Poetry in Unexpected Places with Kelsey Gooden: li Voices

kelsey gooden actress poet writer

We got to talk with fellow creative and actress Kelsey Gooden about what sparked her love affair with words, how poetry affects her acting process, and advice for creatives. She let us in on how she starts every day and what mistake she’s seeing all over social media.

Ever wonder what actresses really do? How do they get into entirely different mental zones within a script? From acting to poetry and writing, Kelsey Gooden gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her creative process and how she uses outside inspiration to grow her craft.

little infinite: Introduce the li tribe to what you do and your creative spirit.

Kelsey Gooden: Hey there! I’m Kelsey and I’m an actor, poet and am currently getting a new acting blog off the ground! So as you can see, I have a serious love of words and writing. I discovered acting when I was about 7 or 8 and a few short years later, poetry found me. The bravery and openness required to express raw, honest, vulnerable emotions has always been the key ingredient in keeping my love affair with words alive. Hearing, feeling, and at times experiencing such a wide variety of emotions and perspectives through studying words has been a beautiful way to spend my life so far. Acting allows me to access and experience the emotions of characters through performance. While blogging and poetry allow me to express myself. I started sharing my poetry a few years back and though I don’t share too often, it’s the most freeing and empowering feeling writing it.

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✨Yes this is going to be long and yes, it’ll be worth it. . This is the most ‘myself’ I have ever felt. It’s also my first shoot with curly hair. I’m hesitant to say ‘natural’ because it took a cocktail of products, a diffuser and a few twists of a curling wand to get it here due to heat damage. Either way, it has taken me 24 years of being the girl scared to jump into pools at pre-teen summer parties to become this woman. It’s taken me 24 years of fighting and arguing with my curls begging them to straighten out into a line they were never created to be. It has taken 24 years of praying my curls would suddenly become perfect, frizz-free spirals that we see on TV. Here’s the thing, it seems that society is quick to define beauty/perfection by what is hard to attain. Maybe that’s why we as women switch from the Twiggy ‘stick thin’ phase and talking each other into crazy diet fads over to the Kim K ‘curves for days, but only in the right places’ era over the years. In light of recent events, I’ve decided that what I feel is most beautiful in life are the things that are natural, God-given, and most pure—untouched by the negativity and opinions of those surrounding it. Regardless of the way my curls ‘don’t photograph as well as straight hair’, regardless of how many times I’ve been told they ‘don’t reflect light well enough to look healthy’, and regardless of how much time and effort it takes to keep my hair strong and healthy, I’m choosing at this point to deem my curls beautiful in the way I longed for so many women of color to do unapologetically while I was a kid. I choose me and all that concept encompasses and I pray that every woman, especially you actresses/performers that may have this struggle as well, choose themselves over the roar of everyone else’s opinions instead. So, in short, I’d like to introduce you to my curls. They are creative, messy, have a mind of their own and do what they want, just like me. 🤷🏽‍♀️ #curlsforthegirls #mondaymotivation

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“Hearing, feeling, and at times experiencing such a wide variety of emotions and perspectives through studying words has been a beautiful way to spend my life so far.”

Kelsey Gooden, @itsallgooden

li: What was the first moment you knew that poetry was going to be one of the writing styles for you? How did you get introduced to poetry?

KG: I’m not sure if there’s one specific moment when I knew I would use poetry as a form of self-expression. What I am certain of is that I discovered I enjoyed writing in elementary school when I was first introduced to poetry. Love at first stanza…Okay, I promise my writing isn’t as bad as my jokes.

li: Being an actress you understand the intense relationship between words and dialogue. How does your love of poetry and writing affect acting? How do you think it affects your relationship with scripts? 

KG: I feel loving writing, and poetry enhances my ability to interpret dialogue in a wide range of ways. Language in whatever form– books, poetry, writing– expands your knowledge and your world. Honestly, the more you write, the more you see that emotions and possibilities really are endless.

li: If you could describe your creative process in 3 words what would it be? What gets you in the mindset to create?

KG: Impulsive, instinctive, influenced. Creating just comes through life experiences for me. Whenever I come across new, vivid emotions, writing is my first form of processing. If the thought to create poetry or a new blog entry comes, I do my best to let it flow. Wine, candles, and some Motown classics don’t hurt the process either!

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✨ Life update: Last week, Sunday, I wrapped up my first and most intense professional lead role! I’m always really secretive with my work and have always been told I downplay jobs/roles a lot. I used to think it was me trying to remain humble and didn’t want to be someone who overshared their successes. But after some reflection, I found that at the root of it I was genuinely talking myself out of sharing because I didn’t want to be faced with judgement or questions and most importantly, I felt that if I celebrated this ‘small’ victory, I’d be lowering my standards for what I want my big victory to look like. I’ve been acting full time now since March and there have been a million small wins I’ve achieved that have carried me to this pretty huge victory and I’m tired of pretending they aren’t worthy of celebrating. So, basically…I’m really damn proud of this project and feel so blessed to have worked with and befriended such incredibly talented people. Here’s a little behind the scenes the great @direkjc threw together for everyone to enjoy! And if you’re as hard on yourself as I am, this is just my little way of reminding you all that every small victory you make is worthy of praise. Every day, find something to feel victorious about and use that as motivation to make tomorrow even greater!✨ …… Thanks to all the people who dealt with having phone calls and texts ignored and plans cancelled for the past few months and especially to the squad who helped create this! @direkjc @unpluggedmultimedia @king_jaffy @mojo_shoots @red_eye_photos @eyestandout @ everyone else who’s IG handles idk🤷🏽‍♀️ . Now, it’s time to put this script away and break down a new one for this weekend! ✌🏽 “Do not despise these small beginnings…” -Zechariah 4:10 . . . #actorslife #independentfilm #blessed #staythankful

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li: When you’re working through your creative writing process, which step is the most crucial for you? Which is the most frustrating? 

