna started looking outside the entertainment industry to find her next move, eventually discovering her passion for helping niche brands love and embrace their story.
Determined to turn this passion into a reality, she began a one year program studying public relations while simultaneously vetting a digital team to help build her own brand website. This eventually led to the launch of Kissing Lions Public Relations in 2011.
Today, Kahshanna has been a brand marketing, communications and PR force for 10 years.
We sat down with Kahshanna to find out how she came up with the name Kissing Lions, how her background in entertainment helped shape her PR style and how she’s using her skillset to help underserved communities.
A serendipitous moment: Naming the agency
As someone with a passion for helping brands become the best possible version of themselves, it seems only fitting that the name of Kahshanna’s PR agency is deeply rooted in who she became on her journey to opening it.
Kahshanna studied Shamanism, participating in a training geared toward spirituality and personal development, but ultimately ended up influencing her approach to business.
While exploring divination, Kahshanna came across an image of a beautiful flower arrangement and was asked to focus an intention on it.
“Now of course, the pessimist on my shoulder was like, ‘yeah let’s see if this really works,’ but I thought I’d give it a try,” she said. “I set my intention and closed my eyes, entering a meditational state per my training, and when I opened my eyes again I was looking at an image within the folds of the flower and it was unmistakable; I could see the silhouette of a lion.”
Interestingly enough, this image of a lion within a flower arrangement struck a chord with Kahshanna, who was seeking a brand and a logo that was both masculine and feminine in nature. “That’s how I show up in the business world,” Kahshanna explained. “I’m tenacious. I like to take care of team members, and I like to be connected in a collaborative space. But I also love leadership and the energy that takes.”
During her final meditation, she closed her eyes again while looking at the same image. Upon opening them, she clearly saw two angled lions with their noses touching. This image became the basis of Kissing Lions Public Relations.
Embrace the ‘day ones’ and chances to learn and start over
From getting her start in the entertainment industry to becoming a solo PR pro, Kahshanna admits the past decade has had a lot of “day ones”, and she is grateful to have had so many opportunities to learn and grow.
“I’ve never been under the impression that I would stop learning, whether it was picking up on the conventional practices that I very much respect within the PR industry or honing my real personal talents,” she said.
One thing Kahshanna never wanted to fall into was a pigeon hole, instead always aiming to be a “multi-hyphenate” with endless room for growth and change.
As digital gained traction and the way people socialize changed, she found private networking groups online that provided her with the encouragement she needed to focus on what she excels at, instead of trying to fit into someone else’s mold.
“I realized that what I do isn’t always what the typical public relations specialist does, and I think that’s great. While building my network, it opened opportunities for me to refer business to others where it made more sense, and for others to do the same for me,” she explained.
This attitude and drive led to a pretty exciting 10 years in the industry. Kahshanna has been involved in a wide variety of projects, from working with Wyclef Jean on a private tech pre-launch series to lending a helping hand to Ringo Starr’s PR team during a contemporary art launch.
“It’s safe to say that strategist is my favorite word for a reason,” she said. “Most often my clients need a combination of things. Even if the branding is complete, I might be pitching. Or I may be creating additional marketing collateral for social media.”
A passion for helping the underserved
Prior to making the switch to a career in PR, the one thing that got Kashanna out of bed each day was the desire to help others, whether that looked like nurturing a community in need of a voice or helping a brand that’s providing an essential service to everyday consumers.
She believes this desire is deeply rooted in who she is, being a Black American and the daughter of a single parent.
Her goal is finding those groups who have been discouraged from shining and helping them level the playing field and combat the all too common narrative in society that if you’re not perfect, no one wants to hear from you.
“I believe the absolute opposite,” she went on to say. “I might see someone who believes that about themselves and I want to say, ‘You're it. Let's go get up, iron the shirt and turn on the music.’ Something about it gets me out of bed in the morning.”
The events of the past few years especially have driven Kahshanna to lean into not only the strengths that are unique to her and her career journey, but also how her work can make her feel good.
“Today more than ever, I think about how I can make sure that, if my heart has a certain purpose such as social justice awareness, how can I start integrating that more into my business?”
One project she's particularly proud of? Her previous work with the Women in Cannabis Study, to make sure what is projected to be a $30 billion industry is equitable.
“I love women centric brands and brands that are proudly women and minority owned,” she added. “Just seeing that evolution of a niche founder who is finally hitting their stride and starting to get news hits. I just think there's nothing else like it.”
Photos via Kahshanna Evans