KG: The most crucial is the accuracy of the words because I want to evoke emotion as close to what I experienced as possible. The most frustrating step is beginning, that’s the part that requires the most bravery and honesty. It forces me to look in the mirror and process what I’m going through. And sometimes, it’s pretty scary.

li: What is a valuable mistake you learned from as a professional in a creative industry? If you could give an up-and-coming creative one piece of advice what would you tell them? 

KG: Frankly, I think we’re all seeing what the biggest mistake is in creative industries all over TV and the internet and social media just now. When you’re not authentic and genuinely honest with yourself, it always comes back to haunt you. You always get further with honesty and openness than you do with trying to hide who you are for acceptance or success. That would be the same thing I’d tell any new creative, know yourself and allow everyone else to too. Your soul is worth sharing.

“That would be the same thing I’d tell any new creative: Know yourself and allow everyone else to, too. Your soul is worth sharing.”

-Kelsey Gooden, @itsallgooden

li: What are three pieces of art or literature that have influenced you most? How have they inspired you?

KG: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – This I read at a point in my life when it just really hit home. The simplicity of the story that got the message across was as beautiful to me as the protagonist’s journey itself.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou – I mean hello…do I even need to explain? Maya Angelou’s work was and will remain raw, honest, and groundbreaking and I absolutely can’t imagine my life as a woman without this work of art in the world. It changed all I thought I was.

Valerie by Amy Winehouse – Again, there’s a simplicity and rawness to this side of Amy Winehouse expressed in the song but it’s through an uplifting and energizing performance that we rarely got to see of her. To me, I’ve just always loved that this showed layers and levels to her artistry that were different from what we typically expected, so brave.

li: What does the structure of your workweek look like as a creative? How do you stay focused as a someone with a more creative and entrepreneurial profession? Any tips?

KG: My workweek is always up in the air but I try to structure my days as much as possible to keep me focused, though it doesn’t always work. Setting reminders, alarms, and to-do lists always helps me hold myself accountable. My days start with prayer and some mindfulness reflection before I even leave bed to help me gauge my energy for the day. Then checking the to-do list comes next and what happens after that depends on what I have to do that day. But my days almost always include time for a workout, looking for acting jobs online for a few hours, and time in front of the TV for inspiration if possible!

li: What are your goals for your art this year? Do you have a creative bucket list you’re working toward? What larger impact would you like your art to make?

KG: My goals for art this year are just to explore my artistry as much as possible and become more vocal and honest about it. I believe art is meant to be shared and experienced with others so I’d like to get better at opening up and sharing my work, in poetry, in acting, and on the blog. You never know who needs to hear what you have to say, so always share your voice! 

As far as a bucket list, I’d love to make a poetry book or a poetry Instagram where people can stumble across my thoughts and hopefully find something that resonates with them when they need it most.

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✨My 2018 Wrap-Up:✨ This past year was a wild one! My 2018 started with a few losses but even more lessons. I learned how to stop wasting time. I learned how to take advantage of every opportunity. I learned how important it is to tell that person you love them, quit that job you hate, take time to remind yourself to breathe, and ask that question, especially when you’re scared of the answer. In the day-to-dayness of it all, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing much. But looking back today, I’ve lost 3 people who I’ve loved so dearly and connected with new family members. I quit a job making the most money I’ve ever made because it wasn’t fulfilling my soul. I took a leap and began acting full time. And after countless days and nights spent doubting myself, I carried on anyway. I asked for help and spoke up for myself when I needed to. I moved back home, which, if you know anything about me, you know it was the hardest decision and most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced. But it brought me new friends, new experiences with old friends, so so many new jobs and so much closer to my family. I traveled to new places, both with friends and entirely alone. There were so many times when I felt lonely beyond belief. But more often than that, there were more times I felt loved and supported and so entirely beautiful in my own skin and soul. . I’m dedicating this year to my grandfather. The wisest of wise men once asked an uncertain, 17 year old version of me if he was going to see me on TV soon. As soon as I shakily responded “maybe”, he was quick to correct me. He replied, “maybe is a horse I’d never bet on and I’d always bet on you.” So here’s to 2018, the year I learned to bet on myself and to surround myself with people willing to do the same. In fact, I’m now betting on myself so much that I’ve decided to move back to Los Angeles in March! It’s time for the next big jump and this is it! . It’s been an uncomfortable year to say the least. But that’s where we grow the most, right? Thank you to everyone who’s been apart of this journey from the beginning. And to the new friends just tuning in, welcome and buckle up! We’re just getting started y’all! 💛🌻💫✨ #thankunext

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To keep up with Kelsey, follow her on Instagram (@itsallgooden) or visit her website here: actingout.me.